Rugging Up Your Horse For Winter

Winter time can be a difficult time for horse owners. One of the challenges is ensuring that your horse is kept warm enough in the cold but isn’t too hot when the weather suddenly decides to change. The most common way of achieving this is by using horse rugs (or blankets).

So here is your own quick guide to horse rugs that will hopefully give you all the answers you need.

Why Rug a Horse?

In the wild horses aren’t rugged so why do would we decide to rug our own horses and ponies? The main reason is that domestic horses can’t move around as much as wild horses and not all sources of shelter are suitable for all weather conditions, therefore our pet equines need a bit more assistance. However, most healthy and younger horses probably don’t need to be rugged up as much as they are.

Horses can cope very well with the cold, since most can grow an extra thick coat. The hairs on a horses coat are designed to lie flat when heat needs to be conserved and rise erect when heat needs to be dissipated.  In addition if they have access to additional amounts of hay then this will also cause heat production from the inside and warm them through

Badly fitted horse rugs and using the wrong type of rug, which may cause the horse to overheat, are some of the problems that rugging a horse can cause.


Photo horse in winter
Winter time approaches and rugs go on image found on

What Type of Rug Does My Horse Need?

The type and size of horse rug ultimately depends on the type of horse you have. Other factors such as what lifestyle they lead and what level of health they are at are also all part of the decision.

Most horse rugs are similar in the way in which they function, the only main difference is the thickness of the rug and the size. When a horse is using a rug they cannot regulate their body temperature as effectively as when they are without a rug, therefore as the horse carer you have to make these decisions for them.

Type of Horse Rug

There are different types of rug depending on the purpose you need them for, most of this article is focused on turn out rugs, which are used when a horse is living outside for all or part of the day. These rugs need to be waterproofed and strong enough to cope with normal everyday horse movements.

Horse rugs are divided into the thickness of the material a bit like measurements for duvet covers.

  1. Lightweight rugs range from 0 – 115g filling
  2. Medium rugs range from 180-260g
  3. Heavyweight rugs range from 260-400g

When a horse is wearing the rug they should still feel fairly cool underneath the rug, especially when they are standing still. This means that when they start moving around they won’t be overheated.

Another measurement that you might see is the denier number. This is a reflection of the strength of the rug (and the possible likelihood that it will get ripped, although not a guarantee). The lightest type is around 210 denier whilst the heaviest and strongest can go up to 2100 denier.

Other Rug Types

As well as turn out rugs there are also rugs designed for indoor use such as stable rugs, sweat sheets or travel rugs. These tend to be lighter and are not waterproofed as they don’t need to be used outside. Stable rugs like turn out rugs also come in a  range of thickness, depending on the age and health of the horse. Sick and older horses find it harder to regulate their own body temperature especially when they are not able to move about as freely.

Horse Rug Sizes

screenshot measuring a horse for correct rug size
measuring a horse for a rug

The horse rug size is usually calculated as the length from the front to back of the horse as shown in the diagram below. This measurement can be in either inches or cms depending on which part of the world you live in.

This guide sheet from Mac Equine also gives the height of the horse so this provides an easy to use chart for rug sizes. (note the New Zealand size system is different to the international system)

screenshot horse rug sizes
Australian and International Size chart – reproduced from Macs Equine

Fitting A Horse Rug

It is important that the right size rug is bought and that it is fitted correctly to prevent damage to the rug or injuring the horse through sores and rubbing. The following short video produced for features Gemma Tattersall demonstrating how to put on a rug correctly.

Although most rugs operate the same way there is one product that I recently came across, that uses a different method altogether in their rug design.

Cool Heat Rug

This is a Cool Heat Blanket that is designed to allow the horse to establish its own temperature using specially designed raised soft plastic insulators on the inside of the blanket. These enable the horse’s natural cooling system (the hairs on its back) to continue functioning, and to allow the air to flow freely across the horses back. You can see from the diagram here what it looks like.

image cool heat horse blanket
Image found on

The rug can work effectively at maintaining the horse’s proper body temperature from between -10 degrees through to 20 degrees (Centigrade), so this would be a good all round rug instead of having to use several different types.

It is also ideal if you are leaving the horse during the day and the weather is cold in the morning. But as the day progresses the weather heats up and there is no-one available to remove the rug.

The rug is well fitting and can withstand rolling and movement without slipping at all. It was even positively reviewed on a natural horsecare website that doesn’t normally advocate rug use on horses.

It’s available for purchase on Amazon Macs Equine Cool Heat Winter Combo Blanket

(The rug can also be bought and shipped in Australia through MacEquine)

Maintaining Horse Rugs

Like all horse tack and equipment it is important that rugs are looked after. The horse rug or blanket needs to be monitored for broken buckles or torn straps that can aggravate or spook your horse. Horse rugs should be removed every day to check that there is no rubbing on the horse and to check that no other injuries have been acquired that might be hidden by the rug.

