Horse Rugs

Sally’s Guide to Managing Horse Rugs

Over the winter months, wet and muddy horse rugs are an ongoing problem.

Fleeces and sweat rugs are easiest to manage, especially if you are lucky enough to have a washing machine you can use to keep them fresh. A quick wash cycle at 40 degrees is usually sufficient to leave them looking good.  Being lightweight they tend to dry quite quickly.  In the absence of an alternative, they can be draped over a door or saddle racks to dry them.  Dirty fleeces won’t be as effective at absorbing sweat as clean ones.

Non-waterproof rugs

Under-rugs and stable rugs can also be washed in a domestic washing machine.  As they aren’t waterproof they have no proofing to lose during the washing process (Standard detergent dissolves waterproofing).  Being a little heavier than fleeces they can take longer to dry.  An excellent facility for drying them is an electric rug drier but not everyone has the space to accommodate them and they aren’t cheap to buy.

Affordable Drying

A budget and more compact alternative is to invest in a hanging rug rack with swinging arms that folds back when not in use. 

If you site it over a power point, a domestic radiator will easily dry the rugs overnight.  Fasten up the neck straps or clips and hang them downwards on the rug hangers.  Warning! Avoid the rugs making direct contact with the heater for safety reasons.  Always ensure heaters are in good working order as old ones could present a fire hazard.

Tips for turnout rugs

Wet and soggy turnout rugs are another matter entirely.  If you need to swap rugs and dry them, a line of strong cord or baler twine can be secured using robust eyelets at the back of your stable or field shelter.  Ensure the cord isn’t slack as you don’t want your horse getting caught in it.  Take care to place it tight to the wall of your building for the same reason.  Horse rugs can be draped over this line with the inside of the rug facing outwards for easier drying.  Some horses are a bit mischievous and may try to pull the rugs down when left to their own devices, so make your decisions accordingly.

Check for leaks

It’s worth regularly checking beneath your horses’ rugs to ensure they aren’t leaking.  If they are only slightly damp inside it could be due to perspiration if your animal has been galloping around.  Most rugs are breathable so this should only be an occasional problem.  If it is happening regularly you might need to swap to a thinner rug.  When the weather warms up, rugs will need to be changed accordingly. 

If the rugs are actually wet inside, check for rips and tears.  If the rugs are older the waterproofing may have worn off.  This can often be remedied by getting the rugs professionally cleaned, patched and re-proofed.   Be sure not to leave a horse in a wet rug as this can lower immunity and give rise to illness.

A sign of horses not being warm enough can present with weeping eyes and/or a runny nose.  Every horse is different so look out for signs of any discomfort and pop your hand under the rug to check they feel a comfortable temperature.

Out with the old in with the new

When you get sparkling new rugs, consider giving your old discarded rugs to a local horse rescue centre.  They are always grateful and it is a good way to recycle them.

Young and old horses tend to be more susceptible to cold and wet weather than others.  Their rugs will need to reflect this. 

Out with the old in with the new

Different breeds of horses have varying winter coat types.  For example, Welsh cobs, have thick short hair interspersed with longer wispy hair.  Connemara’s tend to have dense almost woolly coats whereas thoroughbreds don’t grow much winter coat at all.

Horses are individual just like humans.  Some like to be wrapped up with many layers and neck covers over the winter months whereas others try to rub their coats off and prefer their necks to be uncovered. 

If you clip your horse, remember to rug them up more to make up for the coat you have removed.

 

Buying your forst pony or horse

Sally’s Guide to Buying Your First Horse or Pony

A guide to buying your first horse or pony

Buying a horse can be harder than buying a second-hand car. You need it to be in good working order but it also has to be safe to ride.

A vet can check the general health and fitness of the horse but assessing it for suitability and personality is down to you.  Don’t worry, the following tips will help you find your perfect match.

Firstly, you need to decide what sort of riding you intend doing.  Many first-time horse owners want to enjoy hacking around local roads with the occasional canter through fields and maybe progressing to a bit of jumping here and there.  In this instance, safety is paramount as you don’t want to frighten yourself with a horse that is too ‘flighty’. 

What type of breed?

It’s worth taking time to research the traits of different breeds of horse as they are all bred for different disciplines. 

