Managing your field shelter during winter
With the autumn and winter months fast approaching, horse and stable owners need to be prepared for the cold snap ahead. If you own a mobile field shelter, you are already at an advantage as its mobility means you can reposition the building wherever you wish. There are however, a number of conditions to be aware of to ensure your horses are safe and are well during the colder seasons outside. Tips on care & maintenance during the colder seasons Temperature drops Ground frost and hardened soil are highly likely when freezing temperatures set in. If periods of heavy rain follow, the conditions can suddenly become very hazardous to your animals as the ground surrounding shelters tends to start showing signs of poaching, a common damage to turf caused by the hooves of livestock compacting soft soil, leaving deep depressions and craters formed on the ground. If this occurs, it can become increasingly hazardous for your horses to navigate safe passage to the entranceways of their shelters, meaning they can easily slip or turn a fetlock, causing injury or discomfort. If you start to notice signs of poaching close to your shelters, especially the entrances, it is advisable to move them to flatter greener ground before the cold frosts set in. Proximity to water If your field shelter is placed close to water or on land that lies below the water table, this poses a significant risk of flooding if a period of heavy rain ensues. It won’t take long for your paddock to suddenly become waterlogged and this is where numerous problems will begin. Excess water will make the ground soft and slippery and prone to poaching, which will be dangerous for your livestock and highly unpleasant for you to access to change their feed and bedding. If possible, it’s best to avoid setting your mobile field shelters anywhere where excess ground water can build up. It is also advisable to move them around frequently to allow the ground to recover and dry out properly. A good habit of rotating positions will ensure a more comfortable ground lay in the longer term and make maintenance less hassle. Proximity to trees If your field shelter has guttering and roof drainage, it’s wise to place them away from deciduous trees that are prone to shedding leaves during the autumn and winter months. In a short space of time, falling leaves and debris can form on the roofs and block up gutters and downpipes. If standing rainwater collects, ice will form during colder periods and cause damage and splitting to the pipework, leading to poor drainage and inevitable leaks which will result in poor ground quality, poaching and slippery surfaces which put your horses at risk of injury. High winds The UK is well known for its windy periods and strong winds can easily pick up a field shelter and toss it across the ground if it is not securely fastened in place. If you have concerns your mobile is on high ground or land exposed to extreme weather conditions, consider using ground bolts to hold it firmly in place or turn it so that the open entranceway is facing away from the direction the wind is blowing. Access It goes without saying that you will need suitable access to your field shelter all year round, especially in the colder months to regularly keep an eye on your horses, take care of mucking out and feed them, especially as they will eat and drink more to maintain a healthy weight and stay suitably hydrated. Your horses will undoubtedly spend a lot more time inside the shelters during the cold seasons so you’ll want to gain easy access to stay on top of these daily routines. To make life easier, avoid placing the shelters is far flung corners and instead, place them closer to your home or feed stocks to make your maintenance routine a little easier. Stick to these hints and tips and you should have an easier, lower maintenance winter period taking care of your livestock in their mobiles.