Category Archives: Winter

Winter training tips from Bridleway Equestrian

Winter training exercises to get you and your horse ready for spring

If, like many, your horse has been enjoying a bit of a break over the winter, you might be hoping to kick-start the year with some productive time in the saddle. Here are some simple-but-effective exercises for you to try.

Exercise 1: Fitness first

Before asking your horse to tackle a long and difficult schooling session, it’s important you make sure his fitness levels are up to the task – particularly if he’s been completely out of work for a few weeks. It might mean three, four or more weeks of purely hacking, but it could mean the difference between your horse having a complete and successful competition season or picking up an injury along the way.

Once your horse is hacking comfortably for an hour or more a day with plenty of trot and canter work, incorporating hillwork will help boost his fitness. It works and strengthens all areas of his body, and combining it with transitions will go a long way to improving his muscle tone, too.

Try cantering up a hill, walking back down and repeating. Combined with the additional intensity of going uphill, these bursts of intensity followed by recovery – also known as interval training – will help strengthen your horse’s respiratory system and build him up to the sustained cardiovascular efforts he’ll have to make in competition.

Top tip: vary your hillwork by occasionally walking and trotting up hills as well as cantering, otherwise your horse may start to anticipate canter at the bottom of them.

Exercise 2: Side to side

Once your horse has attained a level of fitness that will allow you to school him for a sustained period, incorporating leg-yield in walk, trot and canter will help him become more flexible and supple through his shoulders, back and pelvis, while encouraging him to come through from behind in order to make the effort to cross his legs while maintaining his rhythm.

Start by asking for leg-yield from the three-quarter line to the track, and when you’re both comfortable, try from the track to the three quarter line, continuing straight for a few strides before leg-yielding back. To add a further challenge, try to reach the centre line as you leg-yield down the arena long side.

Exercise 3: Making shapes

If you’re hoping to get some jumping outings under your belt, cracking the code to the perfect canter and approach is a key part of your training. You can achieve this by riding a simple rectangle. This will help you achieve and maintain an active rhythm, while encouraging you to use your inside and outside aids evenly and engaging your horse’s hindquarters underneath him.

Working between the track and the centre line, place a marker just inside the track at M and F, and just inside the centre line at D and G. Place a pole horizontally at X. Each marker should prompt you to turn as if you’ve reached a T-junction – a 90° angle to follow the line of the rectangle shape. Focus on using your outside leg to prompt him to turn, rather than pulling him round with your inside rein. Try in walk first, before progressing to trot and canter, and try swapping your pole for a small jump.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

 

 

 

Winter feeding tips

Not sure about where to start with feeding your horse this winter? Our top tips will make organising his menu a breeze

Winter has arrived – shorter days, diminished grazing and, for many horses, more time in the stable means a complete change in routine as the cold weather rolls in. As your horse’s lifestyle adapts, so too do his dietary requirements and you’ll probably find yourself tweaking his daily ration to suit his altered hours of turnout and level of activity. Sound complicated? It needn’t be. All that’s required is a little consideration of his requirements and how winter changes the way you address them.

Fibre first

Fibre should make up the bulk of your horse’s diet, and his primary source of this particular nutrient forage – preferably ad-lib grass, hay or haylage. With reduced winter grazing and more time indoors, you need to ensure your horse is eating enough forage to keep his digestive system running smoothly, as insufficient quantities can lead to issues such as gastric ulcers.

To maintain his weight, your horse needs to consume 1.5 to 2% (dry matter) of his bodyweight in dry matter forage daily. With many paddocks containing little to no grass over winter, this needs to be replaced with good-quality hay or haylage. It’s a good idea to weigh out your horse’s winter forage ration to take the guesswork out of making up his haynets and put you more in control of maintaining a healthy weight for him.

Top tip

Horses have evolved to naturally lose a little condition – or ‘drop off’ –  over winter in preparation for the sugary grass in the spring. If your horse is going into winter a touch overweight, use the season to your advantage. Try turning him out in fewer or no rugs to encourage him to burn more calories keeping warm.

Nutrition mission

Reduced grazing means your horse will consume lower levels of vitamins and minerals from the grass – and what he does manage to nibble on will have a much lower nutritional value than in the summer months. Adding a comprehensive, general purpose vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer in his bucket feed at the recommended rate will cover all bases and ensure he gets the essential nutrients he needs at the right levels.

Top tip

Is you horse facing stable boredom? Why not inject a little fun into the way he eats his forage? Try giving him a forage block to nibble at, hide some carrots in his haynet, or give him several small piles or nets of forage to keep him moving.

Back to the grind?

If you’re planning to reduce your horse’s workload – maybe you’ve scheduled in a few weeks off for him ­– his daily calorie requirement will also be reduced. This could mean that his current amount of bucket feed will give him a calorie surplus, which will ultimately lead to weight gain. It might be that your horse can thrive on forage, chaff and a vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer alone for a time, but make sure you don’t cut his concentrated feed ration overnight – reduce the amount he eats gradually over at least a week.

