With time a precious commodity, how do busy people ensure their hunters are well looked after and their horse and kit are ready for the next day’s hunting?
Post-hunting care is of utmost importance to ensure your horse is to survive the season.
“As your horse has given you a decent day’s hunting the least you can do is look after them as soon as you get home,” says Jane Tuckwell.
As soon as she gets back to the horsebox after hunting, Jane takes the bridle off her horse and loads him up with his saddle still on and the girths loosened.
“If I ride home I still leave the saddle on for 10 minutes after I get back, to let his back cool off gradually while he is tied up in his box with a haynet,” she says.
There is much debate over whether you should wash horses off completely, but Jane has her own routine.
“The very worse scenario is to return with a horse plastered in dry sweat and mud that is still damp. On those rare occasions I hose his legs and belly off and wash off the saddle patch with warm water but I prefer not to wash off unless I really have to.”
Jane always washes out the tail and then brushes off dry sweat and mud. “I wash the feet and coronet bands, then use Ice Tight on the front legs and bandage behind. While I do this, I always check for any knocks or cuts. But the most important thing to remember is that your horse needs a bit of peace, so do it all as quickly as possible.”
Jane puts on a sweat rug with straw underneath and a jute rug on top, before leaving him with his feed. “I always go back last thing at night to change his rugs, feel his ears to make sure he is warm and give him more hay,” she says.
Warm and dry
Carol Wild from North Newbald in East Yorkshire also hates to get the hose out.
“Being doused with cold water after a day’s hunting must be miserable. We wash tails out and sometimes we wash off their legs, but we aim to get the horses done as quickly as possible so they can be left alone to settle.”
Carol and her husband hunt with the local Holderness Hunt. Carol’s horses travel home wearing a Thermatex rug.
“These types of rugs are marvellous for wicking away any moisture and the horses are usually dry by the time we get back. The first thing we do is take off all the rugs and allow the horses a jolly good roll in their boxes, which all of ours do. It is amazing how much dirt comes off with this alone.”
If a horse is still damp, Carol puts another dry Thermatex on the horse otherwise the horses receive a thorough brushing to remove dry mud and sweat patches.
“We are particularly careful to check for and clean any cuts.” Cuts are flushed out with cold water and treated with purple spray. Once brushed over the horses have their night rugs put on.
“We then feed them — their ordinary feed but a little less of it with the addition of tempting succulents, before leaving them with their haynets” says Carol. “We will always check them last thing at night to make sure they are dry, warm and comfortable.”
Spit and polish
Carol and Jane agree that cleaning mud and sweat off tack and boots must be done as soon as possible. They both wash tack off with water and once dry apply ordinary saddle soap.
Carol says, “If the tack is looking a little under nourished it will be wiped over with neatsfoot oil but providing you clean it immediately ordinary saddle soap is usually sufficient. “
Both riders are also fastidious about cleaning numnahs and girths straightaway. For Jane this means washing her numnahs and girths by hand, using a mild soap, while Carol uses washable designs that can be put in the washing machine.
“Once you have done your horse the rest of the jobs can fit in around the evening. The sooner you remove dirt from tack, boots and clothes the easier it is,” she adds.
- Do not let the horse’s back get chilled
- Brush dry horses, rather than hose whenever possible
- Check for cuts and knocks and deal with them immediately
- Make him as comfortable as quickly as possible and leave in peace
- Always check your horse last thing at night. Make sure he has eaten up and change rugs if necessary
- Always look him over the following morning and make sure he is sound
- Wash off tack and boots the same night
- Wash numnahs and girths with mild soap powder, not biological powder