Winter for horse owners can easily dampen spirits as you can constantly feel like you are racing against time, and the weather.
While we can’t change the weather, we do have some practical time saving tips for you, which might just make the difference between having enough time to ride or not ride.
If you work in the week, use your time at a weekend to get prepared for the week ahead. Fill enough haynets to last the week, so that you don’t need to fill them each day. If your horse doesn’t have haynets use fibre bags instead to store and then empty each day. Put in extra bedding so you don’t have to do it during the week. Some shavings bales are packed so tight they take ages to break down and spread.
Plan ahead with your visits to get feed. If you are able to store extra feed properly why not buy double the feed to halve your visits. Or if this is not possible, take turns with someone else on your yard to do the feed run.
Finding the correct rugs and clipping combo that works for you is really helpful when it comes to being able to ride when you are short of time, so that you don’t need to spend 20 minutes brushing before you get on. Investing in a quality cooler that can stay on in the stable will help when it comes to drying them off.
4. Efficiency is key
Never go anywhere on the yard empty handed! The less journeys you need to make the better. For example, fill your water buckets on the way to colleting your hay by leaving it on a trickle, or take your grooming kit and tack to your stable at the same time. Bring back that extra shavings bale when you go and grab your wheelbarrow.
5. Plan ahead
Have a plan of what jobs you need to do. If you are on a yard, being sociable is fabulous, but sometimes it can leave you short of time. Ever wondered where the time goes… it’s very easy to waste 15 minutes chatting! Changing your routine so that you do your horse first and chat with any spare time afterwards means that you’ll probably enjoy your horse even more, as you won’t feel time pressured.
6. Ride or lunge?
Lunging a couple of times a week can be valuable (horse dependent) in order to work them and help to keep fitness up over the winter months. It’s much quicker than going for a hack!
7. Ice and snow
If you are expecting freezing temperatures, fill up containers or buckets the day before so you have them ready for the morning.
8. Track your time
Time how long it takes you to do things so you know exactly how long it takes to muck out, make feed, turnout etc. You might be surprised how long it is taking you to do routine jobs! Give yourself a time limit per job, if you listen to the radio this is handy way of tracking time or set yourself an alarm. As well as being useful to know exactly how long you’ll need to give yourself, if you need to go a bit quicker, it’s also a great way of burning extra calories.
Having the right tools to do the job makes so much difference. A broken fork, or yard brush with no bristles left means that it takes double the time to do things. From three former professional grooms, this is an investment worth making! Leaf blowers can be a brilliant way to safe time sweeping and if you have a lot of lying water, squeegees are so much easier than sweeping wet yards where everything gets stuck!
10. Be realistic
Be honest with yourself and your time. Being over ambitious with your time will leave you feeling frustrated and more likely to procrastinate. Plan your week and commit to what you know is achievable so that anything else is a bonus.
11. Keep warm.
Being cold, especially your fingers, will really slow you down. Warm, waterproof gloves are a great investment, alternatively use surgical gloves until your normal gloves to help keep the heat in and the water out. Wearing thinner or technical fabrics will help to keep you warm and mean you can adjust your layers easily without getting sweaty or cold.
12. Exercise sheets
Investing in a waterproof exercise sheet for your horse also saves a huge amount of time if you are riding in the rain and then have to wait for them to dry off before you can put them back out in the field.
Invest in a good thermal mug to take hot drinks in, the Contigo brand are great at keep your drinks warm for a few hours meaning you can have a drink without having to stop to make one. Remember to also drink plenty of water every day too, especially of you are running around like a mad thing!
14. You’re not alone
Finally remember that almost everyone finds winter a bit of a chore from time to time, so you most certainly are not alone.