Words by: Mel Beale
Where has summer gone? The nights are drawing in, I'm living in jumpers and the horses’ coats are getting fluffy.
The autumn means falling leaves, shorter days and cooler nights. Sometimes, this also comes with mud; but it's still my favourite season. The clear blue skies, cool breeze, and just enough warmth from the sun to ward off a coat. I find it just as refreshing, if not more so, than spring. It's like a cool glass of water after a blistering hot day - not that we had too many of those this year.
Now the nights are drawing in, it's the perfect time to start preparing for the winter. There are a few things on my list of tasks to complete...
1. Prepare for the clocks to change
At the end of the month the clocks go back, so we gain one whole hour of sleep (yippee) but it's not something we can explain to our horses. As I keep quite a regimented feeding routine, I like to take the time the week before to start preparing them for the change, since getting their breakfast essentially an hour late wouldn't impress them very much. I slowly adjust their feeding times; that way, when the clocks change they aren't so surprised. I still get up a little earlier than usual the first couple of days to continue the adjustment, so whilst I don't quite get my hour of extra sleep, at least I don't arrive to a very grumpy yard of horses.
With that, the nights will draw in very quickly, so it's also my cue to replace batteries on my handheld torch, head torch and body torch - I like to be prepared! It's also useful to have at least one light source that doesn't require your hands, just in case.
2. Packing and unpacking my rugs
My summer rugs - mainly fly rugs - will be packed away in the coming weeks. I check them for repairs, and send them away to be fixed if necessary. I'm lucky that where I keep my horses we don't have any problems with horse flies, so their fly rugs don't see too much use. I also pack away their fly masks - or what's left of them, as my sport horse decided he'd rather have ear holes than ear covers this year, but got a tad carried away with his amendments.
Once they are ready to be packed, I'll unload the winter rugs to make some room in my storage. I have three horses of my own, and I think that's possibly why I have a rather reserved rug collection. The heaviest will stay in storage for another month or two (I like to be optimistic) but I'll get the light- and medium-weights out ready to hang up. Two years ago my dad happened upon a closing down sale at Mother Care of all places, and bought all of their clothing rails - they are perfect for rugs, and wheel around the yard brilliantly.
3. Preparing for temperature drops
Whilst my horses have matching stable rugs for when the weather gets cold (not our smartest idea but they do look adorable), I've been known to all but freeze from a lack of layers - whilst comfy, jeans are not winter friendly.
Last year, I found a good pair of waterproof trousers worked wonders for keeping most of the chill out, both from the wet and the wind. I also have two coats and two pairs of boots (a pair of long country boots, and a pair of cheap short muckers). This means I can perform a quick-change act at lunchtime and head back out dry, rather than re-dressing in a soaked jacket and soggy boots.
I also temperature-proof the yard as much as possible. I'm fortunate that our stables are housed in an American barn, which protects us from most of the elements, but we do have a few things to check.
Our main concern is the water supply. We insulate our taps with foam and old horse rugs, and so far it’s been the most successful method of preventing them from freezing, unless it’s especially cold. We keep four incredibly large buckets, plus a few water containers, filled up just in case, as well as a few kettles on hand which are useful for thawing taps and gate latches, as well as plenty of tea and hot chocolate.
I'll always forget something - it's just how it goes with a yard of nine horses to run. But as long as they're happy, safe and healthy then I've done my job.
Blog written by: Mel Beale
About The Author: After graduating at the top of her class with a degree in Equine Sports Science from Nottingham Trent University, Mel took over the reins - no pun intended - of her family livery yard, alongside setting up her own freelance business in equestrian copywriting and content production.
When she's not mucking out, filling up haynets or picking out hooves, then Mel is quite possibly writing about it. Away from work, she's usually behind a camera, with her nose in a book or on the back of a horse.
Follow Mel: https://www.yourhorse.co.uk/author/melbeale