Naturally Horses

David's Field and Stable Tips


People have often commented on some of the handy things that we have made around our field and stables so I thought it might be useful to share them and to collect more ideas.  If you have a really useful, time-saving or just plain neat idea that you'd like to pass on to others, just let me know by sending me an e-mail, preferably with a picture to illustrate it, and I'll include it here with an acknowledgement.

  Storing Jumping Poles
Storing Horse Feed
Feeding Hay in the Field
Somewhere Dry to Stand and Eat
Filling Haynets
A Scratching Post
Hairy Legs
Stable Lighting
Aid To Barefoot Trimming
Managing Thrush
Managing Mud Fever - four contributions
Mud Fever Recommendation - three contributions
Manuka Honey
Feeding Pills


1.  Storing Jumping Poles

Do your jumping poles have a mind of their own when it comes to storage and retrieval?  Well here is a simple and cheap idea that will keep them under control and out of the mud and the worst of the wet.

The poles are held by standard gutter brackets, available from DIY stores for about 50p each.  Just attach two for each pole to a wall or fence.  Ours are shown on the end wall to Claude's stable.


Horse feed usual comes in large squishy bags that are very convenient to handle in and out of the car but not so good once you get them to the feed store where they are opened and become a temptation to mice.  Our solution to this problem is to transfer the feed to industrial plastic barrels with well fitting lids.  Our particular barrels were new and intended for human food products so they didn't even need a clean before use.  I do not know exactly how to obtain these now but keep a lookout, put the word around and let us know if you find a regular supply.  

2.  Storing Horse Feed

Kate comments: For those searching for barrels, Atlantic Country Superstore sell them and have a sale on at the moment.  A 45 gallon, plastic with screw lid, ex-fruit barrel costs £7.  I have used this company for years and they give a very good service.  Iíve just ordered some more electric fence posts and they came the next day; they are also the best posts Iíve seen and the cheapest I could find. 
Phone 01986 891032 or 01986 891074
E mail:

Selina comments:  I got my barrels from Smiths of The Forest of Dean Ltd. and they deliver - even one, if that is all you need. (Also, I found them very friendly).  They sometimes appear for sale on eBay.

To make the bins easier to move around, from under the feed preparation bench in our case, we have mounted each one on a trolley with castors that is intended for moving large plants in pots around the wooden floors in your conservatory or living room.  They are often advertised in gardening and home magazines and in the weekend supplements to national newspapers.  We paid about £10 for four, I seem to remember.


Row comments: As an alternative to barrels, it may not have occurred to some folk how good old chest freezers are for the job.  Of course I got the idea originally from a friend, so it may be worth passing on, especially in view of the fact that disposing of old fridges/freezers is an ecological nightmare.  By recycling it will help the environment as well as being a very economical way to store all feed bags and supplements required, in a compact efficient space which is totally protected from vermin, the elements - and the horses!  They can also usually be padlocked, if that is an issue.  Even upright models would be useful for keeping first-aid items, grooming kit, etc. in, if you have sufficient space, and convert the door into a notice board by use of fridge magnets!  Try your local white-goods suppliers who have to pay to dispose of the old freezers, so would probably let you have one, and deliver it, for naught, or take a visit to the tidy tip.


3.  Feeding Hay in the Field

 Our horses were very wasteful with the hay that we used to put out loose in the field for them during the winter; the wind would blow it all over the place, they would then tread it into the mud, and dogs and foxes would leave their mark so the horses would not eat it.  We have solved much of this problem by putting the hay in nets on posts at the edge of the field.

We used to do this by driving oak posts into the ground each winter and then removing them in the late spring - if they had survived that long and not had to be repositioned in the mean time!

However, we have hit upon a better solution using short concrete posts, which are buried for about two thirds of their length in the ground, with the original wooden posts fastened on top.  Our concrete posts are 40" x 3" x 3" (1m x 75mm x 75mm) and cost about £6.50 each from DIY stores.  The concrete posts have two holes cast in their upper ends to enable the oak posts to be fasted to them with M8 studding (screwed rod, about 90p per metre in DIY stores), washers and nuts.  Our posts need to be removable because we bring cattle into the field during the summer and I'm sure they would not survive long as cattle itching posts!