There are plenty of local companies such as EquiWash in Donegal, that provide rug washing and repair services. These services are usually reasonably priced and make a better job of repairing rugs than a domestic washing and sewing machine will do.

Kelly Marks Perfect Partners book cover

Kelly Marks – A Perfect Choice

As Christmas approaches it is often an opportunity to buy or receive things that you haven’t really had time to think about for a while. Like books or videos. After all the nights are getting dark early, the weather is awful and there is only so much dodging in and out of hail and sleet showers that you can do, so why not turn your horsey interests into something slightly less physical.

For all your horsey reads
Winter is an ideal time to catch up on all your horsey reading

Having decided to catch up on reading the temptation might be to go for the newest books and the latests DVDs because they must be the best, right?

But what about all those books we meant to read and never got around to doing, books we know had good reviews at the time and were definitely on our horsey bucket list of things to buy, once we had finished filling it with other more practical things like horse shampoo. These books are also often cheaper, which means you can buy more!

Kelly Marks

One of my favourite authors at the moment is Kelly Marks and she like many other experts in her field (no pun intended) has produced loads of materials that I have meant to read or look at and never got around to doing. So this article is a collection of material that she has available at the moment and which will make a welcome addition to anyone’s wish list of presents for whatever special occasion and at whatever time of the year.

Kelly’s Background

Kelly is probably better known for her intelligent horsemanship work and TV appearances, but she is actually from a racehorse background with her father working as a racehorse trainer and she raced herself for a while. She mentions in her book Perfect Manners about the time she decided to stop using a whip in racing and the fact that she actually performed better after that time.

Her chance meeting with Monty Roberts in 1993 was the start of what has been a very enlightening and wonderful relationship, both for Kelly herself but also for her fans who have become used to seeing her practice Monty’s system of Joinup. She has since gone on to develop her own intelligent horsemanship following and training courses.

The following video provides a good overview of some of the work Kelly has done, and there are a whole range of other DVDs and videos on YouTube which give even more information.


Perfect Manners

Kelly has written a number of books using the title Perfect ….. The first book I want to share with you I actually have in my library and find it a great read. This book is called Perfect Manners and looks at building a relationship with your horse to help it through different scenarios.

Screenshot Kelly Marks Perfect Manners
Perfect Manners by Kelly Marks

The book is intended to help anyone to work closer with their horse and overcome difficult behaviour problems, which Kelly describes as being due to the horse not knowing any better, because nobody explained to them about manners and behaviour.

Kelly’s book is full of tips and case studies to help explain why some horses behave the way they do and what responses are needed to help the situation.

Her writing style is down to earth and easy to read, even down to her 12 point list of tips for staying calm!

Perfect Manners Chapter Topics

The book is divided into three sections which all include pictures, diagrams, case studies, stories and writing.

  1. Recognising good manners – which includes the foundation exercises, join up and the rules of training
  2. Teaching good manners – from catching your pony, behaviour at home, travelling and show time
  3. Deepening Your Knowledge – which also looks at human manners and learning more about human / horse interactions.

This book is one of her earlier books and is still an international best seller and is an absolute must in understanding how to work the basics with your horse.  It is also relatively cheap so not a burden on the wallet.


Become Perfect Partners

This book is her follow on from Perfect Manners and uses the same witty and easy to read approach to helping riders understand how their horse thinks.

Kelly Marks Perfect Partners book cover
Kelly Marks Perfect Partners

In this book Kelly really focuses on building a long lasting positive relationship between horse and rider. Her focus is on both rider and horse enjoying working together and developing a strong partnership, the aim of the book as the cover says is- “how to be the owner the horse would choose himself”

Perfect Partners Chapter Topics

The book is divided into 10 chapters which look at all aspects of working with your horse from horse behaviour to understanding intelligent horsemanship. My favourite chapter in this book is on Feel and Timing.

Chapter 1 -Feel and Timing

This chapter focuses on building a relationship and understanding the horse. Kelly challenges the notion that you’ve either got it or you haven’t when it comes to working with horses and instead she insists that all the skills are learnt and available for everyone.  There are a number of exercises that Kelly introduces that can be done with people and on the ground, in order to practice the skills she is trying to explain.

Kelly has her own approach and style of writing and like Perfect Manners this book is well presented with ideas, practical tips and witty writing to keep you entertained throughout. This is a newer book than Perfect Manners and is a little bit more expensive but the other one is so cheap the two books together would make a very good gift for a horsey friend (or for yourself if you can get someone to buy it!).

Perfect Confidence

The third and final book in this Kelly Mark’s feature is Perfect Confidence.

