Right as rain
Horse & Hound|November 25, 2021
In last week’s vet special, we looked at the benefits and challenges of wintering horses out. This week, Camilla Swift reveals the kit riders swear by to give them and their horses an “easy” winter, however wet
Camilla Swift

“RAIN, rain, go away, come again another day”. That rhyme is all very well – but as horse owners, is there ever a “good” day for rain? Braving the wet and the accompanying mud is something that every equestrian in northern Europe has to do – particularly here in the UK. For horse owners, the long wet winter can be a pretty dismal prospect; but the good news is that there are lots of things that can make living with the rain that bit better.

One thing that will really make a difference to your winter experience is the ground your horse lives on. If you’re in an area with sandy, well-draining soil, struggles with mud can be minimised. If you’re on clay, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.

Some yards try to restrict turnout in the winter, but if you have the space, constructing a wet-weather turnout pen with a woodchip or a rubber and sand surface is a good option, enabling your horses to get outside, stretch their legs and enjoy the winter sun on their backs, without destroying your fields.

Even for those people who can still use their fields in winter, there will always be mud hotspots; anywhere that horses congregate tends to be muddy. Putting down hardcore or woodchip in these areas will help. If you really want to invest in mud-busting, creating hardstanding areas is “the most costly, but also the most efficient way to ensure easy access and less mud fever”, says Freddie Thompson, whose FST Equestrian, Agricultural and Estate Management operates across the south-east of England.

“First you want to dig out the soil in areas where horses trample. Run fence lines down to a hard, non-boggy surface. Then put down a weed membrane topped with crushed concrete, which we will compact, and add a top layer of road planings to finish. This can be done even in the middle of winter, when you have had enough of the mud.”

Another solution is rubber mats – although these will need to be moved around to prevent them from sinking, particularly if you’re on clay. Mud control mats are even better and, when covered with a topping of sand, can create level, mud-free areas.

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