An example would be a Thoroughbred.  They are gorgeous to look at but built for speed and therefore highly sought after for horse-racing.  Asking them to potter around on quiet rides and not fizz up when encouraged to have a canter is not going to work well.  They are also very lightly built (again, this works well for making them as fast as possible) but for everyday use, it can cause issues with their fragile legs not coping well with the pounding of roads.  Thoroughbreds are also renowned for having poor quality hooves which can give rise to problems keeping shoes on.  They are not good in muddy fields and need stabling during the winter months. 

A Welsh Cob, on the other hand, is a much heavier build.  They have very sturdy legs and strong hooves which can save costly shoeing bills.  Bred to withstand the harsh weather of the Welsh mountains, they can live outside all year round with a good rug.  Their stocky build is not designed for speed which makes them better suited to steadier riding.  They can carry more weight than Thoroughbreds and are much easier to look after.  They have thick skin as opposed to the more fragile skin of a Thoroughbred.  This makes them less susceptible to injuries and rub marks from girths etc.

In between the lightweight Thoroughbred and heavier weight Cob is the Connemara.  They are not as thickset as the Cob but have stronger legs than the Thoroughbred and denser coats and tougher skin making them less susceptible to injuries than the fine race-horse types.  The Connemara can suit riders who want something a bit more forward-going than most Cobs but still require a sensible horse. 

 

Apart from these types of horse, there are many other choices, all with traits specific to their breeds.  Cross-breeds can be a great mix of characteristics but the wrong mix can be disastrous!

Having narrowed down your search, you can start investigating where to buy your horse from. 

This falls into two categories; a horse dealer or a private seller. 

Unfortunately like some second-hand car dealers, a few horse dealers are not reputable and will do their best to sell on a horse that is either unsafe or unwell.  Check reviews online to ensure you don’t make that mistake.  Personal recommendation is always good.

Private sellers are not always ethical either but there a few things you can do to help make your experience a positive one. 

Firstly, don’t let your heart rule your head.  You may ‘fall in love’ with the picture of a horse for sale but don’t raise your expectations.  Be prepared to take the process slowly and walk away if you have any doubts at all.  It is too big a financial and emotional commitment to rush into a decision.

Your preliminary step is to speak to the seller and ask them why their horse is for sale.  Has a teenager grown out of the horse or are they leaving for University and sadly recognising they won’t have time to ride any more?  Maybe the sale is for completely different reasons.  It’s definitely worth asking.

The age of the horse is important too.  If you buy a horse upwards of 8 years old, it will have experience and will have lost much of the immature behaviour you expect in a younger animal.  A horse over 20 years of age is probably not going to want to race around and could come with health issues. 

Consider asking the seller some of these questions: –

What sort of riding have you been using the horse for?

How long have you owned the horse?

Are you sad to be selling it?

Is the horse easy to catch?

Does the horse kick/bite?

Does it live alone or in company?

Is it stabled/living out all/part of the year?

Is it good in traffic?

Is it strong to ride/soft in the mouth?

Has it had any health problems?

Is it shod or does it run barefoot?

Is it good with the farrier?

Does it buck/rear/bolt?

What does it eat? (Some horses exist well on good quality hay others need hard feed to keep condition, especially during the winter)

Does it like being brushed/fussed over?

Does it load well in either a trailer or lorry and is it calm to travel?

Assuming you are satisfied with the answers you have been given, it is time to arrange to meet the horse and the owner.  If you intend keeping your horse out at grass, ask if the owner could leave the horse in the paddock for you to help catch and get in to then brush, tack up etc.  This way you can test whether the horse is happy to be caught and prepared for riding. 

When you arrive, assess the surroundings.  Are they what you would expect or do they fall below the standard you would set yourself?  Does it feel nice?  Trust your instincts.

First impressions are important.  If the horse looks suitable, make a fuss of it in the way you would do if you owned it.  Press down it’s spine to check it doesn’t dip away with apparent pain.  Ask whether it is safe to go around the back of the horse, maybe ask the owner to show you before trying it yourself.  When grooming the horse, feel down its legs for lumps and bumps and pick up each of its feet to ensure it doesn’t mind.  Have a look at its hooves to see if they look healthy and strong.  White hooves have a tendency to be weaker than brown ones.