Kelly Marks Perfect Confidence book cover
Kelly Marks Perfect Confidence

In this book the aim is to help riders overcome their lack of confidence with horses, whether this is managing or riding or at competitions.

Kelly herself admits that confidence is an issue that affects everyone, including herself. Writing this book is a personal journey for Kelly as she also shares her own confidence problems and how she dealt with them.

The book is a practical project designed to encourage you and support you as you tackle your own confidence problems with horses. There are assignments in every chapter such as defining your own goals and definitions of success for you and your horse.

It is a bit like a life coaching book but specifically for your life with horses.

Perfect Confidence Chapter Topics

The book is divided into 9 chapters and similar to the other bestsellers that Kelly has written, this book includes stories and examples to explain everything in a clear and easy to understand manner. Her understanding of horse psychology is now matched with human psychology, to help overcome potential difficulties and problems.


Choose any one or all of these three titles will provide an amazing present or gift for yourself or others. This is like a mini course in building relationships with your horse and developing a better understanding of yourself as a rider.

I like Kelly as a presenter but I think her books are equally good if not better at communicating exactly how she thinks and understands horse behaviour and what is needed from us as riders, to make that relationship between horse and rider even stronger.

Image sycamore seed

Sycamore Poisoning in Horses

As Autumn approaches leaves start to fall to the ground and it may look like a beautiful and captivating sight. However underneath the beauty there also lurks a dangerous risk to horses, the sycamore seeds.

These seeds are very noticeable (and you probably remember them well from childhood), they are the helicopter seeds that use wind to fly, so that they can be dispersed far away from the parent tree. They are however extremely toxic to horses and with strong winds they can travel very far so even if you have no sycamore trees in your own fields, the seeds can cover a good distance and still pose a risk.


Seasonal Pasture Myopothy (SPM)

Sycamore seeds contain a toxin called hypoglycin A which is found in a number of tree fruits including the sycamore. It causes seasonal pasture myopathy which is a fatal muscle disease and causes a lot of pain and discomfort to horses.

The disease affects the respiratory muscles and so horses are often found lying down and unable to get up without noticeable respiratory effort. According to the Liphook Equine Hospital other symptoms that your horse might be poisoned include;

  • muscle soreness
  • stiffness
  • muscle tremors
  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • fast or laboured breathing
  • reluctance to work
  • red or brown urine

The Liphook hospital emphasises that the results are not always certain death, currently the fatality rate is at 50%, so long as treatment is started early enough. One of the most important issues is rehydration and most horses will need to be professionally seen to either at a hospital or by a vet to give the fluids and also the painkillers needed, as the disease can be extremely discomforting for the horse.


Sycamore Seed Poisoning in the UK and Ireland

An Article in the Derry Journal has highlighted the very real risk that sycamore poisoning poses to horses in the UK and Ireland. Vets are warning all horse owners to be on the look out and to follow these simple guidelines to help reduce the risk of exposure.

  • ensure that horses have adequate feed supplements and forage so that they are not tempted to eat the seeds.
  • remove unused hay that is lying on the ground so that it doesn’t trap fallen seeds.
  • do not prune or cut sycamore trees when they are full of seed, as this can cause a large contamination of the land
  • fields can acquire the seeds through flooding or wind dispersion
  • use fencing if necessary to restrict access to danger areas or remove horses from contaminated pastures.

Horses most at risk according to the BHS are those that are grazed on poor pastures where there is a large quantity of dead wood and leaves. If horses on these sites are not given sufficient extra feed supplements and hay then there is an increased risk of eating seeds and leaves, causing digestion problems as well as poisoning.


poison and toxic leaves for horses
Autumn is a difficult time to manage pasture land for horses (image found on horse

Other Poisonous Leaves – Oak and Acorns

As well as sycamore other plant and tree leaves that can cause damage to horses are oak leaves and acorns. These have to be ingested in quite large numbers and it is relatively rare for horses to ingest large numbers of the bitter seed, according to the Bell-Equine Veterinary Clinic

image oak acorn toxic horses
The acorn fruits of the Oak tree (image found on Pinterest)

Getting rid of acorns can be a tedious and impractical task if your field is located near a large tree, one suggestion is to think of keeping pigs as they will eat them all up with no side effects!

As with most horse health issues it is important to maintain a healthy grazing area and keep it clear of anything that can cause harm. As the weather gets worse and fields become (even) wetter don’t forget about other problems related to field management such as mud fever.

Don’t forget to sign up for our e-mail newsletter and keep up to date with all our current horse related issues.

The sycamore seed (Image found on

Caring for Horse Hooves

Horse’s hooves undergo an incredible amount of stress and strain each day. The entire weight of a horse or pony is directed down to the tiny bones at the base of the foot producing intense pressure (something you know all about if a horse ever stands on your foot). This article looks at some of the facts and figures in relation to the hoof and also look specifically at the condition of laminitis which affects the hoof and foot development.

