Submitted by Steve on 12:39, 2nd Nov, 2016 | 0

Each winter we see very wet weather and at the GSPCA each year we receive a large number of calls from concerned members of public about horses and other animals in wet and muddy fields.

With the wet weather we see at this time of year in Guernsey we want to help prepare those with animals in fields.

Sarah Creasey GSPCA Animal Welfare and Education Officer said "Each Winter we often see long sustained very wet periods with many animals being affected."

"Lorna Prince the Animal Welfare Manager and I are kept very busy checking animals in wet and muddy conditions at this time of year."

"If anyone is concerned about an animal’s condition then they can call the GSPCA on 01481 257261 and we will look into it, but we have placed a little advice to help horse, donkey and pony owners on our web site and a link to other Winter advice."

"Calls from 2011 to 2012 about animals in wet fields went up 200% during the Winter and we received a similar number in recent Winters, but we are hoping by following this advice we can prevent a similar occurrence."

Steve Byrne GSPCA Manager said "This time of year is often challenging for livestock, horse, pony and donkey owners with many preparing for the short days and wet conditions."

"In muddy conditions it is extremely important that a horse has an adequately sized, well-drained area in the pasture on which to stand and lie down, and on which to be fed and watered."

"At the GSPCA we are really concerned about the animals out when we have awful weather and we do sympathise with the owners."

"With Winter drawing in again, we would like to remind owners of horses, ponies and donkeys what you can do to help your animals."

Wet Winters prove a challenge for horses, ponies and their owners. Animals that live outside must cope with everything the weather can throw at them, and owners must ensure that the extra care and attention is given to these animals.

You may be surprised at how well horses can adapt to colder weather. Although horses have been domesticated for over 6000 years in the wild, horses can withstand temperatures at well below zero. However, there are a number of things that you can do to maximize your horse's health and condition during the colder months

With short days and cold long evenings and wet weather you have to think about the following -

  • Has your field got natural or adequate shelter and space?
  • Does your horse have company and/or enough of your time?
  • Have you got a good supply of extra feed for the cold month?
  • Are you registered with a local veterinary practice and farrier?
  • Do you know what your donkeys, ponies or horse's normal behaviour is like and the animals health?

You need to ensure a good working routine. Work out how you will manage to care for your horse in these very wet cold months and make sure you can fit your horse's care into your day or you have someone to help assist you.

If you are cannot devote more time to your horse's care during the winter wet months, consider keeping your horse at full livery, where there is adequate winter turnout and a high standard of daily care.

In muddy conditions it is important to provide adequately sized, well-drained area where possible or look at other alternatives.

Short days add to the complication of winter care. Make your first visit to your horse each day as early in the morning as you can. If there is a problem, you can call for assistance in daylight.

There are a real variety of different rugs on the market to suit all types of donkeys, horses and ponies. Rain sheets are also available to offer a protection from wind or rain and there are thicker rugs also available and it is best to ensure you use the right rug for your animal(s).

Horses generally grow a long, thick coat for the winter and produce natural oils that will keep it waterproof. Native breeds or cob types have adapted well to our elements and generally will cope being turned out without the need for rugs.

In Guernsey our weather in much milder than the mainland of the UK so please take this into consideration when looking at rugs for your horse or animals.

Don't overgroom unrugged horses as this may strip the coat of the natural oils and reduces its waterproofing abilities; dry mud or dirt also provides an extra layer of warmth.

Breeds like the Thoroughbred or Arab, clipped horses or older horses may require rugs for additional warmth, but always remove these at least once a day to check for sores or rubs, overheating and to be able to monitor your horse’s weight and condition. However hardy your breed of horse, it's strongly recommended to provide a shelter, which will benefit them in both summer and winter. To see local planning laws or contact the States Vet for advice please visit

Hedges and trees will provide a natural shelter, but a sturdy, professionally built shelter will work just as well.

If you plan to ride your horse in winter, beware of getting your horse sweated up in the afternoon as horses can easily catch a chill.  Also please ensure that you and your horse have appropriate clothing to ensure that you are able to clearly be seen.

Make arrangements with an experienced person to take care of your horse in the event of an emergency, for example if you are ill, delayed or cut off by bad weather.  A starting place could be one of the local groups or clubs who will have a network of experienced owners.

While the weather is still mild, it's the perfect time to remove weeds before they seed, check drains and ditches are clear of debris and carry out any necessary fencing or water supply maintenance.

You should also check the fields daily for sycamore seeds and acorns, abundant at this time of year, both are poisonous to horses and easily blown onto the pasture on windy days. If you have these trees on your field ideally fence them off.

Wet weather brings a risk of fields becoming poached. Hardcore may be needed if gateways or water access points become very poached.

Moving water troughs or buckets periodically will help to reduce poaching around these areas. Rotate grazing to avoid poaching or designate a field specifically for winter turnout, ideally well draining fields.

During the most severe winter months the amount of time turned out may need to be restricted in very wet conditions to prevent excessive poaching and health problems such as mud fever. However where possible daily turnout is recommended for the horse’s health.

Droppings should still be removed, along with an effective worming programme, to reduce the risk of parasite burden. To contact your local vet in Guernsey please scroll to the base of our website page as you can see all local vet practices.

All horses should be exercised and spend time out of the stable every day. 

Caring for an older horse can be more challenging in the winter months and extra care and attention should be taken to monitor their condition.

More than anything you MUST remember that your horse needs you.

If you need further advice you can call the GSPCA on 01481 257261

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