Time to tack up

When you tack up, see if there is any discomfort as you put the bit in his/her mouth.  If there is, it can be a sign of teeth problems.  Some horses can be head-shy if they have experienced ill treatment in their younger days.  With careful handling, this can come right in time.

 

If the owner is reluctant to have the horse near a fence or stable door, it may be that the horse is prone to ‘crib bite’ or ‘wind suck’.  This is an annoying habit thought to be caused by stress in its past.  It involves the horse taking hold of a fence rail or stable door and sucking in air.  This trait can devalue a horse as it can make it harder to keep condition on the animal.  It may not bother you but it will make it harder to sell in the future.

 

Having tacked up, ask the owner to ride for you. Ideally, choose a route to encompass every type of riding that you will want to do yourself.  This may need a little forward planning and perhaps require you to take a bicycle to keep up.  Ask to see the horse ridden on the road in similar traffic to what you would be faced with at home and get them to take the horse into a field for a canter and gallop. Maybe ask them to demonstrate a jump or two if that is what you want to be doing.  Watch the rider carefully to assess whether they are fighting the animal at all and whether they look at ease.  Once you are happy that everything looks safe, ask to get on yourself.  Sit for a moment and see if you immediately feel comfortable and trust the horse.  If you don’t, get off.  If you do, start off slowly and build up gradually to a canter etc.  When you have finished, if you can’t stop smiling, then you have chosen well. 

 

Last but not least

Before making a final decision to buy, ask a vet to do a 5-star vetting to assess for any problems.  This is not cheap but it will help to safeguard your money and save potentially expensive vets’ bills in the future and potentially a horse you can’t ride or sell on.

Ask to see the horse’s passport which will show you the age of the horse, any identifying features, its bloodline and recent vaccinations.  Check it matches the horse you are viewing.

Don’t part with any money until you are 100% confident everything is legitimate.  Be sure to get a receipt for your purchase.

Owning a horse is a huge responsibility but the most wonderful fun if you choose wisely.

 

Enjoy!

Sally

 

 

Avoid Planning Costs with Mobile Stabling

Fed up with the mud?

Unless you are very lucky, you will probably spend the winter fetlock-deep in sticky mud. Apart from pulling shoes off, it can cause foot abscess, thrush, mud fever, sprains and more. *

When a horse is cold and wet, it is hard to keep condition on them and can give rise to snotty noses and rheumatic conditions. Maintaining their condition by keeping them dry and well-fed will keep their immunity high and help protect them from illness. Vets are expensive.

Ideally, you’d have a stable to keep your horse off the paddock during the winter months. Limiting turnout helps to preserve your field for the spring.

What is the best type of stable for your requirements?

Conventional stables are a wonderful facility but expensive and time-consuming to build. An architect would need to draw up plans which are submitted to the local planning department and a fee is paid to both the architect and the council. Assuming permission is granted, a concrete base is installed by groundworkers followed by a course of bricks. The wall panels of the stable are bolted through the brickwork.

Mobile stables are a much faster and cheaper solution. They are made in exactly the same way as permanent stables but instead of being fixed to brickwork, they are bolted to a heavy steel skid. The skids resemble the runners of an old-fashioned sledge.

The types of skids for your shelter

At NFF Ltd., we design and construct the skids from heavy-duty steel in our steel fabrication workshop. We take time to weld the joints and brackets to give them extra strength as our buildings are very heavy, due to the high specification timber we use.

Following manufacture, the skids are sent off for galvanising. Galvanising gives steel a shiny silver appearance and is designed to protect it from rusting giving a life span of approximately 35-years. We don’t believe in painting skids as they quickly rust.

Apart from not requiring groundworks, these buildings can be moved around. The shiny nature of the steel and the clever shape of the skids makes it easy to tow the building using a 4-WD vehicle or a tractor, depending upon the size of your stable.

Cheaper skid option

You may not want to move your building very often. In that case, timber skids may be an option. Despite being double kiln dried and pressure treated to preserve them, they won’t last as long as steel but are cheaper. It will still be possible to tow your building but it won’t glide quite as easily as steel skids do. Timber skids are best suited when a building is going to sit on an existing hardstanding and won’t be moved too often. They are still very strong and durable.