Healthy Hoof

Any damage to the foot or hoof can have disastrous effects on the horse’s ability to move, so it’s important that they are properly looked after at all times. So why do some horses have healthy hooves and not others and what does a healthy hoof look like?

Some horses are naturally born with better hooves, possibly due to genetic factors. There are then other external factors such as living in a dry environment, or having straight legs with hooves pointing in the same direction which creates an even wear these also impact on how the hoof is worn.

Conversely horses living constantly in wet environments (like Ireland!) are prone to developing problems with the hoof, or leaving shoes on for too long and/or having badly fitted shoes in the first place. Horses may also have specific problems related to the hoof such as laminitis which affects the condition.

The diagram below illustrates the two different types of hoof on the left in purple is a healthy hoof whilst on the right hand side in green are the signs of an unhealthy hoof.

Image found on

To Supplement or Not?

One solution, that many horse owners try in order to improve the hoof condition, is to add supplements to the horses feed, but this isn’t recommended by some specialists. Most hoof supplements contain added biotin however according to one farrier expert even bad hooves contain sufficient biotin and horses would need to be taking supplements for well over a year to have any impact on the biotin levels already in the blood.

As you can see form this amazing diagram which illustrates the blood flow to the foot, hundreds of tiny vessels carry the blood ensuring that nutrients are absorbed in the foot.

Diagram blood supply to hoof
Blood supply to the hoof – image found on Pinterest


Horse Hoof Care

Part of the care of a horse is to make sure that the hooves are checked regularly and trimmed and if the horse is wearing shoes that these are changed and fitted properly. You can see from the diagram below what happens when horses are not allowed natural movement and do not get their hooves clipped. This is part of a possible pending cruelty case

A pending animal cruelty case with hooves not cut for years image found on Horse Collaborative
A pending animal cruelty case with hooves not cut for years image found on Horse Collaborative

As well as trimming hooves for growth, they also need to be looked after and reshaped if the hoof is in constant moisture. The softening of the hoof can cause a flaring at the bottom so that it looks like the diagram below. The white line demonstrates the angle the hoof should take to the ground and the hoof above this line is the flare.

photo flared hoof
Photo courtesy of barefoot

In the wild, horses can trim their own feet (not very well but it works) as can be seen in the next diagram. This is how many European wild horses living in the wetlands cope with the constant moist conditions.

photo wild horse hoof
Natural trimming – photo courtesy of

Trimming and correct shoeing can prevent most forms of difficulty that the horse hoof experiences. However other conditions such as laminitis can cause a different kind of problem to the hoof, as the next section shows.


Laminitis is a painful disease which is caused by the breakdown of the laminae in the hoof. This can eventually cause permanent changes to the foot structure and result in lameness. It is a multi-factual type of disease meaning that many different factors are involved in causing it. It has been most often associated with rich feeding and overweight ponies, with pasture associated laminitis being the most commonly presented type of laminitis according to some vets.


The following video is provided by the World Horse Welfare and provides a good introduction and overview of laminitis and how to prevent it.

In the video it mentions ‘fructans’ which are certain types of sugar molecule found in the fructose in grass that cannot be digested by the horse’s intestine. Instead the fructans ferment inside the stomach and in large doses this can sometimes cause colic or lead onto laminitis.

As well as overfeeding there are also other conditions that can cause laminitis such as;

  • An injury to one leg or foot which causes additional weight bearing for long periods of time on the other foot. This additional weight bearing can also induce laminitis.
  • Some other causes known to predispose a horse to laminitis include septic conditions in the intestine, and bacterial infections.
  • For laminitic conditions that are related to overweight horses, this is often due to an increase in insulin resistance, where the high levels of insulin can cause the laminitis.

Early Warning Signs of Laminitis

There are a number of early warning signs that can help you to catch this before it gets too severe, and below I have listed 5 key signs to look out for.

  1. Hot hoof – It is normal for horses to get hot hooves especially after exercise or if they have been outside in the sun. However hot hooves on a cooler day or a long time after a period of exercise, might also be a sign that something is wrong with the hoof.
  2. Foot lifting –  Horse normally raise their feet and swap from one foot to another in order to encourage the blood circulation to the hoof. However unusual amounts of foot lifting or not lifting at all on one side can be indicators that something is wrong.
  3. Bleeding from the laminae – This is often a sign that the laminae are separating from the walls of the hoof as they start to break down. Spotting blood in the white lines around the hoof could be an early sign of laminitis.
  4. Increased heart rate –  A normal horse pulse is quite weak to detect but one difference with a laminitic horse is that the heart rate is easier to detect. It has been described by some vets as bounding rather than the standard 30-40 beats per minute. Obviously increased exercise will also increase heart rate so make sure the horse or pony is at rest before checkin
  5. Unusual rings on the hoof – The normal pattern of growth on the hooves is altered with laminitis, causing wider growth rings to appear at the heel rather than the toe.


