It has been a few years now since i have personally taken the plunge with my own horse from pampered stabled prince to fully a full fledged outdoor lifestyle. I personally love bud living in besides the extra work for myself but he has thrived being out 24/7 as many do, so I want to start by saying i have done both extremes and find no right or wrong way to keep your horse it simply boils down to what suits you both.
As we head into colder seasons with the harsher climates we equestrians brace our selves for darker nights (and mornings!) down the yard. Mud baths at the gateways and thermal jods. I Always take the chill in the air as a sign to prep the field for the coming winter. Autumn is always a perfect time to start ticking off jobs on the to-do list.
Bud has been both a pristine show pony and majestic lawn mower during both living in and out. I cant say any routine has altered me taking part in any discipline all though i will defiantly be the first to admit the stable does provide a cleaner horse for early competitions and hunt meets when you have a mud loving pig of a pony…unless like bud yours can also become covered in stable stains by just looking at a poo!
A few horse husbandry essentials for field life i like to keep up to date with is definitely fencing. As part of daily routine having a walk around the perimeter checking fencing is always at the top end of the list along with paying extra attention to styles or gates if you share your field with public footpaths as with the lack of foliage this time of year can uncover gaps. Any one who has been on a yard with bud can tell you that at some point he has escaped. With out a doubt he is one of those wonderfully spontaneous houdini ponies that pop out just when you don’t need them to! (im sure id think differently if they put themselves to bed at night) At this time of year rugs can be the equine escapees favorite assistant when it comes to out foxing the electric fencing or pushing through a bush or two so im extra vigilant.
Another important job is food and water supply. If you are lucky enough to have an automatic drinker simple things such as increasing the checks to see if everything is working correctly and that the system hasn’t become damaged by the frost. Speaking of frost a handy tip to avoid spending most of the morning breaking iced over buckets is to put a small football in them. This provides a hole overnight so horses can still access water and gives you a head start with the ice pick!
Obviously when managing grazing its important to bare in mind the correct acreage for number of horses and remembering to check for any poisons and harmful plants and trees around this time of year (think sycamore seeds, acorns and the extremely toxic yews) Bud doesn’t have hay all year round when living out but I like to provide it when its frosty on the ground or as the grazing deteriorate. A hay party can be very exciting for a group of horses when turned out as we all know so various piles with a great enough distance between them should help to avoid over enthusiast hay hoggers who refuse to share and prefer dancing around the piles.
A shelter of some kind is also a necessity when turned out even if all they do is look at it! There are some beautiful bespoke shelters on the market made for you and your horses exact needs or i have seen some brilliant DIY jobs with shipping containers and old barns. At the opposite end of the price range is natural shelters provided by high hedges and trees or you can do as my horse and use the kids trampoline…Which ever option you have keep in mind the importance of it being solid so it cant blow over (or away..looking at you trampoline)
If anyone has any more handy tips or tricks for managing paddocks and fields in the winter months please comment and share!