Just like you and me, your horse is likely to be most happy when it is at its healthiest. There are various things you can do as a horse rider or owner to ensure your horse feels its best no matter what time of year it is. The basic recipe for a happy horse consists of factors such as their diet, environment, and their exercise regime.
In terms of the environment side of this ‘recipe’, the paddock is the place where your horse spends a large portion of its time, especially in the winter, when less riding will occur. This is why it is so important that you ensure that that the horse is comfortable in their paddock, and that it is a healthy environment for your animal. As summer draws to an end, it is now more important than ever that you prepare your horse and its environment for colder and wetter weather.
As winter brings colder conditions, it also brings along wet conditions too. This increased moisture of the paddock is something that should not be neglected. It is crucial that the soil in your paddock is drained properly as often as you can. If the land your horse’s paddock is on is heavy clay, and as a result is muddy and after rainfall then it is best to keep your horses away from these affected areas during the colder and rainier months. If a relocation is not a feasible option, it could be worth contemplating investing in some land drainage systems to prevent the disintegration of the paddock area. More short term solutions include laying grass mats, hardcore pathing or ditching. One thing to avoid is laying down straw to saturate the mud, as a horses’ natural reaction to this will be to urinate on this, leaving you responsible for dealnig with mud-soaked, half rotten straw.
Land that is inundated with water, and consequently mud, is a problem for many horse owners and can be a trigger of nervousness in your horse. According to a survey led by TheHorse.com, the largest concern of nearly a third of the respondents was about the mud producing slippery footing for the horse. A slippery surface can put the horse at risk when just moving around in a muddy paddock. Tendon injury or strains can befall, or an even more serious injury could even result out of a potential fall. Nearly half of respondents were apprehensive about infections caused by bacteria and fungi in the mud (20% by scratches or pastern dermatitis and 26% by thrush). Infections such as these can cause great discomfort to your animal and can require high veterinary bills in the long-run.
Further results of this poll returned that around one tenth of those surveyed said they were apprehensive about lost shoes and the problems which come with this. Shoes can easily get wedged in the mud while your horse is moving around their paddock. If your horse slips or gets temporarily trapped in the mud, they may kick their feet erratically due to stress, this can lead to shoes being dislodged. You’ll probably be aware that finding a pulled shoe in the mud is rather tricky; as it it can be buried six or eight inches underground and hunting through mud is no easy task. Losing shoes can be prevented by evacuating muddy pastures in extreme conditions, or speaking with your farrier about rim shoes or alternatives to stop your horse from misplacing a shoe.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to evacuate muddy paddocks, so there are some precautions you can take to ensure your horse stays healthy. Here are some ideas to help you alter your horse’s grooming regime during the winter months, which can even inspire change for the well-kept paddocks out there
• In the wintertime, clip away any surplus shaggy winter coat around the horse’s hooves and legs. Although this excess fuzz will help to keep your horse a little warmer, it is not worth it in the long-run, as these areas are ideal for bacteria to breed.
• It is essential that your horse dries fully overnight, when you bring your horse in for shelter, make sure all of the mud is washed off properly and the legs are appropriately towel dried. Once dry, smear an oil based balm on your horses’ legs to shield them from water and bacteria.
While water-logged paddocks make the wetter months a bit more difficult for all horse owners alike, it is should still be of the utmost importance to take the extra care to look after your horse. Whether you choose to relocate your horse to a less muddy area, install a method of land drainage, or just corner off the muddy spots, it is fundamental that you take the right steps to do the right thing for your horse. They can’t voice their anxieties themselves, so you will have to be the one who thinks ahead and makes the alterations to their environment which will benefit them when they need it the most.
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