Bedding up

In order to make your building practical to bed-up, you may wish to invest in some rubber matting to lay on the ground. We recommend a layer of rubber grass mats, topped with rubber stable mats. You can then bed up in the same way as a conventional stable.

Should you wish to keep the cost down, you might choose to have just a bottom stable door. When you think about it, you are probably unlikely to shut the top door very often.

Planning Permission

To comply with planning regulations, you won’t be permitted to connect any services, namely electricity or water. There is excellent solar lighting available on the market which is cheap and easy to fit. If you fit guttering and a water tank, you can collect rainwater which is not only free but eco-friendly too.

Getting your horse comfortable with its new shelter
A good way to introduce your horse to their new building is to place feed, hay and water inside. Your horse will soon realise how cosy it is.

Sources: https://stablemanagement.com/articles/health-hazards-mud-horse-farms-31885

Making the most of your field shelter this winter

Apart from sheltering your horse/sheep/alpacas/goats etc, during inclement weather, field shelters are good for separating animals at feeding time.

Here are 10 clever tips for making them even more brilliant:

  1. Put some guttering around the building with a downpipe leading into a water trough. Free water!
  2. Have a couple of clear roof panels to maximise the light
  3. A window is a nice addition
  4. Consider putting a half stable door at the back or side of your building. This can be opened during nice weather to give your horse a different view to enjoy
  5. Line the inside of the roof for a smarter look
  6. An overhang provides good shelter and helps to prevent rain from driving into the shelter
  7. A lined overhang minimises draughts
  8. Full height kickboards re useful when horses are prone to chewing
  9. Rubber stable matting can be fixed to the internal walls if your horse tends to kick inside the stable
  10. Stable doors give you an instant stable

View Shelters

Why a Mobile Stable?

MOBILE STABLES

NFF’s mobile stables provide cheap, instant stabling for your horse or pony.  With no need for expensive concrete bases, brickwork and hence planning* these fabulous buildings can be towed around thanks to the sledge-like ‘skids’ they are built on.

If you place rubber grass mats, topped with rubber stable mats in your mobile stable, you can bed it up as you would normally.  Should you wish to move the building, you can pull up the mats and replace them once the stable is relocated.  

If your stable is going to be sited away from services, you can invest in some cheap solar lighting for those dark evenings and have guttering with a water tank to catch the rainwater.  

It’s worth considering an overhang for the front of the stable to give your horse extra protection from the elements.

Where possible, avoid facing your stable in the direction of the prevailing wind as you want to keep your beloved equine as snug as possible.

A good way to encourage your animal to feel comfortable in their new home is to hang a hay net inside and make a point of placing their feed bucket inside. 

 

RDA(Riding for the Disabled Association) New Timber Pavilion

Sally S (NFF Timber Buildings Manager) and Martin Logan (Timber Buildings Estimator) were invited to the Kipling Trust RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) Grand Opening of their new pavilion.
We were commissioned to design & build the timber pavilion for the RDA complete with disabled toilet access at the side.
The exterior verandah was a popular vantage point for viewing the driving competitions, and also a great place for a social get together.
The founding member, Jan McSweeney cut the ribbon to officially open the building.
We really enjoyed seeing the carriage driving competitions and it was lovely to see everyone having such a great time

 

5 Tips on caring for horses that live out during the winter

Every winter, most horse owners face the challenge of wet, muddy paddocks. This can give rise to horse health issues such as mud fever, foot abscesses, pulled muscles and rain scald to name but a few. 

 

  1. The right ‘clothes’

Horses are very good at regulating their own temperature but when they get wet they feel miserable and their immunity drops.  This leaves them open to coughs, colds and worse.  Consistently damp hair can create a problem with rain scald where large tufts of hair fall out.  If you have a native horse or pony, they tend to be more hardy than the finer breeds so a thin rug would often be sufficient for them.  Thoroughbreds etc. often require thicker duvet rugs and ideally neck covers to keep them warm.  The other benefit of rugs is you have cleaner horses for when you go riding.

 

  1. Standing in mud

Muddy gateways are the bane of most horse owners’ lives in the winter.  When the horses stand in wet mud, the lamina separates regularly causing abscesses to form where infection sets in.  Mud fever is another common problem and especially common with heavily feathered horses such as cobs.  This is where the mud collects and remains damp creating an itchy and crusty rash.  It can sometimes make the horse feel quite unwell.  Crushed chalk can be put down to help absorb the mud or you could consider electric fencing off the gateways where possible.

