With a recent spate of unfortunate accidents involving horses becoming stuck in ditches, The Blue Cross animal welfare charity is offering advice to horse owners on how to keep their horses safe this winter.

With a recent spate of unfortunate accidents involving horses becoming stuck in ditches, The Blue Cross animal welfare charity is offering advice to horse owners on how to keep their horses safe this winter.

Molly, before and afterKerstin Alford, equine welfare director at The Blue Cross said: “We are warning horse owners to be particularly vigilant this winter as the onset of wet and muddy conditions can create unexpected hazards. This year could be even worse than usual as many fields have inadequate grazing after the exceptionally dry summer so horses are more likely to forage in ditches and hedgerows for food. So it’s essential to check your horse regularly and ensure that fields are suitably fenced.”

Molly, a two-year-old native pony being cared for by The Blue Cross, was a victim of neglect and misfortune in her former life. Her owner had left her to run wild in a field with 40 other ponies and very little food, water or shelter over the winter, and was later prosecuted.

When Molly was rescued by the local council, they discovered a serious eye injury thought to have been caused by her falling in a ditch.  Despite the best efforts of vets, her eye eventually had to be removed but thankfully Molly has made a good recovery at The Blue Cross and has adapted well to her disability. In time it is hoped that she should make a good riding horse and that she will find a loving home where she can enjoy her life to the full.

The Blue Cross has put together some practical management tips to help you and your horse cope with the colder, wetter weather.  Top tips for winter safety include:

  • Check boundary fencing and hedging thoroughly every week, especially near ditches and roads. As hedges lose their foliage in the winter they may need reinforcing.
  • If you are using electric fencing check your battery power daily and have a spare, recharged battery at the ready.
  • If you are moving your horse or pony to new grazing for the winter, do it first thing in the morning to enable them to become familiar with the new space while it’s light.
  • Remember that dry, empty ditches in the summer can turn into wet, boggy hazards in the winter. The same applies to recently dug ditches which could be steep and slippery. If in doubt, fence them off safely and securely.
  • A stream or ditch should not be the only water source for your horse, but if there is one in the field, remember they can become treacherous in winter weather. Make sure there is a safe entrance and exit, monitor regularly and ensure the fencing on the other side of the water is maintained.
  • Become familiar with roadside ditches when you are riding so that you can think ahead and stay safe.
  •  Expose your horse to a variety of terrains to help him become more sure-footed. This could help him cope better in a potentially difficult situation.
  • Make sure your horse is checked properly at least twice a day, every day and in all weathers.

If you need help or advice from The Blue Cross this winter, visit www.bluecross.org.uk/horses or phone 0845 230 1672.

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