The winter months can present difficulties for horse owners who are passionate about their animals and those in the equestrian industry who like to ensure the best possible care is given to provide a warm and safe environment during this difficult period.
In the UK, the seasonal weather patterns mean that changes need to be made to daily routines and there are many factors which can influence the results. Some owners will worry about whether their horses are receiving a good enough winter turnout whilst private and business owners of stabling facilities need to ensure a safe and secure working environment for both horses and staff alike.
Essentially, there are two main options that can be looked at for winter stabling solutions:
- Full stabled livery
- Loose barn livery
As with most decisions in life, the devil is in the details and in this case they will revolve around the standard of facilities, the cost of services and, of course, the severity of the weather itself. The primary concern during the winter months is to ensure the horses are not left standing in wet mud as it causes mud fever. With little grass during the winter a good supply of feed and hay/haylage is required which has to be kept dry.
Full stabled livery
As the title might suggest, a full stabled livery package includes everything from mucking out, feeding, bedding, and ad lib hay. As a rule there will be a daily turn out for anything up to 7 hours and then full stabling overnight. The facilities would have to meet a certain standard to fulfill these criteria, as wet and muddy conditions can mean a full turnout is impractical and in some cases dangerous. Modern construction methods and outdoor dry areas would need to be in place in order to fully guarantee the delivery of the services. As with any kind of ‘all inclusive’ deal, full stabled livery is unlikely to be the cheaper option but the extra features and services provided can be worth the extra cost.
Loose barn livery
Loose barns with deep litter bedding and access to large bale ring feeders can accommodate a number of horses at any one time. Usually this approach will include feed, hay and the barn being skipped out included in the cost. It’s not quite the same as full individual stabling however the horses do have much more freedom to move around as they are constantly in a herd environment. Essentially the situation is similar to a large field shelter. Although this is a much cheaper option than full stabled livery the ‘natural environment’ in terms of herd socialisation might not suit every individual horse or owner.