Ok, I’ll admit it: I LOVE FALL. Seriously, is there nothing better than realizing you get to wear pants legitimately out in public (to hide your absurdly pale legs, obviously) and cozy up in bed with flannel sheets? I also enjoy riding in jackets, because it means I can stop storing everything for my hacks in my sports bra, and I can bring snacks while I’m out riding for several hours. Sweater weather rocks.
However, there are some aggravating drawbacks to fall. Let’s talk endless blanket put-it-on-take-it-off-the-weather-won’t-stop-changing every single day. And how about the hairy-ness factor? They’ve all begun the customary poofing by now, and those lucky people with exceptionally furry monsters have already delved into the clipping bonanza. Fall is, after all, a preparatory stage to winter, and thus it brings some unpleasant things with the pumpkin pie. Here is how to make your barn life the best it can be this fall, so you have more time to hack out through the changing leaves!
- Mud Prevention: You know how all the gateways get disgusting every year, and it’s awful to turn the horses out because you have to slog through some nasty bog just to open the gate? This year, take control. Put down some gravel dust or some mulch in a preventative move. Sometimes, when I don’t have either of those handy, I’ll recycle some shavings and manure, because it soaks it all up and beats a foot of mud.
- Blankets: You’ll be using your blankets soon, if you haven’t already begun. Unless you are my mother (aka: incredibly OCD and overachieving when it comes to blankets), you probably have a few that are still dirty or ripped or needing repair from last winter. Get it done now! You’ll thank yourself later. Perhaps you also need to indulge in some blanket shopping??
- Clippers: If you’re clipping yourself, or even hiring someone with greater skills to complete the task for you, you’ll need some sharp blades. Nothing, I say NOTHING is worse than realizing half-way through a clip job that your blades are dull and you’ve partially mangled your horse and he looks like an idiot. I take my blades to the local Dover and send them all off to get sharpened at once so I have several pairs to switch with in case something goes wrong.
- Bedding: With winter coming up, most horses are going to be spending more time indoors, which means it’s extra important that you have a healthy environment inside the barn. Horses can frequently get respiratory problems because of dusty bedding, or living in a barn that is too closed up. Remember, your horse would rather be a little chilly than be stuffed in a dusty box!
- Dietary Changes: The grass isn’t looking so green anymore, and that means it’s losing some of its nutritious value to your horses. For some, that means the grazing muzzle can finally come off. For others, it means you need to increase their hay and think about some alternative ways to pack on pounds. For older horses, things like hay cubes soaked in water or beet pulp with rice bran are really easy to eat and good ways to keep them plump and happy through the winter.
- Skin Funk: I’m sure there is a more scientific nomenclature for what I’m talking about, but you all get it. Winter is prime time for skin funk, whether it’s on the legs, or under the blankets, it’s coming for you. Everyone has their own personal concoction for treatment of the dreaded scud (baby oil and Listerine, anybody?), so stock up on that. Another alternative for horses that are already prone to such things is putting them on a great immune boosting skin supplement, which is what I do with my chestnuts with sensitive skin.
- Vaccinations: This is a pretty obvious one, but you’ll definitely want to check with your vet to see that all your horses are up to date on their shots. It’s helpful if you can get all the horses in your barn on the same schedule. Keeping everyone up to date on vaccines is an easy way to keep them healthy heading into winter.
- Winterise The Barn: When the ground is frozen, you’re not going to want to have to fix that fencing that you’ve been letting languish all summer. And that gutter on your barn that’s all clogged and gross and you’ve been putting off cleaning it? Time to do that. Think of anything around the farm that can be adversely affected by the heavy weight of rain or snow, and then fix it up now before there is a problem.
- Frozen Frenzy: While we aren’t quite ready for this problem yet, it’s a good time to think about all the stuff in your aisle that will freeze when the temperatures go down. All your fly spray bottles, ointment tubs, and random concoctions need to have a new home for the winter in a warmer location (the tack room with a space heater).
- Set Some Goals: Besides all the other things you have to do around the barn, sit down and set some goals for yourself and your riding. Winter is an easy time to get complacent or even bored with things because there aren’t as many exciting competitions. Find some clinics near you, and if you can’t ride, audit! Ask your coaches about their favorite educational books, and snuggle down for some reading to inspire your riding.
While part of the season involves the surprise factor that will always keep you on your toes, using these tips will help you enter the colder months in a smooth and seamless fashion. Also, buying those toe warmers will really help you out too. Go winter Eventing!