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How to Prepare Your Horse (and Your Barn) for Winter

Sasha8
While it’s hard to think about blankets and snowstorms now, cooler weather really is on its way! In a few short weeks it will be fall and for us New Englanders, that means that hot weather is officially over and it’s time to gear up for a chilly winter. Just like you prepare your own wardrobe and house for fall and winter, you should prepare your horse, your horse’s wardrobe, and the barn for fall and winter, too. Here a few things to check off your fall prep list:

Check Your Horse’s Blankets
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My horse Sasha is a heavy sweater, so she gets body clipped to keep her comfortable and ensure that she can cool out more quickly after our winter riders. And we all know what comes with body clipping – blankets! One of the first things I do to prepare for fall is check over Sasha’s extensive blanket wardrobe.

First of all, I try them all on her to make sure that she still fit. She was a growing young horse when I first got her and has filled out quite a bit over the past few years, and that can definitely affect blanket fit. (Not sure how to assess the fit of your horse’s blankets? Check out our Blankets 101 article.)

Once I’ve established that all of her blankets fit, I check them over to make sure that there aren’t any repairs that need to be made and that there aren’t any blankets that are so destroyed that they’re unusable. While I check them over, I take a quick inventory to make sure that I have all of the different blankets Sasha will need over the winter, from a cotton sheet to a heavy-weight turnout to a cooler (or two!). When you take inventory of your own blankets, think about whether or not your horse’s lifestyle is changing this winter. Is your horse getting body clipped for the first time? Make sure you have a heavyweight available for the coldest days.

Finally, I double check that all of my blankets are labeled with Sasha’s name and their weight. We keep our blankets in the hayloft, so when the barn staff goes up to get blankets when the temperatures change, it’s easy for them to get mixed up. All of Sasha’s blankets have a brass tag with her name engraved on it so that it’s easy for the barn staff to tell them apart from the other horses’ blankets. Because the brass tags can be engraved on both sides, you can engrave one side with your horse’s name and one side with the weight and the temperatures it should be used during for foolproof blanketing.

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Get organized
After a summer of showing, my tack locker and tack trunks look like a tornado hit them! While I try to keep up with keeping them neat throughout the summer, it’s inevitable that everything inside them will be a jumbled mess at the end of show season. I like to keep my everyday stuff in my tack locker, my horse show stuff in one trunk, and the stuff I don’t use often in my second trunk, but everything gets mixed up during a busy show day or after a week away at a show. After the last show of the season, I spend a weekend afternoon going through my tack locker and my trunks, taking everything out, doing any necessary cleaning or washing, and then repack them into the right spot. While I know that they’ll probably get jumbled up again after a few months, it’s nice to kick off fall with all of my gear neat and tidy.

Check over your tack
After a spring and summer of heavy use, be sure to give your tack a good cleaning and conditioning, and check to make sure that there aren’t any pieces that need to be replaced or repaired. There’s nothing worse than having a stirrup leather snap on you while you’re riding because you didn’t realize that it was worn out! My favorite tack cleaner and conditioner is the SmartPaker Leather Cleaner and Conditioner – it always leaves the leather clean and supple without any greasy residue, and it smells great!

Schedule your fall vet visit
Everyone is going to be scheduling fall vaccinations, so take time to make your appointment now so that you’re not struggling to get an appointment after your veterinarian is all booked up. If you’ve got a senior horse, remember that experts recommend that senior horses get two physical exams each year. When you schedule your fall vaccinations appointment, be sure to let your vet know that you’d like your senior horse to get a physical exam, too. Don’t forget, an annual exam is one of the four easy wellness requirements for ColiCare, our $7,500 colic surgery reimbursement program. (Don’t have your horse enrolled in ColiCare? Learn more about it here.)

Plan ahead for hay, grain, and supplements
The last thing you want to have happen is to realize that you’re running out of hay, grain, or supplements right before a big winter storm is going to hit. Be sure to check your stock of hay and make sure that you have enough to get through the winter (or have a plan for getting it restocked). You should also consider whether you should adjust your grain order to have more on hand during the colder months when a storm is likely. Finally, if you don’t want to have to worry about running to the feed store to get your horse’s supplements, order them in SmartPaks and they’ll ship automatically every 28 days! (Not sure what SmartPaks are? Learn more about why they make supplementing stress-free here.)

What do you to get your horse and your barn ready for fall and winter? Share your tips in the comments section!

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