I did something I haven’t done in a long time and rode before work this morning. A lovely hack around the country lanes watching the world wake up…
Autumn Horse Bewitched by Michele Avanti
It was a beautiful morning and I had a wonderful time, however there was a slight nip in the air and I did have to dig deep in my wardrobe to find my favourite red softshell jacket. The last few evenings I’ve also had to shut the patio door as the air is crisper than it should be mid-August. Even at 9pm, it is pitch black outdoors.
It can only lead me to one conclusion which is that unless we get a late summer, Autumn is well and truly on its way.
Now I personally love Autumn as a human being. But as a horse-person, it only marks the start of the decline to the season of mud, frozen toes and limited riding.
Here are my tips to make the best of let’s face it, a crummy time:
- Be organised and get your rugs washed now! If you’re anything like me, you probably have so many rugs that its hard to keep track of them all. Cyryl has a bigger wardrobe than me! Trust me and send your rugs off to be washed and repaired now. You don’t want to be caught short without the right clothing when the temperature drops or we suddenly get a week straight of rain and all you have is a summer sheet! Also, the rug repairers will suddenly get super busy as the temperature changes and you’ll be at the back of a long waiting list if you leave this mundane task too late.
- Similarly, it’s a good idea to get your own warmer attire sorted. Check your wellies for holes, spiders and mould. Sew up that hole in your winter breeches that you’ve been ignoring and use a waterproofing product on your riding boots to condition and protect them before the mud and rain sets in. Now is also a great time to do an online shopping haul as all the winter clothes and rugs are in the sales and bargain bins. Stock up before the prices soar when the temperatures drop.
- Keep an eye on feeding. We might be used to turning our ponies out rugless at night with no dinner because the grass is so good, but conditions can change quickly and if you aren’t careful, your horse’s condition can drop off really quickly. You could always consider adding a multivitamin supplement to your feed to ensure your horse is receiving all his key nutrients.
- Have an Autumn/Winter plan. The shorter days and long cold nights looming can be really off-putting and make you want to snuggle up with a movie rather than ride. I often find that it is much more bearable if I have a plan or schedule of things I want to do over the season. I’ll spend some time trawling programmes and websites and putting together a diary of events that I want to attend over the Autumn/Winter period. Doing this will give you something to look forward to, as well as giving you aims and a reason to get out of bed and in the saddle.
This also includes getting a few non-riding, but still horsey events in the diary, such as my Christmas favourite, The London International Horse Show at London Olympia and of course, Horse Of The Year Show.
- Prevention is always better than cure, so start using preventative measure against things such as mud fever before you need them. I find pig oil to be the best barrier out there as it’s cheap in a world where things usually cost the earth. I’ll be using this as soon as the first trace of mud appears as it’s much better than having to manage a full blown case of mud fever.
- Stock up! Get your deliveries of feed, hay and shavings now, especially if you have the room to store in bulk. You won’t regret it a few months down the line when it’s freezing cold, raining and you can take an extra 20 minutes in bed on a Saturday morning because you don’t need to go to the feed shop on the way to the yard and lug 20kg bags around in the pouring rain!
- Remember that if your horse is getting less turnout and less hacking when the weather declines, they may become bored or agitated. If you have a walker, perhaps consider scheduling in some sessions to his routine to keep him moving and mobile once the dark evenings mean no after work riding. Also remember how easy lunging can be; a great workout for your horse and you barely have to lift a finger!
- Last, but not least, have an emergency bag. I always keep some essentials in a bag in the boot of my car. There’s nothing worse than getting wet at the yard when it’s really cold and having nothing clean and dry to change in to. You won’t ever regret keeping some cleans jods, a hoody and socks in your car. You could also put in some dry gloves and those disposable, air-activated hand warmers that you can buy cheaply for skiing. I will also pack a lip balm and tissues for when it’s freezing and my nose is running uncontrollably and also something like a cereal bar and a sports drink for when you’re hungry, fed up and still have another 6 horses to muck out. I also always keep a torch in my car. You should definitely consider either this, or keeping one charged at the yard in case of power failures on dark evenings.
Do you have any preparations that you do before the bad weather arrives? I’d love to hear them!