For all your equestrian needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

Christmas with Bridleway Equestrian

With just over a month to go until Christmas, the team at Bridleway Equestrian have their tinsel and mince pies ready to go! To ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the holiday season, we’ve put together some fab gift ideas that will be perfect for the special horse or equestrian in your life (or just a great gift for yourself!)

For those who love a little bit of glitz

Both horse and rider can enjoy some glitz and glamour this Christmas with our sparkly style suggestions!

For the glamourous rider

Spoil them with a new pair of glitzy breeches, to add that little bit of extra luxury to their riding outfit. We suggest the Kinver Breeches, which feature gold embroidery and a matte floral silicone seat, or our Mendip Breeches, which have stylish silver glitter star print knee grips. Throw in a Sparkle Hat Cover in either royal, navy or pink to complete the look!

For the horse who loves to shine

Why not treat them to a cosy Fleece Lined Headcollar? With its attractive silver or gold sewn design your horse will look super elegant! Alternatively, the Classic Diamond Quilted Saddlecloths (available in Black, Navy or White) look effortlessly smart, and their gold cord trim provides an extra touch of sophistication.

For Matchy-Matchy enthusiasts

We all know them. You’ll never see this horse or pony in anything less than the perfect coordinated combo. Why not wrap them up a new matchy set? Our Signature range includes saddlecloths, bandages and fleece saddlecovers in five fabulous matching colours.

For the naughty pony

Have you got a cheeky horse who makes catching him seem more like you’re playing a game of tag? Choose a practical gift like the Break Free Headcollar, and you’ll not only be getting him something lovely and colourful, but you’ll have treated yourself to an easier life. With its reflective strips you’ll be able to spot your horse better at low light even if he’s playing hide and seek in the field.

For the spoilt pony

Does your horse have his own special stocking at Christmas? Well then, this category is probably for you! Alongside the carrots, why not treat your horse to something a little special. A sophisticated leather headcollar is always a winner. Choose between plain leather, leather with a nameplate, or our elegant Cowdray Headcollar and your horse will definitely look super smart. Fancy something with a bit more colour? Treat your horse to a new turnout rug –  there’s lots of options guaranteed to bring some fun to your horse’s field.

For those on a budget

Part of a Secret Santa with your horsey pals? Here are some great suggestions for under £15:

Preventing winter injuries

Whether you’re battling heavy rain or frozen conditions, winter weather can result in an increased risk of injury to your horse, either in the field or when ridden. But by making a few simple adjustments to your routine it’s possible to reduce the chance of a problem.

When to turn out?

While we all know that plenty of turnout is an important part of our horses’ management, it’s not necessarily best to put your horse in the field at all costs. If he’s used to living out, he’s likely to cope fine with whatever the British winter throws at him (provided he has access to shelter and a tough, waterproof rug (such as the Whistler Turnout Rug & Neck Set) to keep him dry. However, if your horse is on a combined system there may be days when it’s better to adjust his usual turnout routine by turning out for a shorter period of time, or providing him with other ways of stretching his legs – for example, turnout in the arena, using a horse walker, or hand walking in addition to ridden exercise. Very slippery ground, either due to ice or heavy rain, increases the risk of slips or falls, which can cause soft tissue injuries that may take many months to heal. If your horse is turned out as part of a large group, consider whether subdividing the horses in these conditions would help everyone remain more settled – or why not feed hay in the field to keep them occupied? Remember to always offer more piles of hay than there are horses, to avoid arguments.

Ride right

If you’re heading out hacking, pay extra attention to the going, particularly when trotting and cantering. Avoid going at speed through deep ground, which could cause damage to the delicate tendons and ligaments in your horse’s lower legs. Look for good grass cover to reduce the risk of your horse slipping, too.

Essential warm-up tips

The more mobile your horse is, the looser his muscles will be. So, if he’s stabled more than usual at this time of year he’ll also need longer to warm up before a schooling session. Your first priority should be to keep him warm while tacking up – folding a fleece rug over his quarters is ideal, then leave it handy in his stable to put back on him as soon as you return from your ride to avoid him catching a chill.

Using an exercise sheet while warming up, or even for the whole session if the weather is particularly cold, is a good idea. Incorporate plenty of walk work and suppling exercises – for example, spiraling in and out on a circle – alongside lots of transitions within and between the paces before moving on to longer periods of trot or canter. Some horses really benefit from massage pads or rugs to help keep them feeling loose and supple – why not try to borrow one from a friend to try before buying your own?

Hair maintenance

Your horse’s winter coat is likely to have almost completely stopped growing by mid to late January. While it might not be falling out just yet, the lack of blood supply to the roots of the hairs means they’re much more prone to damage – for example, rubs from reins (on the side of the neck), girths (behind the elbows and under the tummy) or from the binding on saddlepads (usually just behind the saddle). Don’t wait until he has a bald patch – or worse – before taking action. Check him carefully every day for signs of rubs or sore areas and adjust his clothing as necessary. Merino Lambskin is soft and naturally wicking, allowing air to circulate and improve blood circulation. Lambskin-lined saddlecloths, Lambskin girth sleeves and the Lambskin general purpose sleeve (which can be used anywhere that a bit of extra padding is needed) can be used to keep him comfortable.