Getting Ready for Winter

Thursday was the first day of autumn, and whilst it was lovely and sunny that day (I was still in a t-shirt) by the next day Autumn had definitely arrived. Several horses were spied lying down too, which always makes me think of a change in season.

It meant no swimming in the sea when we went to Weymouth for the weekend, but it means for horsey people it’s time to get ready for winter.

To help you, I’ve compiled a list of jobs. Some are more relevant than others… Some for the OCD amongst us.

  • Clean out your stable. I’ve seen a few rubber mats being lifted and washed over the past week, but it’s a good idea to get everything washed whilst it’s still warm enough to dry it and then the box is ready if the weather turns suddenly. Dusting the cobwebs, washing out water drinkers or buckets, emptying haybars are all other useful jobs. I need to empty my haybar, and whilst I’ve not washed my mats I’m working on using and removing all the bedding that’s banked at the back so Otis can have a new bed for winter.
  • Ordering bedding. Some yards provide bedding, but others require you to order and store your own. Sometimes getting your order in early means you get a discount. One client of mine had her pallet of bedding delivered a fortnight ago!
  • Get your rugs out. Hopefully you were organised in the spring and had them all washed before storage, but if not now is the time to get them cleaned. We’re also going into that period where you need a lightweight one day, followed by a medium weight that night, followed by a fly rug … So having them to hand makes life so much easier. Getting out the exercise sheets too is also a good idea.
  • Ordering feed. You may start increasing hard feeds and forage in the field, depending on your horse, grazing, and workload, so you will run out of feed a bit quicker than last month so it’s worth being organised. Most hay will have already been ordered from farmers, ours used to come during the summer holidays, but if you haven’t any then it’s time to get cracking!
  • Whilst you’re taking all these deliveries it’s a good time to spring clean your shed, or storage room. Give it all a good dust and sweep and you’ll probably find some boots or haynet from last year that you’d thought was gone for good. Plus, everything fits in better when it’s all clean!
  • Check that your field rotation is to plan. We all make a plan at the beginning of the year, but the weather can cause the autumnal flush of grass to come earlier or later, so make sure your winter field is ready.
  • Assess your horse’s weight now and make a plan to scrutinise him frequently so that you notice when he first starts to drop weight. You can also adjust his feeds accordingly.
  • Get out the clippers, check the blades are sharp, and the electrics haven’t been chewed because they will soon need a haircut! It’s also a good time to pull manes or trim feathers.
  • Get out your own winter gear: coats, wellies, waterproofs, so you can grab them from the porch as you leave on that first wet morning.
  • Clean tack and boots. Yes I know, tack gets dirtier in winter, but a change of season is a good time to oil it or put it away if it won’t be used over the winter. Plus having clean exercise boots means it’s easier to remove fresh mud rather than embedded grease and dust. And they take longer to dry in winter so you don’t want to soak them to wash them.
  • Talking of equipment, now is the time to blow up wheelbarrow tyres, check the bristles on your broom and the security of handles to shovels so you don’t have a low flying missile emergency.
  • The winter routine is different to the summer routine so if you need to make adjustments to work or your daily routine then you need to start planning now. If your yard offers services such as turning out or mucking out, then you will want to negotiate terms as soon as possible.
  • I don’t think it’s as important nowadays with so many indoor competitions, but after the last show we always used to thoroughly wash our trailers ready to be parked up over winter. It may be an idea to clean it out and check the lights because you’re more likely to be towing in the day and that blown bulb is suddenly very important…

I think that’s enough jobs to keep you all busy, I know it will keep me busy next weekend!

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