Horse Care Tips

14 Jobs to do before winter

Yes – I know it’s not even August yet, but the summer months never seem to last long enough any year. And tbh, I use most of the summer to do what’s important – getting some riding in!

But here is a list of jobs which you can do when you have a spare half hour or so. I’ve tried to keep them short so that they are actually doable! One small task every day for a week is much more achievable than a huge list! I have also added some more time-consuming ones at the end.

Tack room/feed room clear out.
Ok, now this may be a mammoth task for some, and others not so much, but break it down into smaller jobs. Someone I knew would empty everything out, look at it all, get overwhelmed, and then throw it all back in the box she’d just tried to pull it all out of. Not only was that a lot of wasted time, (which could have been spent in the saddle) talk about a disappointing feeling at the end of it.

14 Jobs to do before winter
My Tack room – before tidy!

Like most people, I’m limited in the space I have, so my feed room and tack room are together. Space is very important, but so is the feeling of space. I hate feeling cramped.

1: Don’t start by cleaning your tack – you are just putting off tidying! Those broken bits of tack– throw away or get them fixed. They are no good to anyone broken.

2: The same goes for headcollars and lead ropes. If they’re broken, grab the spare clips off the end of the lead ropes. – assuming that’s not the broken part (they are great for hanging stuff off) and then bin the rest.

3: Boots and bandages for riding in – get them washed, and paired up. Think about selling any that don’t fit, or you don’t like – because you’re not going to use them. (Really – Are you?!)
Also, get rid of the poor pair at the bottom of the pile that have def seen better days, and only have 1 ½ velcro left. You always lose them out hacking, or then slip down. Better to have one pair that you use all the time that fits, than 20 that look pretty, but don’t fit. 20 Pretty ones that fit are also fine 😊

Top Tip – When you wash boots and bandages – fasten the velcro, so that it doesn’t get clogged up.
Bonus Top Tip – To keep your boots and bandages secure when in use, regularly clean your velcro. You can also use the same tool on any bits of velcro – front of rugs etc. 🙂 – And if you cant find a velcro cleaner – the ultimate groomer also does the job!! (YES – i have tried it out!)

4: Stable boots and bandages – same as above – clean, match/pair up, and store them neatly. You may not need them regularly, but when you need them, it’s probably in a hurry.
You do not want to be trying to find two bandages of any sort of description, let alone two that are actually the same length. The reason I say about pairing up bandages – is so that when you put them on, they are the same length and material.
This is so that they will have the same coverage and tension when you put them on. (Assuming you put them on with the same tension etc)

5: Lotions and potions – all those half-used bottles. Half a bottle of fly spray – will that be enough to see you through to the end of summer?
Even in October, I can still be putting fly spray on my boys some days. The rain, coupled with some warmer days sees all the flies hang around. So make sure you have enough left for those odd days.

Top Tip – I try and have half a bottle of fly spray left at the end of the year, (or a new small bottle) so when the weather changes in spring, I don’t get caught out without any.

6: Shampoos– all those little bits left in the bottom? Get them used up! There is nothing wrong with an out of date shampoo, but if it’s been sat there for a few years – are you really ever going to use it up?
If it’s only taking up space – Ditch it or donate to another livery who will use it.
We used to have a small shelf at one yard, which was for stuff that you didn’t want – and was free for any other livery to have. (This gave back some much-needed space, and also meant that what was in your tack box were things you’d use.)
Or you could always use a drop of shampoo in some hot water to give your grooming kit a wash. But I cheat and put all my plastic-backed brushes (rubber curry combs, anything that’s safe) through the washing machine, in a wash bag!

7: Hoof oils etc – same for these – you’ve paid for them, they don’t do anything for your ponies feet sat in the tack room.
Make an effort to use them up, and if you think you’ll never use it – Bin it Or give it to someone else who will use it. Then replace it with one that you will use.
A decent Hoof oil can help with shoe retention all year round, and can help reduce hoof chips and cracks in unshod horses.
Better to have one pot of something that you use all the time than 10 that take up space and don’t do anything (cos you don’t use it)

7a: And, when you’re done with the plastic bottles, pop them in the recycling bin (please) 🙂
Or buy in bigger containers, decant and use the small ones every day. Don’t mix and match products through – Keep only the same product in the bottle as the label.
2 reasons –
1 – It stops you from getting the products mixed up.
2 – Some products come in stronger or different coloured plastics so that they don’t get affected by the light, or make the plastic brittle.

