It’s a horrid thought but autumn is almost upon us! Winter will be hard on its heels.
While your horses are still out enjoying the last of summer it’s an opportune time to prepare the yard and stable for over-wintering.
Be prepared for the worst of the winter weather, and you’ll manage it so much more easily. A leak-proof, cosy stable with a stock of clean, weatherproof rugs will make dealing with winter a breeze.
Sort the Stable
While he’s not in residence it’s the ideal time to give your stable a makeover.
· Start with a deep clean. Strip it the space to the bone (and that includes any unfixed rubber matting) and scrub the walls and floor with a disinfectantto make sure there is no risk of pests or bacteria that could cause thrush and respiratory problems during the long, dark days of winter confinement. You can use a pressure washer if there is decent drainage. Make sure you let it dry out properly before you put anything back in place.
· On the outside of the building make sure any guttering is clear and working well, so you don’t end up with a swamp underfoot.
· If you have water piped to your stables make sure the pipes are insulated to prevent freezing in the event of extreme weather – repairing burst pipes can be costly and inconvenient. Use foam rubber sleeves or consult your local hardware store on the best defence you can take for your situation. Make sure you have large water buckets in good repair and measures in place to stop the water freezing – remember horses drink more in winter than in summer.
· While your stable needs to be well ventilated, you don’t want cold drafts to penetrate through gaps in the walls or bad fitting windows. Clean the windows and check the hinges and catches, making sure they open easily, and caulk any gaps in the stable walls that shouldn’t be there. Assess the air flow and make sure it is adequate to keep your horse comfortable. Even when it’s very cold your horse needs some controlled fresh air ingress.
· If you don’t already have them, consider adding rubber mats to the floors of the stable, not only to add insulation but also to keep your horse’s hooves off of the cold floor and out of any accumulated mud.
· Check the lighting, making sure it is adequate for the dark mornings and evenings. Replace any fused bulbs and perhaps add more lights or lanterns if you struggled last year. Check that you have working torches with a good supply of batteries.
· Make sure hay nets and hay racks are in good repair, and that you have enough to see you through the winter months. Keep feed in sealed containers to discourage rodents. You may want to lay in some stable toys to keep your horse happy during the long dark days.
A Word about Stable Painting
I know many people paint their stables, and are often in a quandary on what sort of paint to use and what colour is best. Just to say there are special anti-bacterial agricultural paints available, but you can use ordinary paint suitable for the surface of the stable – matt is best, and something weatherproof (for external use) and washable.
Don’t put creosote on wood, and make sure any paint you use is non-toxic.
As for colour …. Most brand-name stable paints come in white or black only, but the colour won’t matter much to your horse, who can only make out blue or green tones anyway. Best go for a neutral colour – or why not “poo brown” if you really want camouflage!
Safeguard the Yard
· Get your order for grit in early to avoid the rush! Also put down pebbles in your gateways and entryways to avoid those muddy bogs.
· Review your stock of yard tools, and make sure you have a good snow shovel at the ready, all neatly squared away and hung on hooks or racks where they’ll stay out of the wet.
· Make sure you have at least two months’ supply of feed, haylage, grooming aids, medications and bedding in stock before the end of autumn, and somewhere safe and dry to store it all.
· Replace any rusting or corroded fittings and fixtures and other hardware – you wouldn’t want them failing on you in the dead of winter. It also won’t hurt to give your wheelbarrow an MOT!
Rescue your Rugs
It’s definitely time to take stock of your medium-weight and heavy-weight rugs. Give them an airing and assess their condition. If they need cleaning or mending, get in before the end of autumn rush and send them off to a professional as soon as possible.
If you’re local to Totally Tack in Frome you can drop them off at our shop for collection by our rug expert, Paul, who’ll get them looking like new. We also stock all the equipment you need for a DIY rug replenishing job available to order online – horse rug wash bags, spare clips, buckles and surcingles, reproofing spray and so on.
If your rugs are beyond repair, never fear – we’ve got a big range of new horse rugs and blankets of all sorts to choose from, to suit all budgets.
If you have any questions about over-wintering your horse, we have a wealth of experience and academic equine know-how .... Give us a call on 01373 22 8242 and we'll be happy to help!!