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Winter Caring For Your Horse

Winter is a tricky time of year for many horse owners and my client’s often ask how to manage their horses during the cold temperatures, specifically to help keep their horse’s condition with the limited turn out and riding due to snow and icy weather.

First of all, I am not a veterinarian and if you are worried about your horse, please contact your Vet immediately. All my advice is based on my training and experience with horses over 20years.


As with any change of season comes a change in environment factors which we need to be mindful of and prepare as best we can. Winter has a direct impact on the nutritional value of the soil and therefore grass quality our horse’s are being fed and turned out on. Therefore my first top tip is to measure your soil quality routinely, a couple times a year and speak to a professional independent nutritionist to help you ensure your horse has the appropriate nutritional intake for their age, condition, breed, size and management. If you are not feeding appropriately to these variables, you will struggle to maintain condition with your horse over winter.


There are several management points that you need to look at depending if your horse is turnout 24/7 hours a day or whether they are stabled.

Let's start with horses that are turnout 24/7. Ensure your horse has a field shelter, ideally an area that is dry, so they can escape standing in mud and that is provides cover from wind and rain. If you have multiple horses turned out together, please ensure that they have enough shelter space for each member of the herd, despite their hierarchy. As I mentioned before, ensure that the nutritional intake has been adapted to suit the requirements of a winter diet (this would include plenty of forage). I would highly recommend checking each horse twice per day and if the weather is allowing, I would suggest a full body check (take their rug off) and even a groom to ensure the rugs are not causing any discomfort, or that there are not any underlying skin conditions starting. Water must be easy to access and checked twice a day to ensure it is running correctly with no restrictions. If your horses are rugged 24/7, you must check that they are not over-rugged at least twice per day. If you are unsure on which rugs to use, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

If your horse is turnout alone, I would recommend a daily groom at least once a day to mimic mutual grooming and stimulate blood flow to large muscle groups.


Due to the limited turnout and space availability here in the UK, most horse’s are unfortunately forced to stay in their stable with very limited turnout and in some cases no turnout at all during the winter months. This is the worst possible situation for horses as they are forages and need movement to function optimally.

For those of you that have no turnout, I would recommend regular walks in-hand (or a horse walker) at least 2-3 times a day. A word of warning of those of you who are turning their horses lose in the school to allow them to run around freely, please do factor in that your horse is more likely to injure themselves if they are fresh and have not done a warm up before being allowed to canter or gallop around the arena. I would suggest an in hand walk first for 10mins to warm the body up in a controlled manor and then allow them to move around the arena freely. Short, regular walks are better than one walk for 40mins a day.

To help keep your stabled horse interested, I would recommend grooming them properly at least once a day. Grooming your horse has many advantages including; improving the skin and coat health. By daily grooming your horse, you are able to assess and monitor their condition and identify any early signs of skin issues. A full body groom increases blood flow to the skin’s surface and massages large muscle groups, which will be compromised if your horse is stabled.

After an in-hand walk and grooming session, I would highly recommend practising stabled yoga stretches with your horse. These may include lateral neck flexions, picking up your horse’s hooves and doing leg mobilisations and gentle extensions.

Before attempting any of these yoga moves with your horse, I would contact your practitioner of choice to ensure you are performing them correctly.

Like anything in life, consistency is key! You should do this on a daily basis if you want to maintain your horses condition. Doing these once per week is pointless! Additional in hand walking, grooming and practising yoga moves daily, there are numerous stimulating objects that you can add your horse’s stable to keep them interested and moving round. This will be individual to each horse and it is your role as an owner to find out what your horse likes. Some examples of stable stimulus may include a treat ball, or hay ball (please ensure that you seek professional nutritional advice before providing more feed). At all times, I would always recommend feeding your horse’s from the floor (this includes hay) and if possible shift the area that you give them hay into small piles around the stable, to encourage your horse to move around. Many horse owners are worried about keeping their stable clean and routinely feed at the same area. We need to ask yourselves if this is beneficial for us or our horses, given that horses are naturally forage seeking animals that would cover distance if they were allowed the space to move.


This is the most common question I get asked, as many horse owners do not have access to an indoor school. My advice would be to stop and reflect on what your goals are with your horse for the next 3-6 months. Once you have determined your goal, this will dictate what you do with your horse on a weekly basis. For those of you who are not working towards a goal and need your horse fit and ready for mid- summer, I would take the pressure off of yourself and focus on building your relationship with your horse concentrating on the grooming, in-hand walking and yoga stretching.

However, for those of you who are working towards a goal in the next 3 months it is really important to identify what your horse’s current weaknesses are and focus on improving them with specific exercises that can be done routinely and consistently. Consistently is key! I often hear horse owners, that do nothing with their horses during the week and then decide to hack them for 45-60mins on Saturday and Sunday. You are going to struggle to see an improvement with your horse if you follow this training plan and more importantly, you are at higher rick of injuring your horse. Please seek professional advice from a Veterinarian or Qualified Practitioner to help you establish an effective training plan to help your horse remain injury free.

I do provide training plans focused on strength and conditioning for your horse. If you would like to find out more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

0791 561 3852

Top Tips Summarised:

  • Nutrition - Individual to your horse

  • Monitor body weight- monthly - stabled or turnout 24/7

  • Daily grooming- FULL BODY

  • In-hand walking with stabled based yoga moves

  • Consistency to key! Horses like routine.

  • Ad lib access to good quality forage - feed off the floor

  • Check the weather conditions for ice

  • Rug according to the age and body condition. Do not over rug

  • Groom your horse - this is a good way of checking them all over - winter comes with an increase in skin conditions (mud fever)

  • Fresh water- check 2x a day

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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