8: Feed room.
Find all your feed buckets. Are they all fit for purpose? Discard or repurpose ones that aren’t. Those that are, put them together and give them a really good scrub. Inside AND outside.
One of my horses likes to roll his feed bucket around his stable when it’s empty. If you grab them all together in a pile, it gets all over the bucket underneath. Yuk

9: Feed bins – now I’m good at running my horses feed down at the end of winter so that I’ve either got none left. Or it’s only the feed that I feed my horses through the summer.
Feed goes off, and if you have a habit of always topping up your feed barrels and not using that bit at the bottom, it can be old. Very old. And mouldy.
Not only are you wasting that bit of food, but the mould can work its way into the newer feed. Get those feed bins cleaned out, washed, and dried completely. Don’t forget the lids.

14 Jobs to do before winter

10: Whilst they are out the way, give the feed room a good sweep out. Including behind the barrels where the food drops. The last thing you want is to encourage mice into your feed room.
Not least because they might find your leather in your tack room – or any of your rugs.

11: Speaking of rugs, depending on the number/collection/rug mountain you have will depend on how many you need to deal with. Washing and/or reproofing, fixing, and folding them so they can be stored away, ready for use.
Now’s the time to do it, if you haven’t already.

And when you’re going through them, are there any you never use or don’t fit. Are any damaged beyond repair? Also, try and be realistic about the type of rugs your horse needs, and how many.
My TB in work will be clipped and needs warmer rugs than my other TB, whos now retired. My unclipped Welsh pony spends most of the winter looking like a fluffball and doesn’t get a rug. He needs to keep trim for when spring comes around.

11a: Labels: this helps once they are bagged up – you don’t want to spend more time than necessary trying to find the right rug.
Mine are stored by sizes. I’ve got mine in plastic storage boxes on wheels, that stack together. This keeps them clean, tidy, and contained when they are not in use. The boxes are also mouse-proof.

12: Ragworting. Even as the grass seems to be slowing down, the ragwort is still growing. I try and do some 10 minutes once a week after it’s rained. I find that I can get more of the roots this way when the ground is a little softer.
Gloves are necessary – as the toxins in ragwort can enter the body through the skin.

14 Jobs to do before winter
Ragworting at the NoseBag – Reusing an old feed bag.

Ok – so now for some longer tasks

13 – Deep cleaning your stables, and getting them painted.
Not only do they look better, but it also gives you a chance to check on the condition of your stable. And get a chance to patch up anything.
Mickie has a habit of kicking out when he gets really stressed. During the winter, a temp fix of ducktape over the holes works, but patching them in the summer is much better in the long run.
If you are lucky enough to have water drinkers in your stables, clean these out, and check all the pipes. Also, have a check on any lagging, so that they don’t freeze in winter.

Whilst painting stables, think about doing your gutters out and checking downpipes at the same time. When you’re giving your yard a bit of a tidy, check that any drain covers are clear, and not blocked. You don’t really want to find out the hard way when we have the first deluge of rain in winter.

Top Tip Invest in tap cosies to help prevent outside taps freezing. I make my own out of bubble wrap and an old shavings bag, but you can get them off places like amazon*
A kettle is also a necessary addition to your tack room, not just for tea, but for thawing pipes and taps, too.

*denotes external link – These are added in good faith.

14- Hardcore in gateways – whilst the land is dry, now is the time to try and prevent all those stuck welly moments from happening this coming winter.
I often hear people moaning about gates being at the wettest, muddiest point of the field. But that’s what happens with the amount of horse ‘traffic’ that they have to deal with.
Adding hardcore, properly compacted, will reduce the impact of horses hoofs and tractors going over this same patch of ground. If it’s not something that you are able to do yourself, ask around in your local area. It will be well worth the investment.

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