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Embarking on a riding adventure in the rain only to return drenched is hardly enjoyable for any equestrian. But instead of lazing on the sofa and binge-watching TV series all weekend, there are productive tasks you can undertake in the stables even during inclement weather. These are the tasks often overlooked in fair weather because riding takes precedence.

1) Stretching exercises for the horse

A simple yet effective exercise to enhance your horse’s flexibility. Tempt your horse’s nose to turn sideways towards the shoulder, flank, and then up to the thigh using a piece of carrot, apple, or another highly desirable treat. Agile horses can effortlessly scratch their thigh with their teeth. With regular practice, most horses can master this maneuver. You can also guide their noses between their front legs to encourage them to arch their backs.
Instructions for the “carrot exercise” can be found online, such as this informative one:

2) Pamper your horse with a wellness day

Grooming is often neglected when the weather is pleasant. A quick brush over the saddle, a few strokes through the mane and tail, and off you go. Utilize bad weather to provide your horse with a thorough wellness treatment. This includes meticulous grooming, starting with a currycomb to “scrub” the body, followed by thorough brushing with a dandy brush. Pay attention to the legs and head, ensuring they receive a thorough brush as well. Additionally, meticulously comb through the mane and tail, untangling any “dreadlocks.”
This is best done by hand, untangling strand by strand – takes some time, but is definitely worth it! To prevent the horse from stepping on its tail, consider trimming it after untangling.

Most horses also appreciate a soothing massage every once in a while. You can find instructions for wellness massages online, such as this one:

3) Cleaning your tack

One of the least favorite tasks for every equestrian, yet essential for preserving the longevity of your quality equipment. It is always worth investing in a good leather bridle or saddle. However, proper care is crucial to ensure their longevity.

Begin by disassembling the bridle (remembering the order of the straps for when you need to put it all back together) and thoroughly clean each piece using warm water, a sponge, and saddle soap. After drying, apply a good leather conditioner to nourish the leather and reassemble everything. This process leaves the leather clean, supple, water-resistant, and less prone to cracks and damage in high-wear areas.
Similarly, remove the girth and stirrups from the saddle, clean and condition the saddle and girth straps. Neoprene girths and traditional string girths can usually be cleaned in a washing machine. Lambskin girths can be washed using the wool program and wool detergent.
Clean and condition leather girths as you would any other leather item. Allow the leather conditioner to absorb overnight and wipe off any excess the next day using a cloth, such as a discarded kitchen towel. Take advantage of the opportunity to wash saddle pads to remove sweat and dirt from the fabric. Halter, ropes, and other textile accessories could also benefit from a little trip to the washing machine. Start fresh with clean equipment when the sun reemerges.

Over time, a pile of paperwork accumulates around your horse, including veterinary bills, bloodwork reports, and notes from the non-medical practicioner. Often, these documents are left scattered or stored haphazardly, with the intention of filing them properly someday. Rainy weather presents an excellent opportunity to tackle this task.

Create a folder with labeled tabs and organise the documents by subject and date, from back to front. When the next bill or report comes in, you can easily add it on top and you’re good to go. Plus, you can quickly locate them when needed, such as for clinic visits or when you’re wondering what happend to your recent bloodwork results.
Competitive riders are typically vigilant about their horse’s vaccination status, as failure to comply disqualifies them from competing. However, many other horse owners file away the equine passport and forget about it. While vaccinations are not legally mandatory for horses in most countries, common ones include tetanus and influenza.
Tetanus shots should be refreshed every two years, influenza vaccines annually, and herpes vaccines yearly if the horse is immunised against it. Missing booster appointments often necessitate a complete re-vaccination, which is costly and burdensome for the horse. Therefore, periodically checking the horse passport helps track upcoming vaccination dates.

5) Check, update, and stock the first aid kit

Every stable should have a well-stocked first aid kit to provide prompt assistance to both humans and horses in emergencies. However, these kits tend to diminish over time. Plasters disappear, followed by gauze bandages, until only triangular cloths and emergency blankets remain – and of course, that’s when you truly need the kit, but nothing good is left. And of course, the items in a first aid kit have expiration dates for a reason, too.

Utilise rainy days to assess the kit’s contents, restock any missing items, and expand it with useful supplies specifically for horses, such as disinfectant, cotton wool, self-adhesive bandages, and nappies for hoof dressings, among other essentials.

You can request most of these items from your veterinarian, mentioning that they are for the emergency first aid kit in the stable. Seize the opportunity to inquire about upcoming horse first aid courses for equestrians as well. Educating yourself in this area proves valuable, as appropriate reactions during accidents can make a significant difference to the horse’s life.

6) Organise the tack room and declutter unnecessary items

Another task often met with reluctance. As horse owners, we tend to acquire new items more often that we’d like to admit, but rarely discard old ones. Consequently, layers of archaeological artifacts accumulate, and the cupboard becomes increasingly cluttered. When it is bursting at the seams, we pile items on top of the cabinet or get another one…

In reality, we repeatedly use only a small selection of items in our daily routine. Who needs five bridles when they always use the same preferred one that suits both horse and rider best? Even possessing 20 saddle pads is excessive, especially since we consistently rely on the same two— one beneath the saddle and the other in the wash.