 

  1. Feeding

When the grass has stopped growing, the horse is reliant on feed from its’ owner to provide the necessary nutrients.  Good quality hay is a must as it provides bulk to help keep the weight on the horse as well as vitamins from when it was made.  Ideally this should be fed on the ground but some horses trash it before they have eaten much which is wasteful.  If you use haynets, ensure they are not low enough for the horse to get his/her hoof caught in it and not too high that it causes neck strain when they are eating.  Whether you feed piles of hay on the ground or individual haynets, take care to place them far enough apart to save arguments amongst your herd which can result in costly vets’ bills.

 

  1. Water

Remember to keep water troughs clean and accessible.  If there is an overnight frost or a prolonged period of very low temperatures, it is crucial that you check the tanks regularly.  Horses always need a plentiful supply of water but they are even thirstier when eating dry hay and maybe hard feed too.

 

  1. Inside space

You may be lucky and have access to stabling which is ideal when the fields get too muddy for safe turnout.  If you don’t have that option, you could consider a mobile stable or field shelter.  These buildings come fitted with ‘sledges’ enabling you to move them around using a 4-WD or a tractor, depending upon the size of the building.  The panels are made the same as stables but instead of being fixed onto brickwork, their base is a framework of either steel or timber complete with fixings to accept a tow strap.  They can be open fronted, fitted with a gate or have a stable door on them. 

 

New Season New Horse

Mobile Field Shelter

Thinking of buying a new horse ready for the season?

With the fields drying up and events to plan for, you may well be ‘horse shopping’. 

Introducing your new horse home can often be a bit worrying in case it jumps out of the paddock, kicks your other horses or runs through electric fencing.  If you don’t have an available stable, a mobile field shelter is a quick and easy option that won’t break the bank.  The field shelters can be fitted with stable doors and be bedded up in exactly the same way as a stable using rubber mats.  They all come with a full towing kit.

Should you choose to fit guttering to the building with a water trough you can make full use of the rain water and solar lighting is always helpful.

The basic design of these handmade buildings can be altered to accommodate windows, talk grills, louvre vents, clear roof lights (to let in extra light), chew strips, full height internal kick boards or even an opening ‘top door/window’ at the back or side of the building for a new horse to look out of and meet other members of his new herd.

From £1232 + vat (£1478.40 inc. vat) you can buy a 12 x 12’ mobile shelter on timber skids which includes delivery and installation within a 40 mile radius of TN21 9HJ. 

The maximum recommended size for a mobile field shelter is 12’ deep x 24’ long.  Any bigger than that can cause problems for towing.  The smaller buildings will easily tow with a decent 4wd vehicle but the larger buildings require a tractor to move them. 

Why not consider adding a mobile storage unit or hay barn.  There are many options are trained staff would be happy to give you more information on.

Getting Ready For Winter

We have been really lucky with an extended summer this year but now is a great time to ensure everything is ready for the winter ahead. 

Be sure to check roofing felt/Onduline is fully secured and hasn’t perished.  You don’t want to see daylight when you look up from the inside of your building. 

The fixings on guttering can come adrift with the weight of autumn leaves and can block up.  Free flowing rain water from the gutter downpipes can be collected in a water trough for animals.  It’s a shame to waste natures’ gift.

If you don’t have electricity in your building and want to avoid tussling with a torch, there are some great solar LED lights on the market at very affordable prices.  They are simple to suspend from a hook on the ceiling.  We have found this one to be very good

If you building doesn’t have a floor, you could consider laying some rubber grass mats on the ground followed by some rubber stable mats.  This will help to protect from the mud and give a solid surface for either horse bedding or storage.  If you have a mobile building, you can pull the mats up when you move it and re-lay them in the new position. 

We are a knowledgeable and friendly team at NFF Ltd. and would be very happy to advise you regarding maintenance of existing constructions or if you are considering building something new. 

New Stables photos

Check out our updated gallery of timber stables and stable-blocks.  All our buildings are designed and hand-crafted by our experienced team at Horam.  Delivery and installation are included in the price, subject to conditions*.  (*Contact office for details).