Autumn is a beautiful time of year. Pumpkin spice lattes, cosy socks and simmering stews - there is a lot to be thankful for. However, if you are an equestrian, the clocks going back an hour means only one thing - winter is coming! The days are shorter and the months seem longer and it can be a hard slog for some of us. Get in the zone early and prepare yourself and your horse with our top tips...
1) Adjust your horse's diet according to pasture and workload. As the temperature drops the grass growth slows down. Keep a weight tape handy and check in on condition - going into the cooler months at a healthy weight is a good thing for your horse. If you are backing off riding due to lack of time with the shorter evenings, take a look at your hard feed/forage ratios and strike a balance that suits your horse on less work - especially if they are standing in more often.
2) Blow out the cobwebs. Literally. Banish cobwebs and debris from your stable and feed room. They are an ideal place for dust to gather and for vermin to settle. Cobwebs can also present a fire hazard. Dust them down and pop them on the muck heap.
3) Hook out all your rugs ahead of time. There's nothing worse than getting out that heavyweight on the coldest night of the year only to discover a mouse has eaten its way through all the surcingles. If you get them out early, make sure they are clean and in good condition and you're good to go. If not, at least it's an excuse to go rug shopping!
4) The leaves are starting to fall. If you have an oak tree in your field, move the horses away from it or fence off the area where acorns drop. Acorns are poisonous to horses and can cause severe liver damage. Likewise if you have a sycamore tree, the little 'helicopters' that fall down can cause atypical myopathy or 'sycamore poisoning' which can be fatal to horses. For a list of plants toxic to equines please visit www.rspca.org.uk
5) Don't chance a hack without hi-viz. It's always a good plan to wear hi-viz, but at this time of year a dark evening or sudden rain shower can catch you out and seriously reduce visibility for drivers. Wear your reflectives and keep an eye on the time when you go out.
6) Get your stable winter ready. Get that pesky leak repaired, book that annual electrical check for the yard, clear those gutters, and insulate the water pipes. It all makes for an easier winter once the weather sets in.
7) Replenish stocks. Get in there early and stock up on rock salt, hay and bedding. The days are so much shorter it's a pain having to make multiple trips out to get yet more supplies. Bonus is, it's often cheaper when ordering in bulk from many suppliers.
8) Be on laminitis watch. Autumn is much like spring as it can be both wet and warm,. This creates the perfect conditions for a final flush of sugary grass. It's also the season for the first frost, frosty grass can also be sugary when it thaws, and hard ground can cause problems for your horse's feet. Don't get caught out and keep close tabs on foot health during this season. Keep hooves moisturised with a balm like Pommel's Leg Up to prevent cracking - cracked hooves in wet weather can lead to abscesses.