    “This altered pattern causes the hoof’s rings to curve upward and abnormal rings to develop on the hoof wall surface, which can precede lameness sometimes by months or years, says Donald Walsh, DVM. Walsh leads the Animal Health Foundation, in Pacific, Missouri, which funds research and education projects related to laminitis.” The

Treating Laminitis

Researchers and nutrition experts now advocate that regardless of the cause of laminitis, it is important to control the sugar and carbohydrate intake once laminitis of any kind has been detected. This can mean restricted grazing for some ponies and horses or soaking rich hay to remove sugars and fructans.


Changing the times of turnout can be one option to stop horses eating higher doses of fructans, as the fructans in the grass are produced during daylight as part of the photosynthesis process.  Turnout in the evening and early morning may alleviate the problem for some horses.


One of the ways of increasing movement and encouraging weight loss, without placing too much pressure on the damaged foot is to use water to carry the weight of the horse. A hydrotherapy bath is one way (or swimming with your horse in the sea is another).

Horse in hydrotherapy bath
Hydrotherapy Bath – photo courtesy of 


Finally acupuncture has been used on horses alongside other medicines especially in laminitis, as a way of reducing the pain and discomfort. Acupuncture can also boost the efficiency of traditional medicines as it encourages pain reduction and has an anti-inflamatory effect as well.


picture of acupuncture use in horses
Acupuncture and laminitis – photo courtesy of

Caring for your horse is an ongoing task and a checking the hooves is part of that process. Hopefully this article provided some useful information on the hoof, and if you want to add or share any other links or information on the topic please feel free to add it into the comments section below.

Managing Sweet Itch

As summer approaches (and misses ) Sweet itch once again becomes a problem that many horses and their owners are faced with.

Sweet itch is usually viewed as an allergic response to midge bites, or more precisely the saliva from midges. This then causes the horse to release chemicals that cause a swelling on the skin and for the affected area to become itchy.

The classic signs that we see are shown in the diagram below.

picture of horse with sweet itch
Horse showing classic signs of sweet itch

The horse usually becomes uncomfortable with the itching and starts to rub the affected area.

This results in the signs that we see in the picture where the coat is rubbed and the skin becomes very tender to touch.

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Alternative Jobs in the Equine Industry

So you have an interest in horses and want a job that involves working with them? Well in Ireland you tend to be presented with three options – be a riding school instructor, be a racehorse jockey or become an international show jumper. But is that really it, is there nothing else?

Of course there are more jobs we know that (now) but it does take a bit of exploring to find the less familiar jobs out there. One of the things that I really enjoy about writing this blog, is that I can travel around, meet people who are doing different kinds of horse related jobs and write about them!! So here is an overview of some of the kinds of work that you could do if you’re leaving school and looking for a career in the equine industry (or perhaps a little bit older and looking for a change in life.)

Equine Blogging

The obvious choice for me to start with. The internet has seen a massive growth in people using the internet (currently estimated at 3 billion worldwide and growing daily). People use it to find out information, buy things and connect with others who share their passion. For this reason most equine businesses have a website with the aim of reaching more customers, but in order to keep a website active information needs to be constantly updated and this is where a blog becomes an important part of this.

There are jobs for equine writers who work freelance and may write for lots of other companies and websites. There are then those writers that have their own blog site and/or guest blog on other pages. Either way if you enjoy sharing your stories and writing about horses then blogging could be for you.

Equine Journalist

Similar to blogging in some ways, equine journalists write for specific magazines and online webpages that cover equine events and features. Organisations such as the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists provide networking opportunities for budding journalists. The British Equestrian Writers Association is part of the Sports Journalists Association and aims to support both writers and photographers covering horse events.

Equine Photographer

The expansion of the internet, with an estimated billion users worldwide and improvements in digital photography has meant that there is a global audience that has high expectations of photography. The growth in social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are based on people wanting to see images rather than read lots of words. This is definitely the era of the image, and the better the image the more the demand.

Similar to the next section on equine art, in order to make a business from the work you probably need to develop your own business, including building a website and begin to gather your own fans of your work. Social media especially Pinterest and Instagram are valuable forums to join.

Equine Artist (sculpting, painting, print work)

I love art especially painting and I do have a special interest in promoting equine art through this

Winter Horseland by Kevin
Winter Horseland by Kevin Russ

site. An affiliate site that I work closely with and promote is Society 6 where any artist can set up an account and sell their work through this online gallery. Other options for selling your art include building your own website / blog site and then using social media forums such as Twitter Pinterest or Facebook to connect with others and direct them to your website.

