’Tis the season to be jolly — but follow these eight tips to ensure your horse stays happy and healthy over the festive season too
1. Don’t let him share your turkey dinner — horses are vegetarians.
2. Don’t lie-in too late — horses are creatures of habit, so your equine friend won’t appreciate it if you’re lounging in your bed while his stomach is rumbling.
3. Similarly, make sure you’re not sitting at the lunch table so long that neddy is frantic for his tea by the time you stagger outside.
4. Make sure he gets out of his stable — everyone wants to enjoy Christmas TV, play family games and open presents, but don’t let your horse be cooped up 24/7 or you risk health problems. Make time to ride, put your horse in the field or, at the very least, put him on the horsewalker.
5. If you want to give your horse a treat, avoid chocolate and other foods he’s not accustomed to — some nice fresh carrots and apples are the best way to let him know it’s Christmas and you love him. And make sure helpful visiting friends and relatives aren’t slipping him spare mince pies.
6. If your horse is having a break from his usual work because you’re away over Christmas, make sure you cut his feed accordingly and build up both feed and exercise slowly once you return.
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7. Similarly, if you have a lot more time to ride because you’re off work, bear in mind that it’s not fair for a horse usually ridden once a fortnight to be asked to hunt all day long three times in one week and then to do three classes at that New Year’s Eve jumping show too.
8. Don’t use a highly strung horse to give pony rides to all your little cousins. We’re not total killjoys — giving the fun odd ride on a horse with a relaxed temperament, with the right supervision and of course protective headgear does no harm. But letting everyone from a two-month-old baby up to Great-Auntie Jean have a go is likely to lead to disaster. You know your horse and what he’s happy to put up with — and whether it’s safe to put novice riders on his back.
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