We all know how it is – you’re in a rush to get your horse mucked out, turned out and fed before work/the school run, so you take a few shortcuts, skip a few jobs. You’ll do them properly at the weekend, right? But the weekend arrives, and you’d rather be riding than doing chores – and somehow those jobs just don’t get done. It’s always the same ones that get skipped. Here’s what they are – and why you should do them!
1. Scrubbing out buckets
It’s all too easy to chuck your horse’s breakfast into last night’s supper bucket, or just top up his water without emptying and cleaning the bucket out first. True, every now and them this probably won’t do any harm – and admittedly horses are a lot less fussy than humans, seeing as they happily eat off the ground! But not cleaning the buckets can lead to growth of harmful bacteria and mould. It’s particularly important to scrub out your horse’s water buckets regularly to prevent a build-up of slime, which may put your horse off drinking from it, which could in turn lead to colic. So get those brushes out and start scrubbing!
2. Cleaning and oiling tack
For some people, there’s nothing more enjoyable than spending a whole evening taking apart, cleaning and oiling their tack. For the rest of us normal people (only kidding! Or are we…?), it’s a total pain in the bum. But it’s got to be done, otherwise the leather will get stiff and crack and not only could this be uncomfortable for your horse, but your tack won’t last as long. In fact, according to Dover Saddlery, for proper longevity, tack should be cleaned after every ride – eeek! They suggest a thin layer of warmed Neatsfoot oil for revitalising very dry leather. You’ll also find useful advice (and pics) on cleaning tack here. Alternatively, you can always sell yours and invest in synthetic stuff – a quick wash and you’re done!
3. Getting the trailer serviced
The UK has no trailer MOT test, so there’s no legal obligation to make sure yours is in good shape – but it’s a huge betrayal of your horse if you don’t and then something happens. The Blue Cross recommends that you lift the rubber matting and check the floors for damage and rot every few months – but it’s probably a good idea to play safe and get your trailer properly serviced by a reputable garage at least annually. The Blue Cross also recommends checking the tyre pressure on your car and trailer with a pressure gauge before every trip (they should be the pressure recommended by the manufacturer for towing a full load). There’s lots of useful advice on their website here.
4. Checking and mending fencing
If you’re always in a rush, then taking time to walk round your horse’s field checking that all his fencing is safe and secure is probably at the bottom of your ‘to do’ list – if it’s on it at all. But it’s a task that needs doing regularly – in fact, the BHS recommends doing it daily! You’ll find advice on types of fencing and the recommended height (minimum four foot) on their website at www.bhs.org.uk.
5. Sheath cleaning
Urgh. There is nothing to like about removing the smegma from a gelding’s sheath, but according to Penboden Vets, it’s a job that needs doing every two to four weeks. You’ll find useful advice on this PDF – including why it’s important not to over-clean and remove bacteria that can lead to fungal overgrowth. Maybe just get yourself a mare instead? (Only joking, gelding owners! Just be glad the human males in your life can sort themselves out!)
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It’s that time of year when the frilly leaves of this pretty meadow plant start poking up with the spring grass. Unfortunately, ragwort is poisonous to horses – they don’t eat it through choice, but that’s no reason to leave it there. Don’t let it take hold in your field as it can spread really quickly – dig it up (wearing gloves as it’s poisonous to humans too) and burn it (to prevent contamination and spreading). Do it now!
Again, this is one of those Marmite-y (yuck!) tasks that people either love or hate. But you have to do it or, well, you end up with a field full of poo. ‘Nuff said!