Take the opportunity to thoroughly clean and declutter the entire cabinet or tack room. You will be surprised by the accumulation of (useless) items over the years. Sort through the contents and identify what is truly essential for daily use. Those items can be returned to the cupboard, while emergency replacements for unexpected breakage should be thoroughly washed and cleaned (as mentioned above) and stored neatly in a box.

Pflege der Ausruestung; Gebiss
Rainy days can be utilised wisely to care for, organise, and declutter your tack.
© Adobe Stock/lichtreflexe

What have I not used for the last 1-2 years or even completely forgotten that I had? Chuck it out.
If you haven’t used something for so long, chances are you won’t need it anymore.
With all the items you no longer need, you can organise a flea market with the entire stables in the summer (but not to accumulate new, useless things in the tack room!) or donate them to a riding school, or sanctuary. These places often lack basic necessities and are grateful to receive donations. Even if they cannot utilise certain items, these organisations can sell them through classified ads and use the proceeds to purchase essential items for their animals.

This declutters your own cabinet while doing something good and charitable. Additionally, it’s good to thoroughly wipe down the emptied cabinet with a damp cloth before putting everything back in, ensuring that items are neatly organised and labeled. This way, you won’t have to buy new things just because you can’t find what you’re looking for.

7) Clean out the feed room

Cough herbs from last autumn, feed for a deficiency three years ago (what was it again?), the bag of muesli the horse started but didn’t like…

Over time, the feed room tends to accumulate quite a surprising array of items. Feed has an expiration date for a reason, and it often doesn’t make sense to keep it for years after that date. It’s better to purchase fresh feed when needed rather than risking feeding outdated products.

Of course, not everything needs to be discarded. Herb mixtures usually remain good for about a year if stored properly. A well-sealed plastic container labeled with the name or possibly the effect and what it’s used for, and expiration date (indicated on the package) helps maintain order.

Other types of feed should also be labeled with the horse’s name, the reason for feeding, and the expiration date. Anything that has clearly expired should be discarded.
Feed that your horse no longer eats or needs can often be given away if it’s still in good condition. Otherwise, dispose of it in the household waste if you know it won’t be fed anymore. This prevents the spread of mould and avoids attracting rats or mice to the feed room.
All feed should always be kept in well-sealed containers to protect against rodents. During bad weather, place these containers outside to thoroughly clean all corners of the feed room. Once cleaned, return the containers to their designated spots. Feeding time will be more enjoyable when you don’t have to deal with dirt upon entering the feed room.

8) Thoroughly clean feed buckets, watering troughs, mangers, and racks

Those familiar with “slobbery feed” know this well: hay cobs, mash, and similar feed tend to be spread generously by horses on the floor, in the stable, on walls, grids, and wherever else they can reach. Feed buckets and manger used for such feed develop stubborn crusts over time.

Bad weather provides an excellent opportunity to soak and scrub all the tubs and buckets thoroughly. Watering troughs, whether self-watering or buckets, should be regularly cleaned to prevent the formation of biofilm from bacteria and algae, which can contaminate the water.

If swallows build their nests above the drinkers, place a board beneath the nest to prevent bird droppings from falling into the waterers or mangers.

It’s often forgotten that debris accumulates at the bottom of hay racks, especially if pallets are used to keep the hay off the ground. If the hay rack is at ground level, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to place the bale directly on the ground. However, remember to occasionally remove the pallet and clean underneath it to prevent the accumulation of mould, sand, and dust. This ensures healthier eating, especially when the horses resort to consuming the collected dirt out of hunger once the hay runs out.
Take advantage of the opportunity to thoroughly clean hay racks or hay toys and clean all the corners. Additionally, periodically wash hay nets in the washing machine.

Black saddle hanging in the stables
© castenoid / Adobe Stock

9) Remove dust, cobwebs, and bird droppings from the stable

If you are boarding your horse at a livery yard, you might assume that cleaning the stable is the responsibility of the stable owner. However, most owners are occupied with daily tasks, such as feeding and mucking out, that some areas, like the tack room, are neglected…

Corners and rafters covered in cobwebs, bird droppings on partitions, dirty windows, and dust accumulation in every nook and cranny— we all know how quickly a stable can become dirty, requiring daily maintenance to keep it in check.
When all boarders work together, cleaning the stable becomes a quick task, leaving everyone satisfied at the end.
Cleanliness also benefits the horses, as reduced dust means less stress on their respiratory system. Clean windows allow more natural light to enter, oiled hinges facilitate the better opening of doors and windows, and when my horse leaves slobbery mud on the stall walls, I can simply grab a brush and a bucket of water to remove it without having to spend a full day scrubbing and feeling like my arms are about to fall off.

Ultimately, a clean stable benefits everyone involved, giving the stable owner more time to attend to other tasks beyond the daily routine, such as fence repairs, arena maintenance, manure management, and paddock care.

As you can see, with a little creativity, spending a rainy weekend in the stable without riding can be a fulfilling and productive experience.

Team Sanoanimal
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