In a previous year, we did try using Metposts, which are about the same price and very easy to drive into the soft ground, but they did not stand up to the rigours of horses pulling on the nets and scratching themselves on the posts.  They became bent and twisted and two eventually broke off altogether.

The haynet is fastened to the post with a tie ring - the type that pass right through with a washer and nut on the back are the easiest to use.  (For safety, the string from the haynet should normally pass through a loop of twine on the ring, rather than directly through the tie ring itself.)

Row comments: I don't use nets as I feel feeding from ground level is best.  It has been suggested that nets can cause muscle problems in neck and poll, as the persistent tugging action usually includes a twist in order to pull the hay free.  Maisie already has stiffness in those areas, so I am anxious not to make things worse.  I have a heavyweight square black plastic water tank, which I bought from a builders merchant many years ago, originally to use as field trough.  I can't tell you the capacity....  Anyway, I lay the required sections of hay, flat, in there and pour over a bucket of water, and leave until the next meal time weighted with an old tyre, in a sectioned off part of the paddock.  At night, in my case, I will quickly turn the hay over so that the wettest part on the bottom is now at the top and the water will drain back down as the hay is eaten, and let the horses at it.  That's it.  I leave the hay in the tank, so it stays cleaner and less is wasted. Even in the recent windy weather, the weight of water at the bottom helps to keep it stable so it doesn't turn over or get blown away - you could also put tyres/bricks in to increase stability, but I haven't needed to.  If there is still water there in the morning (and sometimes it has been drunk!), I will tip it out and start again.  May not be viable with more than a couple of horses, or those more likely to beat the heck out of the container, but this has worked for the last couple of winters. Wish I'd thought of it before!

And a winter tip from Row: Use an old tractor tyre as a hay-feeder.  Stops it blowing around, several horses can eat around it, and it can be moved periodically to avoid poaching.


Christine Hardaker writes:  Last summer/winter I needed to leave hay and feed out for my gelding in my little Paddock Paradise.  I solved my problem of hay blowing away and getting trodden in with this invention.  My friend's mum was having a patio built and the stone flags were delivered in strong wooden crates.  I added a wind and rain shelter so I could put his feed bucket in there in the winter and it would keep most of the rain/snow off. In the summer he had his naps with his head inside to shelter from the flies and sun.  I screwed four 2"x2" uprights with the back posts shorter than fronts and made a frame "lid" on top, covered with some cushionfloor in a wooden design (for a natural look in the field). Three sides are wrapped with a willow windbreak bought from a cheap garden supplies shop.  I did end up putting the hay in small holed nets tied to the bottom of the crate as when it was loose, he tended to pull out a mouthful of hay but there would be another two mouthfuls attached which blew away or got trodden in.  The hay nets slowed down the eating so it lasted him most of the day whilst I was at work.  If there are more than one horse, you could leave off the top and just fill the crate with small holed nets full of hay.


Where there is particularly heavy horse traffic, the heavy clay soil in our field becomes extremely muddy during the winter so establishing a permanent position for the hay posts was inviting trouble.  A simple solution has been to make a 'hay terrace' by putting down about 6" to 8" of builders rubble topped with a layer of road planings (old lumps of tarmac from road mending).  The planings fill in all the holes between the rubble and leave an acceptably dark surface that soon collects some soil from horses feet and then starts to grass over with seeds from the hay.  Although there is some spilt hay to clear up, it is far more easily picked up than when it was mixed with mud.  The builders rubble is easily come by for free - just put the word around - and the road planings are about £6 per ton delivered - ask local farmers and mention your need for rubble whilst you're at it.

4.  Somewhere Dry to Stand and Eat


5.  Filling Haynets

OK, I know, this is not a new idea - and it certainly wasn't mine - but, after so many years of filling haynets unaided, this year we finally bought a haynet holder and what a difference!

Thoroughly recommended.  About £10.

