Winter in the UK is a challenging time for horse owners. It is cold, wet and our horses are often stabled overnight which means the yard workload increases.
Most of us unfortunately have to work and so balancing work and yard duties in a day can be tricky and can mean that we equestrians frequently wake up in the early-early hours of the morning to get our horses done before work. This can be tiring and it can also eat up a lot of time. Often, I feel like I have completed a workout before the day has even properly started!
In this post I would like to share some of my time-saving tips when it comes to caring for horses in winter on top of the normal life stuff.
1. Make feeds up in advance
It is really not necessary to make feeds up on the day. All you need is a weeks worth of buckets which you probably have lying around anyway and then you can start making them up. I do this with the ‘dry’ ingredients only (i.e. chaff, balancer and supplements) and I spend a bit of time at the weekend preparing them all. This means that I don’t need to think about them throughout the working week and all I need to do is add in my ‘wet’ ingredients. For me, that is fibre beet (for you it might just be adding water, sugar beet, fast fibre etc. if that is what your horse gets).
2. Make up your haynets in advance
Similar to making your feeds up in advance, you can be doing the same with your haynets. I, again, spend some time at the weekend filling nets and then that’s it done. I just tie them up throughout the week. It is a bit of a task at the time but if you pop on a good podcast or some nice music, the time is sure to pass. Plus, I can promise you’ll thank yourself later in the week!
3. Do chores while your horse eats
I find in the time when Bo is eating, I can get so much done. I can get his rug changed, fix his water or even start taking the droppings out of his bed. Using the time to get things done means that your horse can head straight out to the field instead of standing watching them dreamily as they eat (I do still do this sometimes).
4. Set alarms
I find this really helps. I tend to set two alarms, one about 10 minutes before I need to think about leaving to get ready for work and one at the time I need to leave at. You could also set them throughout the time you’re there, for example as a marker for a point where you want certain things done. It sounds really strict but I find this helps a lot at the start of winter to regain the same speed I got to at the end of the previous winter.
5. Prepare water
Another preparation in advance tip; prepare pails of water the night before so you can easily fill your water bucket in the morning. This tip won’t be for everyone because some horses are just plain mucky in their stables and will poop in their water but if you have a clean horse who doesn’t contaminate his water this works well. Bo is really clean and often he doesn’t drink a huge amount through the night. I hate waste so I don’t like throwing away clean water. Instead, if it is clean, I have a little fishing net (you can get them for fish tanks from Pets at Home) and I fish out any little strands of hay that might be in there and then I top it up with the pail of water I made up the night before. Water- done. Now, obviously, it is important to clean out your water buckets too so I tend to do that every couple of days or I might leave it until the evening one day so I can give it a good scrub.
I hope you found these little tips helpful. I have tried lots of different time saving ideas and these by far help the most. It just means the early mornings go a lot smoother, it takes a lot less time and energy and it reduces thinking time completely if you’ve got things ready to go and use every minute you’re at the yard productively. It might even grant you an extra 10-20 minutes in bed and it frees up time after work for riding and working with your horse.