Category Archives: blankets

Winter care for our Foxwood horses and ponies

4 more days…yes, I am counting down until the end of February. According to the local weather networks, this has been the coldest February on record and for those of you, like me, who have to work outside, we KNOW it is! Even though we have bundled up our horses and ponies this winter in warm blankets and bring most of them into a warm stall at night, they have also had enough of these temperatures! Some of our horses live outside 24/7, but with access to a run in shelter, they are able to get out of the elements.

I have been monitoring our horses and ponies very carefully this winter to make sure that they ARE staying warm and in good health. A good blanket is needed and it must not only be warm but waterproof as snow soaked blankets will only make a pony/horse colder. There are lots of blankets on the market but I have found that the more expensive brands like Rambo and Bucas, last longer and are better quality than others. If you wash and waterproof your blankets at the end of each season of use, this will also help prolong its’ life. It’s important to check blankets over daily for rips and any damage done to surcingles or leg straps. Leg straps should be checked before your horse/pony goes out in the morning and again, when it comes in at night. The same with the surcingles as often, horses and ponies love to roll so the blankets may shift slightly. Now that my horses and ponies have been wearing their blankets for many months, some of them have started to get some slight hair loss across the chest. Once the blankets are removed in early spring, generally, it doesn’t take long for their spring coats to grow in and repair the bald patch.

Another major issue to monitor in the winter is how much water your horse/pony is drinking. Some people assume that horses can eat snow to get their required intake ; however, this is definitely NOT the case. Horses will actually drink more water in the winter than at other times of the year because unlike spring/summer grass, hay is dry and they require more water to help digest and to avoid colic situations. To encourage my horses and ponies to drink more, I keep my outdoor water trough heated and I always have a salt and/or mineral block available. These blocks have vitamins and minerals that they do not get otherwise and the salt block makes them thirsty, which then sends them to the water. My current outdoor trough is 150 gallons and during the winter months, I will fill it up twice/day…that’s alot of drinking! For those horses that come in at night, they have water buckets in their stalls that get filled up several times over the course of the evening. If the buckets are completely frozen at night check, I will replace the bucket with a new one with fresh water. I have become very strong and skilled at using the rubber mallet this year to pound out ice;)

Some of our horses and ponies require a little extra feed over the winter as they may be old or just have trouble keeping up to the chubby ponies. Some of them get grain in the morning and at night – both times after they have had a feeding of hay which generates heat in their bodies. Without going into full detail about who eats what, every horse/pony has specific requirements so when introducing a new feed or when I get a new horse/pony, I always check with my local horse feed nutritionist to see what is best suited for that animal.

So, all of the key elements are covered at Foxwood to keep our ponies and horses happy in the winter: food, water and shelter…and of course lots of love! And let’s hope that all of the shedding we have been seeing while grooming our ponies and horses lately, is a sign that spring is just around the corner!

Until next time,
Keep warm!
Robyn

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

Fending off Frosty for winter riding fun!!

With snow in the forecast this Halloween evening, I guess it’s inevitable. Winter IS coming. It hardly seems fair especially when we really didn’t have much of a summer and to me, the fall has been cool and rainy (sadly, not the warm Indian summer weather I was hoping for).

At the barn, we know the season is changing because our horses and ponies have started to grow their winter coats. Many people ask me when/if I blanket them and it really depends on the animal. On a day like today, when it is cool and rainy, I like to keep them dry with a rain sheet but in general, until it gets colder, I try to keep blankets off to allow them to grow thick coats as blanketing too early deters hair growth. Once we get into colder temperatures, a waterproof winter turnout is added to their wardrobes and in most cases, one good blanket for the winter months is all they need. Sometimes, if we have a horse that doesn’t grow much of a coat, we’ll add a stable blanket underneath for extra warmth. In the case of the ponies that get ultra furry, if they are going to be ridden often and get too warm during riding lessons, we will sometimes body clip them. We will leave the hair on their legs but clip away the hair around their chest and part of the body where they sweat. By doing this, the pony cools out quicker but it is imperative then to put on a blanket afterwards to avoid chills.

So, this leads us to the winter rider. Many people will stop riding in the winter, in fear of being too cold; however, if dressed appropriately, winter riding can be fun – especially after a fresh snowfall out in the fields!

The first thing to keep in mind is to dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes. On top, I usually suggest a turtleneck or high-necked shirt followed by a zipped sweatshirt or fleece top. For those riders who wear protective safety vests (which on their own add about 10 degrees to your body temperature), wear your vest on top on your turtleneck, followed by the zip top so that you have 1 less layer to remove as you warm up. For the final top layer, a down vest or winter jacket would be best. This piece will also keep you warm before and after you ride when you are grooming your horse or pony.

Since your head allows much of your body’s heat loss, fleece helmet covers will help maintain some of your body temperature, and can also keep your ears warm! Some riders will also add an ear band underneath a helmet and as long as it doesn’t interfere with the fit of the helmet, it’s another way to keep the ears warm.

For pants, I prefer to ride in “winter riding breeches” which are nylon on the outside and fleece on the inside. I don’t like to promote specific brands but will acknowledge ones that have been great for me over the years. After riding through many cold winters, the “Kerrits” winter riding breeches wash up the best, last the longest and are super comfy to wear. For added warmth, both on top and bottom, you can also add long underwear in cotton or silk. These natural fabrics add warmth and pull moisture away from your skin so that as you ride and get warm, you won’t get chilled when cooling down afterwards.

For me, what get cold the quickest are my hands and feet so it’s important to find the best gloves and winter footwear. For gloves, try to look for products that are rated for a minimum of -10 degrees. My favourite ones are SSG’s “10 below” winter gloves. They keep my hands warm and stay relatively dry. I also like the sheepskin lined deerskin gloves, but unless you are good at keeping track of your things, they can be a bit pricey.

Winter riding boots come in many different brands and styles. Some riders prefer winter paddock boots (short boots) while others like to ride in tall boots. Either way, the key is to wear good socks and to have lots of room to keep wiggling your toes. Both Mountain Horse and Ariat have many different styles so it’s a good idea to figure out if you want short or tall boots and then try on different brands. It WILL be difficult to get 1/2 chaps over most winter paddock boots so keep that in mind when selecting your style. Some of my students bring “Hot Shots” to lessons which keep their hands/feet warm and I know that many parents “buy in bulk” at Costco and keep a good supply in their rider’s “barn bag”.

All this being said, I admit that I AM a wimp when it comes to winter riding but when I dress properly, I warm up quickly. When I go out to teach, I am bundled up from head to toe from my Foxwood toque, down to my full-length parka and Sorel boots, and this year, I’m adding snow pants to my winter teaching wardrobe.
As much as I complain about the cold, I still love riding and want to be out in the barn with my horses and my students.

So, if I can handle the cold standing on the ground while teaching, so can all of you (on the backs of warm horses/ponies;).

Until next time,
Robyn

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