Traditional outlets such as stalls at horse events and equestrian shows are another way, like most social media work these days, it’s about building a following and being able to promote your work to an audience that has been cultivated and developed over time.

Equine Business – Shop / Online

Nowadays most equine tack suppliers and other shop based businesses also have a website and an online presence of some kind including Facebook and Twitter accounts. Running a business involves knowledge of the equine industry and the products you are selling, alongside having knowledge of a business. There could be some starter grants available through local enterprise organisations and funding partnerships.

Affiliate marketing – this can be a cheaper alternative to starting your own business. Affiliate marketing involves promoting products from other companies and receiving a commission for anything that is sold. Currently this approach is bigger in the United States but many companies are seeing this as a more effective marketing tool and the equine industry, although slower than other companies is also becoming interested. You need to have your own website for many of the products or use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Small Yard Owner

For many graduates of equine college the first kind of work available is often working in other people’s competition yards. The next step for some is to rent their own yard and manage a small number of horses on livery. A lot of the work can be with young or green horses being brought in for breaking and schooling. Instructing is another way that small yards can bring in income.

Freelance instructor – Insurance can be a large problem for many instructors trying to establish their own yard, one option instead could be to freelance as an instructor first at other equestrian centres or through riding and pony clubs.This is also a way to build up clients before investing in your own centre.

Equine Hospital / Vet / Nurse

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 21.08.20
Book Cover – describing a year in an equine veterinary hospital, all the stories are true, although names have been changed in some situations to provide anonymity.

Working as a specific equine vet isn’t always possible within general vet practices as most ordinary veterinary clinics wouldn’t have enough clients. However there are places such as Newmarket Equine Hospital where equine specialists operate in a purpose built facility, which is the largest of its type in Europe.

In the UK the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has established a register of specialists with the aim of encouraging veterinary practices to consult registered specialists, including equine nurses and vets. There is also a European register(EVBS) where members have to renew their status every five years and be a practicing specialist within their field.

Equine Nutrition Expert

Equine nutritionists can work with a variety of people including yards, farms, homes and veterinary clinics. Their focus is nutrition but this can also include handling a variety of animal ailments and making assessments of cases. The work can also include developing feeding and supplement schedules.

There is a strong maths and science component to the work and many nutritionists undertake research work looking at developing feeds and supplements. This work may be done with some of the larger feed companies. The information also needs to be communicated to a variety of different people and strong communication skills are also an important part of the job.

Lecturer – Equine College

Enniskillen campus sign
CAFRE in Northern Ireland Enniskillen campus

Across Ireland and Northern Ireland there are a number of Equine colleges such as CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) where students can go, which also means that lecturers are needed. Along with lecturer posts there are also equine course tutors, that college graduates and Level 4 instructors can apply for.

Horse Welfare in Ireland – A Problem?

There has been a lot of media coverage in Ireland over the last 12 months on the increasing problem of abandoned horses and the horse welfare problem.

Even as far back as 2011 the ISPCA was raising concerns that there were in the region of 10,000 to 20,000 horses surplus to requirements on the island. In 2014 the figure of 18,000 horses that were surplus, was given by the United Farmer’s Association who identified small breeders as the main problem, rather than the major industries such as racing.

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Horse Accidents

As Winter approaches and the weather becomes even more treacherous, riding safety becomes even more of a concern. Hopefully most riders do ride safely, but even so horse accidents can always happen.

The youtube clip of a jockey falling rather spectacularly at the Wincanton races, went viral at the time and is a reminder as to what can happen even at the highest level of riding (spoiler alert – the jockey Lewis Ferguson was unharmed and the horse finished the race in third place, albeit without a rider).

Rider Injuries

Although Lewis Ferguson walked away from his accident uninjured others are not so fortunate. According to one research report horse riding is the third greatest cause of hospitalisation amongst children and the fourth for adults (beating bunjee jumping which was a mere 10th).

According to recent BHS figures, there are 3.5 million people (6% of the GB population) who have ridden a horse at least once in the past 12 months. Therefore the potential for accidents is obviously quite high, and in fact recent figures from the BHS show that there are an estimated 3,000 horse related accidents each year in the UK alone.


Riding Safety

In response to riding safety concerns the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) in the UK have developed their own fact sheet for horse riding safety which can be downloaded here. In addition there is training available to BHS members through the BHS Riding and Road Safety as well as for younger riders through the Irish Pony Club Road Safety test.

As well as riding on roads and being aware of secondary dangers there are also the safety precautions that all riders can take. The obvious ones include;

  • Clean and well kept tack that isn’t worn
  • Safety equipment that meets the required standard and is undamaged, such as helmets and body protectors
  • Wearing appropriate footwear and other clothing.
  • Ensuring that young and inexperienced riders are accompanied by an experienced person.
  • Carrying a first aid kit on longer treks.
image ankle phone holder riding safety
Carrying a mobile phone is important in case of an accident, making sure you can access the phone when you fall off is equally as important.

