WITH freezing temperatures affecting most parts of the country this week, it’s a challenging time for horse owners. Here are some tips on caring for your horse and staying safe in these conditions.

  • Snow and ice can gather and compact in your horse’s hooves, making it difficult for them to walk. Make sure you pick out their feet daily.
  • Check your horse’s water supply to make sure it is not frozen over. If their water trough is in a sheltered area it may not thaw out itself during the day.
  • Be careful of stable doors in windy conditions. It may be necessary to have someone hold the door while you lead in your horse to avoid it hitting you or your horse.
  • If your horse is stabled and has an automatic drinker, make sure the drinker is still refilling as the pipes may have frozen.
  • Your horse will need more roughage to keep warm. It is a good idea to increase the amount of hay you feed in colder weather. With the increased hay in their diet your horse will need to drink more water. This is why it is so important to make sure they have access to water at all times.
  • If your horse is unclipped and hasn’t been rugged so far this winter, now is a good time to put on a waterproof rug. Although horses have the ability to maintain a steady body temperature, if they don’t have the opportunity to dry off between showers they can get a chill.
  • You might think keeping your horse stabled is the kindest thing to do in cold weather but by turning them out and allowing them to run and walk around they will be able to keep themselves warmer than they would standing in a stable.
  • Grit areas you need to walk on with your horse to prevent you or your horse slipping.
  • Driving

    It may be the case that you have to drive to check on and care for your horses. Here are some tips for staying safe on the road in bad weather:

  • Be prepared and don’t travel in dangerous conditions if you don’t have to. Ask yourself if the journey is worth the risk you are taking.
  • Make sure your tyres are in good enough condition for driving in icy conditions. The minimum tread depth for tyres in Ireland is 1.6 mm - anything lower is asking for trouble.
  • When driving on ice or snow, use a high gear to maintain traction, never break suddenly as it may cause you to skid.
  • If you do skid, drive into the direction of the skid.
  • Never use boiling water to de-ice your car as it may cause your windscreen to crack.
  • Always keep a safe distance from the car in front in icy or wet conditions.
  • Be aware of black ice on back roads and sheltered areas.