Okay, I know what you’re thinking. When it comes to mud evasion and horses…well, it’s a pretty hopeless cause from the get-go. However, that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t a few nifty methods that can give you a pretty good shot of keeping your horse semi-presentable. I personally have been struggling a lot lately with dealing with mud on the yard. If you want to keep on competing throughout the winter, it’s just a total nightmare to make your horse look like anything other than a hippopotamous wearing tack. I completely lack motivation to do anything when I know there’s no way in hell we’re going to look clean. Looking the part is something that is always important to me…but, more important is allowing my horses out in the field during the day rather than being stuck indoors. So, to combat this, I’ve done some research into ways of dealing with cleaning off the mud and keeping horses looking their best, without any of the added side-effects of doing so – such as mud-fever and chill for example. If you’re intrigued, I urge you to read on…
PROBLEM: Daily leg washing.
For starters, let’s clarify: I am against washing a horses legs everyday when they’re brought in from the field. In my experience, repeatedly rinsing off mud with freezing water, leaving the legs sopping wet while they’re stood in a stable and then allowing fresh mud back on the next day only creates a breeding ground for bateria, resulting ultimately in mud fever and the like. So, for the whole of my equestrian life I have always left mud on to dry and then brushed it off if need be; Only ever washing if I have competitive plans or a lesson with a fancy instructor. This way, the original mud acts as it’s own barrier to new mud with new bacteria. Nevertheless, recently we have had such an infinite amount of rain that the mud is now becoming unmanageable and unbearable, and brushing just simply isn’t cutting it. It takes too long, and is not effective enough. So…
SOLUTION 1: Hot horse shower
To solve the problem… yes, may need to be a bit of an investment; but, from my research I believe that it will be a very worth-while one. Firstly, the purchase of a hot horse shower. The most popular ones appear to be the Ecotemp L5 tankless portable outdoor gas shower and water heater. This connects to your hose pipe and basically works as a portable boiler. It uses a standard 11kg propane gas bottle and two D cell batteries to heat the water. No electiricity required. And you can purchase a handy trolley for it all. With the heater, gas bottle and trolley, the best price I can find is around £220. Oh and…obviously you’ll need to replace the gas bottle after every 28 hours worth of use which will cost between £40-£50 a bottle. I know, not exaclty a cheap option. But, it is ideal for a small or individual yard as there would be less usage of gas, plus no kerfuffle over who owes who for the next gas bottle, as there would be on a large yard. The only issue that could be found is the risk of having a gas bottle on site, but I’ll leave that to you to weigh up.
SOLUTION 2: Kettle, bucket and sponge.
“£220?!” I hear you say. Well, if you aren’t on a small yard and sharing would be too much of a faff for obvious reasons, then there is a cheap, yet slightly less efficient way of doing the same task. Simply put on the kettle, pour into a bucket, mix in some cold water and then sponge or water brush the mud off the old fashioned way. The trouble is with so much mud, with one bucket you can end up just smearing muddy water back onto the legs after a while. So, use a couple of buckets instead of the one so that the warm water lasts longer, while hosing the sponge off after a couple of go’s. Yes, I know…time consuming, as you have to boil the kettle numerous times as well. So maybe not an everyday solution, but unless you can splash a bit of cash, I’m afraid it’s back to weekly washes…but I stress, you get what you pay for in this business. But I suppose a quick blast with the hose to get the worst off before sponging with warm wouldn’t be the worst thing…(shh).
SOLUTION 2: Quick-dry leg wraps.
So, after you’ve soothingly washed off your horse with lovely warm water; instead of leaving his wet legs to get cold and stay wet, attracting bacteria and giving him a chill, you can put on some ‘quick-dry leg wraps’ to keep him toasty and to quickly wick away the moisture. These are fairly inexpensive for what they are, and I have just purchased the Premier Equine quick dry leg wraps for less than £20 a pair, so under £40 for all four. Not bad, right?
SOLUTION 3: Turnout boots.
And then, to turn out the next day, instead of allowing new mud back onto your horse’s beautifully clean legs, put on his turnout boots to guard against the blasted stuff. Again from Premier Equine, the turnout/mudfever boots are the things for the job. Made of perforated neoprene so not holding water and getting heavy, and also promoting air flow and wicking away moisture to stop too much heating, these would be my choice for paddock protection (and I’ve just ordered some of these too!). They also provide overreach protection and mould to the horses leg so as not to impeed upon his natural movement while on his galavants. What more could you want in a turnout boot? Also, slathering pig oil onto your horse’s legs will make the mud slide off of any uncovered areas.
PROBLEM: Muddy manes and dreadlocks for tails.
We’ve all had this. The feeling of your heart sinking as you see your horse’s naturally gleaming white tail is replaced by a gooey brown tangled mess of pure filth. Similarly, often neck covers sink slightly with wear, and you end up with a distinct line of where your horses mane has weathered from exposure to the elements and where it’s been neatly tucked under the neck cover.
SOLUTION 1: Baby oil.
Not much explanation needed really. Buy some baby oil from your local supermarket, gloop some onto your finger tips and run it through the hair. This act’s as a mud barrier, plus keeps the main and tail healthy and shiny. Repeat whenever you’re turning out. However, obviously this isn’t going to prevent caked mud on the tail from your horse/hippo bathing in the most muddy patch he can find…but it does a pretty good job on the mane.
SOLUTION 2: Scissors.
A neat crop is what I’m getting at. Especially with the tail. Chop off a little more than usual to prevent straggley ends trailing through the mud and creating a big knot. I always cut my horse’s tails short during the winter months, usually to about the middle of the cannon bone, or just below the hock if I can get away with it.
PROBLEM: Muddy head.
Owning a grey, this is one of the banes of my life. Stains are rife on Yanny’s fair head and in the dark stable light I always think I’ve got them all; yet he takes two steps into the sunlight and low and behold: there they are again!
SOLUTION: Elbow grease.
This is tricky to combat, however I often begin with using a magic brush on any heavy mud, then a dandy for the dust, and finally the secret ingredient: baby wipes. Amazing. They get yellow stains right off of a clipped head. And it applies with the golden rule: anything you can use on babies, you can use on horses. However to try and avoid the accumulation of dirt on the head altogether, trying out a stretch turnout hood is always an option…however I’m not too sure about these. There have been several horror stories of horse’s getting them stuck and potentially blinding themselves. So, I think where I stand is that there’s nothing some good old fashioned elbow grease (and perhaps a warm sponge) can’t fix!
So there are some of my tips to survive the winter with that little bit more convenience. Oh, and one last tip. Feeding linseed will rejuvinate your horse’s coat from the inside out. I shall be adding linseed oil to my horse’s feed in the new year to prove it!