Are you winter ready?
Apologies in advance to all of you who still have your mind set to happy, sunny, long summer days but the time has now come to start turning our thoughts to getting the yard winter ready, in time for the fast approaching winter season. Temperatures are dropping, days are getting shorter, the show season is drawing to a close and the Hunters are out for their early morning jaunts revving up to full steam ahead for the opening meet. Much as we all jest about the delights of the British weather in winter, there is plenty to enjoy too; think frosty early morning hacks, days out at the races, having some downtime if you’re in Eventing/Showing, hunt balls, escaping to the sun for the Showjumpers and dare I say it…Christmas!
As with all things in life the key to avoiding stress is good organisation. So here we are again with another dispenser load of wise words, silly opinions and ridiculous pictures that may or may not help you prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for the slightly more challenging season ahead.
Getting the yard winter ready
1) Field Maintenance: BEFORE the ground turns into a sloppy, muddy, pig pen is a good time to do a thorough check of all fencing while you can still get machinery nay – yourself, in and out of the field to fix it without getting bogged down. If possible now is the time to add stone/gravel/hard-core to any particularly troublesome gateways where horses gather.
2) Yard Maintenance: Apply the same thorough checking system to the yard. Waiting until the heavy rains and wind strike then realising the gutters and drains are filled with leaves and there are holes in several stables rooves and some poor begger (probably you) will have to climb up on the rood to fix it, is no fun for anyone. Don’t forget to check all your lighting is working and sufficient, easily forgotten until you find yourself trying to plait up for a late-season event by torchlight one morning!
3) Vehicle Maintenance: Now is a good time to ensure all the vehicles are also prepared for the winter, i.e. the Lorry, quadbike, tractor, blower, your own car. If possible get them fully serviced but if a DIY penny-saving tactic is needed checking the oil, tyre tread, water and restocking with anti-freeze is a good essential basic checklist.
4) Extreme weather supplies and preparation: Time to get ahead of the local farm shop rush, avoid the wrestling in the aisle and get stocked up on aforementioned anti-freeze, WD40, grit/salt and excessive quantities of insulation for water pipes and boilers.
Getting the horses winter ready
1) Organise rugs: Hopefully, all your rugs are back from the cleaners and neatly stacked on shelves by now! Make sure the lighter rugs are near the top of the pile so you don’t have to rummage around to find the tog you’re looking for – you can dig deeper into the stacks of rugs as we go deeper into winter. If you’re in a dilemma over when and how to rug, have a read of our Basic Guide to Rugging Horses, which will help you be more decisive as the temperatures drop over the coming weeks.
2) Prepare for the onslaught of hairiness: Clipping season is open us, oh the joys! Ensure you are ready and raring to go with sharpened, oiled and primed blades and a whole mountain of washed, reproofed and repaired rugs ready for the little darlings. A good supply of Sedalin/ACP and a twitch probably isn’t a bad idea either.
3) Stock up on forage: Depending on your storage capacity of course but if at all possible stock up now before supplies start running low and the prices hike up! Failing that save yourself a mid-winter panic by having a chat with your local farmer to ensure he can meet your likely requirements throughout the winter so a backup plan can be found if not. Ensure the barn is not forgotten in your maintenance checks and if repairs aren’t possible that you have a big trusty tarpaulin and enough pallets to make do!
4) Health consideration: For all we moan at finding winter hard it’s not the best of time for the horses either. Probably the biggest issue with endless articles on this subject alone is the plague that is Mud Fever. I daren’t suggest a method as there are so many contradicting remedies, every groom/employer/owner will have their own preference. I shall suffice to say that being on the lookout and catching it early will save you a whole lot of hassle later on. The other greatest consideration is to keep an eye on your oldies and poor doers. Cold and particularly wet weather will soon have them dropping the weight off so especially for those living out 24/7 ensure you are quick to notice the grass losing its goodness and start feeding hay/haylege in the field. Consider adding or upping the hard feed where possible. A good tip I found with the less hardy types is to always ensure they are warm enough, a cold shivering horse will never look well no matter how much feed you chuck at it. Make sure you make a note of and understand the horse’s vital signs. If you’re unsure if a horse is becoming unwell you will have reference points that will help you make informed decisions on actions to take.
Getting yourself winter ready
1) Assess your own survival equipment: As dedicated a bunch as us horsey lot are the last thing on our checklist is always our own kit so here is a reminder BEFORE it is all in full use and urgently required. Now is the time to wash and reproof your winter outer-wear or, if you find it beyond resuscitation, invest in a replacement while there is still some time to shop around for a bargain. Essential kit list = coats (plural intentional)/wellies/hats/gloves/snoods/baselayers all the vital necessities. For more tips on staying warm read on here – Keep warm working with horses this Winter
2) Plan a Winter Escape: When all else fails – flee to the Sun! I jest. But only a little. This is a slightly discipline-varying point – how much time you can take off will depend on how busy your winter season will be. Regardless of that all yards will now have more horses in and be less able to cope shorthanded. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment and encourage your yard to have the staff winter rota of holidays sorted in advance.
3) Career stock-taking: Transfer season is upon us making now a good time to stop and take our much-recommended helicopter view of your career path and decide if your best move is to stay where you are or look to move on. This needs to be a carefully considered decision taking into account
- How will this affect your CV? Have you been in your current job long enough to maintain a healthy longevity?
- What you can still gain in your current job?
- How happy are you there?
- Where do you want your career to go long term?
Once you have considered these points our team at The Grooms List are more than happy to talk you through our list of options to help you make the right career decision for you. We are just as likely to encourage you to stay put if you are in a good job which is ticking most of your boxes. Why wouldn’t we, it makes no sense for us to encourage job hopping in any guise! Contact us here.
Winter doesn’t have to be a time of doom and gloom. There is little more satisfying than the chomping of a yard full of warm, cosy, happy horses in the soft glow of their stable lights on a winter night. There is something to enjoy from every season when you’re enjoying the great outdoors and working in a job you enjoy. If that doesn’t do it for you just think, only 6 more months until the horse flies are back!