During last winter some parts of Britain were snowed in for weeks on end, which provoked a wave of panic on some yards, but you can reduce the stress associated with the worst of the winter by planning ahead.
Make sure you have a good two-month supply of hay/haylage, food, bedding and grit to tide you over. Remember if there is no grass available, a bale of hay will be used up twice as fast and reduced turnout means more shavings.
If your water pipes hardly thawed last winter, think about insulating them now with some lagging – available from DIY stores – or even old duvets.
During a cold snap, ensure you have enough water for each day and night. Put stable buckets in a tyre packed with straw to insulate them.
Putting a football in the water trough is a good trick to stop the water freezing and, if that hasn’t worked, try use a brick in a carrot sack, or an axe, to smash the ice.
Once the ice is broken, use a plastic colander to scoop out the ice and you will avoid suffering from cold wet hands.
Showing amateur Donna Samujh has three horses on DIY livery. “We filled water containers and stored them inside overnight, as the taps were usually frozen in the morning,” she says.
Horses that need their hay soaked pose a real problem when the temperature drops. Not only is it horrible for those who have to lug heavy, wet haynets round the yard, but feeding frozen hay can cause digestive upsets. For those on an unlimited budget, or the larger competition yards, the hay steamer may prove a good investment, or consider swapping from hay onto high-fibre haylage.
For those on DIY, getting to the yard can also prove a problem, particularly if you don’t have a 4×4, so it’s worth organising an emergency plan to ensure that all horses will get their essential needs covered
Hannah Gatt keeps her pony in Stourbridge, West Midlands. As he was on box-rest last winter, she had little to worry about “except actually getting to the yard”. Like so many other tales of “the Big Freeze”, a community spirit prevailed.
“We’re DIY-only, but when it was really bad, we all pulled together and even took it in turns taking time off work to do them all,” she says.
For the full article on winter management, see the current issue of Horse & Hound, 11 November ’10