One important thing to remember is to carry a mobile phone at all times with you (with credit). The difficulty though can be if you fall off and the phone is in a  saddlebag on the horse how do you access it, or if you are injured trying to locate the phone from inside layers of coats and your visibility vest.

This invention available on Amazon is an ankle phone holder which can also carry your medical ID. It ensures that if you do get separated from your horse that your information remains easily accessible and within reach.

Cashel Ankle Safe cell phone holder horse tack saddle cantle horn bags (SMALL)


Visibility of Horse Riders and Horses

Visibility is one of the most important things to consider especially in winter. Increased visibility will give other road users greater time to react and avoid any last minutes braking and swerving.

The use of vests is and reflective bands on the horse is the minimum that should be used, and other options can include reflective nosebands, bridles, breast plates and leg wraps.

screenshot reflective wear for horse and rider
Safety Reflective Adult Vest & Black Nylon Bridle & Breastcollar Leg Wraps Set


Safety on the Ride

There are then other precautions depending on the type and venue of the outing or ride.

  • Checking equipment for wear and potential dangers.
  • Safety of the arena, fencing and jumps (especially after storms or heavy weather conditions).
  • Lighting and visibility (including the visibility of the rider to others)
  • Having easy access to a phone and/or if trekking out alone and away from mobile phone coverage (- definitely a problem in rural Ireland!) ensuring that someone else knows the route and expected time back.

The lists mentioned above are not meant to take the fun out of riding or become scare factors. Instead they are reminders to all of us that our environment is constantly changing and that there are no guarantees in horse riding. By developing a routine of automatically looking for potential changes and safety issues, hopefully this can help towards minimising the number of potential horse accidents and injuries over time.

Horse Accidents – British Horse Society

Finally despite the entertainment value for some, riding safety is important and in order to ensure that accidents are recorded the BHS is collecting information.  They are keen to hear about anything related to horse accidents so that they can lobby for changes where necessary, and monitor the types and frequency of horse related accidents. In fact they have an incident map which shows the breakdown of accidents according to type such as; motor, dog attacks, low flying aircraft or interestingly wind farms. The most common types seem to be multiple sources but the most interesting (for me) was definitely accidents caused by Chinese lanterns.

You can email them directly at or call 02476 840516 of follow the following link to the BHS to access the safety part of their site.


Mud Season for Horses

I was reading a blog post the other day on horses in the US and this phenomenon they have called ‘mud season. We have it here in Ireland as well, only it runs for 12 months of the year or as we horsey folk call it – life. However it did get me thinking why do horses not share our distaste for the mucky stuff and does it cause any harm?

Mud Glorious Mud

I have a grey pony that has definitely perfected the art of rolling in mud, although to be fair she will also roll in the sea or water (especially on xc courses). As you can see she is perfecting her undercover disguise – as a mud patch!

Not sure where the field ends and the horse starts
Not sure where the field ends and the horse starts


According to Horse & Country she isn’t the only grey horse that likes to change colour, they ran a photo share on muddy horses and the majority of them were, surprise surprise .. grey (to start with).

Unfortunately despite the enjoyment horses seem to get from playing around in mud, sometimes it isn’t a horses’ best friend.



Mud Dangers

Mud is not without risk especially once it gets quite deep, as this horse discovered after trying to drink in a stream that was thick with mud. Luckily she was rescued by the local fire brigade and a vet after being spotted by her owner.

Horse rescued by firefighters in the UK (Daily Express Nov 2014)
Horse rescued by firefighters in the UK (Daily Express Nov 2014)

Mud Fever

One of the most challenging problems for horses being kept in wet weather is mud fever. Properly known as pastern dermatitis it is an infection of the skin which produces an inflammatory reaction. According to Horse and Hound

"Symptoms vary in severity, initially starting with 
inflammation of the skin and underlying tissues at the 
back of the pastern and heel region...As the area swells 
slightly, the skin stretches, starts to secrete pus which 
dries and glues the strands of hair together forming hard, 
scabby lumps and matted, tufted hair."

The following diagram shows what typical mud fever looks like and how vulnerable the open sores can be if they are kept constantly wet and dirty.

screenshot mud fever horses
image found on

Signs of Mud Fever

There are a number of signs that indicate your horse is suffering from mud fever, here are some of the more obvious ones;

  • Several small, circular, lesions beneath scabs
  •  discharge between the skin and overlying scab
  • Heat, swelling and pain on flexion of limb
  • Possible lameness in the injured leg
  • If very affected possible, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite

Other symptoms can be found in this article in Horse and Hound. If you want to read more information on this topic including some more detailed pictures, the following guide is available on Amazon for only $0.98, so it won’t break the bank.

