We all know how hectic Christmas can be with all the family gatherings and parties and extra curricular events at school to attend! It's hard to find time to fit everything in, including seeing your beloved horse. There can also be severe weather to contend with too!
What are the best ways to care for your horse during this busy festive season?
1. Try to be consistent as much as you can. Horses like routine and if this is disrupted they can become anxious. If festive commitments are going to interfere too much with you routine maybe you have a friend that will help you out.
2. As much as possible make sure that your horse gets as much exercise as possible whether it is being ridden or turned out. If you have less time to ride over Christmas then make sure that you reduce their hard feed and ensure that they have plenty of roughage to avoid problems such as colic.
3. If it’s crisp and cold outside, make sure you spend extra time warming up before you head out, and look to invest in an exercise sheet. Polo player Bet Faulkner says it’s important to stay warm yourself, too: ‘Personally, I live in full chaps and keep them on for riding as well. It helps to reduce the risk of chilblains.’
4. Even in the winter months, cooling a horse after exercise is really important, to ensure that they do not get a chill. It is a good idea to start them in an exercise sheet, remove it for intensive work and replace it at the end when they’re cooling down.
5. If the weather is particularly bad and you cannot get outside or you have too many family occasions to attend you will need to prevent your horse from becoming bored! Maybe you will have bought your horse a new toy for Christmas that will keep him mentally stimulated. Using a screwdriver or any sharp implement make a hole in the middle of several different pieces of fruit/veg which you can thread a rope through and tie a knot at the end. This makes a basic hanging kebab stick for the horses to play within the stable. Also, consider small holed haynets to make hay last longer or you could place some apples in water buckets which not only keep your horse occupied but also encourages them to drink.
6. In order to keep your horse busy for longer feed him a high-fibre diet - fibre takes more time to eat than concentrated feed and will also help to keep him warm, due to the fermentation process that happens in the horse’s hind gut. You need to make sure your horse is drinking enough too so keep an eye on water levels.
7. Over the Christmas period you could consider using deep litter which will reduce mucking out time (in the short term) but will mean that your horse still has clean bedding to stand on.
What do you do to help care for your horse over the winter months? We would love to hear your comments below!
There is also a good article on Horse and Hound!