Winter is a horrible time for horse ownership. It’s dark, wet and muddy. It’s not unusual to start thinking about giving your horse a winter break. But should you give your horse a break? And what does that break look like?
What horse’s benefit from a winter break?
It might surprise you, but most horses will benefit from a winter break in one form or another.
Those working with young horses will often start introducing them to their new jobs over the summer months. This can be mentally and physically hard work for the young horses. So when the cold winter months draw in, it’s a great time to give them a break and let them decompress for a while.
Busy competition horses
Horses who have had a busy summer competing could also do with a bit of a break. The down time will help them work through any niggles they might have been nursing through the season and just have some down time.
The average riding horse
Yes, even the average riding horse could benefit from a break over the winter. We all enjoy and feel better after a holiday from our day to day life. The same could be said for our horses.
You could benefit from a winter break too
Owning horses in winter is just harder. It nearly always takes more time (and money) to look after our horses in the winter than it does in the summer. This combined with the fact that winter is also our main holiday season, your life outside of horses is usually pretty busy too. Giving your horse a bit of a break over winter can also free up some of your time, giving you a bit of a break too.
What does a winter break look like?
Just because most horses would benefit from a winter break, that doesn’t that every horse should have the same winter break. Some horses might benefit from being turned away, living out in the field with no exercise all winter. Other horses just need a few weeks off from more intense exercise. Your horse could benefit from a break anywhere between these two extremes.
Tips for giving your horse a winter break
Be realistic about your turnout
Think about how much turnout your horse can really have. Many of us are limited with turnout, especially in the winter months. Think realistically, how much time can your horse spend out in the field each day? If your horse can only get out for a few hours a day, they will probably need to form of exercise during their winter break, even if it’s hand walking and hacking.
How fit is your horse
If your horse is very fit, suddenly stopping all of their exercise could leave them with far too much energy. This means they are more likely to be silly in the field or while you are handling them. Fit horses might be better off kept ticking along in light work rather than a full break.
How sound and healthy is your horse
Older horses with arthritis need to keep moving. They often benefit from being kept in light work, rather than having a complete break, especially if 24/7 turnout isn’t available. There are other conditions your horse might have which might making extended periods of time in the stable or in the field less than ideal for your horse.
Take it slow
Make any big changes slowly. If you are able to turn them out 24/7 and give them a month or so fully out of work, don’t just chuck them out in the field one morning and expect them to get on with it. Slowly build up their time in the field. If they have been in intense work 5 or so days a week, slowly reduce their work over a few weeks rather than just stopping it completely.
Last Updated on 10/11/2023