Five horsey jobs to do in January
Christmas has come and gone and with it the shortest day of the year. Equestrians, whilst looking forward to longer and (hopefully!) warmer days, know there are a few hard weeks still to come. Yes, it's January. A good time to reassess and plan for the new year ahead. So with that in mind, here are five horsey things you should think about doing during January...
Goals for the New Year
New year’s resolutions tend to fizzle out fairly quickly as they have a pass or fail tendency. Goals, however, are different as they can be worked on over a stated period of time. Write down your goals for this year. If necessary, break them down in to smaller goals and develop a plan of how and what you need to help you achieve them.
Inevitably we set too many goals all at once. When we do this, we’re effectively setting ourselves up for failure. In my experience, the “magic number” is three but anything between one to three would be achievable.
Pick goals that really matter to you and that you really want to achieve and not what looks like you should be achieving. Know why you want to achieve your goals along with the benefits you believe it will bring to you and your horse.
It’s never too late to set goals. Don’t be put off if you think “I’ve missed January 1st”, so I’ll leave it! You can set goals at any time, the start of the year just provides a “neat” start that’s all.
The Last Clip
Think about when you’re going to do the last clip. Ideally this should be done by mid-February. After this time, the new, shorter and finer summer coat will begin to come through. If you clip when his summer coat has started to come through, you won’t cause any damage but the finished look of the clip will appear different especially when his coat starts to grow back.
As well as planning the final clip, think carefully about what sort of clip to do as well. Some owners avoid the “massive moult” by taking off more of the coat in the final clip. If you opt for this, you just need to ensure time and effort to look after him.
Clipping legs causes some debate around the pros and cons. There are arguments both for and against. The factors you need to consider are: -
Hair off - less protection against minor cuts, wet and cold, plus heat loss could be a problem for some horses.
Hair on - minor cuts may not be so easy to spot. Thorns and similar nasties can get missed, and infection may be well established before you realise the cause.
Horses need exercise all year long, even when it’s cold outside! If possible, continue riding through the winter months but don’t be tempted to ride if the roads and tracks are frozen. It’s not worth the risk. If severe conditions make winter riding impossible, still turn out your horse every day as keeping him in his usual routine will reduce the chances of him getting excited when he goes out. Feeding hay before turn out or in his field will keep up your horse’s fibre intake which will, in turn, ensure that he’s warm. Leftover hay can look a bit unsightly in the field, so remember to clear it regularly and cover it if you can to avoid it getting wet if you can.
Learn to Layer
When your core gets truly cold, blood is pulled away from the extremities, ie your hands and feet, which makes them feel colder. Sometimes an extra layer on your body will do more to keep your extremities warm than adding layers on the hands or feet. Wear a “mid-layer” like a fleece. The purpose of a mid-layer is to capture warmth through trapped air. Ideally it should be breathable so that it does not make you sweat under your outer-layer or jacket. As with base layers, zip-necks or a full zips make it easy to regulate your body heat when you warm up!
Look after yourself too!
Most horse owners put the health of their beloved equines well before their own. But remember, if you’re not healthy, you won’t be able to care for your horse. When tending to your horse, stay warm, stay safe and stay healthy because there’s someone counting on you every day.
And just think…
As I write this there are only 66 days to go until Spring which officially starts on Friday 20th March. For us equestrians, it won’t be a minute too soon!