Treating Mud Fever

There are a range of creams and lotions that can treat Mud fever such as the following organic skin lotion 4oz Horse Skin Relief Treatment

image mud fever organic lotion


The problem with many of the creams and lotions is that most require the skin to be kept dry, which can be difficult enough if stabling isn’t an option and your horse is living outside permanently.


Natural mud fever treatment

There are a number of natural remedies that work for mud fever these include some of the following;

  • Graphites (black lead): one of the main remedies, especially useful where the skin is very weepy and sore
  • Malandrinum (grease from a horse’s skin): this remedy is of most use in more severe cases but can be combined with graphites for milder cases
  • Petroleum (crude oil from rock): useful where there are severe skin cracks, soreness and thick scabs in the skin
  • Thuja (Arbor vitae, the Tree of Life). This is most useful for stubborn cases
  • Washing with an antibacterial wash (also tee tree)
  • Using pig oil and flowers of sulphur rubbed into the horses leg before it goes out (or baby oil)
  • Manuka honey is another remedy known for healing a variety of open cuts and wounds where bacteria can infect. Simply apply a couple of times a day.

To Hose or Not to Hose Mud Fever?

There are different opinions on hosing horses down after being out in a muddy field, surprisingly hosing can actually force the mud further into the leg and the moisture provides an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria.

Allowing the mud to dry naturally or wiping it off with hay and then brushing in the morning, can be more effective and provide a natural barrier preventing the bacteria reaching the skin.


 Grooming Muddy Horses

So finally it’s left to us as the rider to clean and groom the horse. However this will need to be done gently and if treatment is needed the legs will need to be dried thoroughly.

One option is to use mud boots such as the ones shown here


The biggest challenge is trying to keep the horses legs from getting too wet and muddy.

There are different suggestions for keeping horses dry (although perhaps not too many apply in Ireland unless the horse is to be stabled all the time). So perhaps all we can do is look forward to the good weather – or if it’s like today, enjoy the sunshine along with the intermittent snow, hail and rain showers.

Welcome & Introduction

Hi and welcome to the Equine Blog Ireland site, which is a site aimed at both online equine businesses and horse owners. Hopefully you can begin to browse the, by now growing library of resources and information. So in this first post I want to explain the thinking behind Equine Blog Ireland or EBI, and hopefully give an idea of where I plan to go over the months ahead with this new venture.

A Blog Site about Horsey Stuff

I started Equine Blog from my home based in Donegal, in the West of Ireland. I am a horse/ pony owner (2 horses actually, although they both belong to my kids until it comes to mucking out, feeding or exercising). But I had noticed that whenever I needed information or horse products, or wanted to read reviews on anything connected to the horses it meant spending a lot of time on the internet, looking for online equine businesses, (which meant less time for feeding, mucking out or exercising). I also found that each new search meant visiting lots of separate web sites depending on the topic; so feed was in one area, tack on other sites, ailments and injuries etc etc.. And I thought – wouldn’t it be great if there was one place that acted as a kind of hub for all these topics and where other horsey people could write or add comments based on their own experiences. I also thought that as many horse owners are also working and therefore don’t have much time for research, what if someone did it for them – after all I am a researcher and writer by trade!



Online Equine Businesses

Now there are other blog sites out there aimed at horse owners I appreciate that, but I had another thought. What if local online equine businesses (or equine businesses that have an online presence) and other equine businesses who were interested in trading in the North West of Ireland, were all visible on one blog site. That way interested horsey people only have to have one place to visit and could link onto the local business site, directly from the EBI site. Again for the online equine business side, the internet is new and finding time to blog and attract customers is difficult, but what if another site was doing that work for you?

Equine Discussion Forum

As the EBI site is evolving it’s possible, especially with all the brands and products out there, that some things will not stay all the time and other things that you presumed would be mentioned don’t appear at all. Well that’s also the purpose of the discussion forum. As well as being a place for general information sharing, anything you want discussed, researched or included in the blog please mention it here. And for those of you who are into social media and have time (or have kids who do actually feed, muck out or exercise the ponies) then follow EBI on Twitter or like our Facebook page.

Equine Blog Ireland Newsletter

The thing about blog sites is that content tends to rapidly move out of sight, as newer posts are added. To prevent this happening too much and stop information becoming lost in archives, a periodic newsletter will be published and sent to your inbox. It will also be stored in the newsletter section (mental note to self to create a newsletter section), along with other documents such as tip sheets, web site addresses for interest topics or review sheets on popular products. These will be stored as a sub group (s) under the Information category.

Finally and most importantly this should be a point of interest for you and a place to share thoughts and ideas. It is also a place for online equine businesses and owners to link up and make those all important connections.  I hope you enjoy it and become happy to participate and give me loads of ideas to follow up on. I look forward to reading your comments.

Marie – Equine Blog Ireland