Alison Franks suggests a quick and easy way to fill haynets: put hay in a big bucket such as those sold as pooh buckets or a cheaper version for storage, etc. (eg from DIY outlets, etc) then put the haynet neck over top of the bucket and invert.  Easy and quick!  I use several of these buckets for feeding hay on my area of hard standing and don't feed any hay on the field - the horses spend the day time on the hard standing area (a total of ~ 300m2 including shelter) with some rubber matting too especially for lamanitic pony, with ad lib hay, thistles (when I've had time to pull them!) and vegetable trimmings from the village pub.  At night they're on the field thus trashing it less especially when it's frosty and also, if I want to ride, I don't eat into their grazing time.  Seems to work well for us.



6.  A Scratching Post

A suggestion from Row:  To somewhere sturdy (solid fencepost/corner of shelter), attach one of those plastic doormats, or you can use lorry mudguards; use nails (large heads, and knock right in) or tie round post with baler twine.  Check the height depending upon size of animals - I have two at different heights.  The horses then have a good scratching post which they will use, for necks and bums, and which won't harm them or destroy your fencing etc.


7.  Hairy Legs

Row offers another tip:  Some of us saw this at Dan's barefoot clinic, for those with hairy legs - horses I mean!  If you need a clear space around your horses hooves for any reason, just slip on a crepe tubular bandage (the sort for sprained wrists ankles or knees) over the foot, and up to fetlocks to contain the feathers and keep them out of the way.


Although our stables are less than 100 yards from our house, we do not yet have mains electricity there.  However, we have made a start with lights.  I put all the wiring in as if the lights were to be mains powered so that if we do ever get round to a mains supply, I need only change the light fittings and couple up. The mains wire (1mm twin and earth), switches and junction boxes are very inexpensive from DIY stores and the installation is quite straight forward DIY stuff.

At the end of the wiring run in each stable, where normally there would be a light fitting, there is a simple block connector fastened to a convenient rafter that connects the wiring run to a standard 12 volt 21W car stoplight bulb.  I have used a couple of old 12 volt camping light fittings (the fluorescent or modern LED ones sold for boats and caravans would be quite superior) but for the others I merely soldered two bits of stiff wire to the contacts on the back of the bulb (or one of the contacts and the bayonet case, if it is a combined stop and tail light) and poked them into the connector.  For added reflection, I put a small disposable aluminium pie dish behind the bulb, held in place with a couple of drawing pins.

8.  Stable Lighting

At the feed end of the wiring (where there would normally be a mains consumer unit [fuse box] ) there is a junction box and a flexible cable with big crocodile clips at the end that are clamped on the battery terminals - it doesn't matter which way round.

We get the old batteries from our local garage.  We take any that he has but he tells us which ones he thinks are best, so we tend to go for batteries out of big diesel vans.  Nobody should begrudge giving you these old batteries because, to dispose of them commercially and legally, costs about £3 a go at the tip.

We generally have three batteries available at any one time.  Typically, there will be one battery coupled up in the barn, one along with it charged up ready, and one in the garage charged up ready or being recharged. 

There are seven 21W lights and one battery can easily cope with this, although I doubt that we've actually ever put them all on at once.  Some batteries will last three winters whereas others only one.  We've never really worried too much about it because there's always been 'more where that came from'.  One recharging will last all winter, unless Claude (bless him) turns his light on during daylight and no one notices, as happened last year!  Quick swap of the crocodile clips from flat battery to fresh battery and light was restored.

We always let the batteries go almost flat before recharging them, as I understand this helps reform the deposits on the plates of batteries that are used infrequently when they are recharged.  If you are to buy a battery for the job, you should definitely go for a leisure battery, rather than an automotive battery.  The former is designed for a long draw of low currents (a few amps) before recharging (eg camping lights, sailing boat nav lights, electric scooter, and so on), whereas the latter is designed for a short, sharp draw of a very high current (a few hundred amps) followed by an immediate recharge when the engine starts (hopefully!).

William Musson of Ecofreak has written to me to say that he is able to supply solar powered lighting kits that are particularly suitable for stables and other remote buildings where mains power is unavailable; as he is a farmer himself, he knows.


9. Aid To Barefoot Trimming

To use as a hoof stand; take one patio umbrella stand (says iron, but plastic may work) put huge bolt in hole where brolly would go, and pad top with foam (my idea - a small plastic ball, split, should fit over the top).  I'd tried a traffic cone, but not really stable or strong enough - this sounds much better!  Someone says umbrella stands are about £10 from Asda.

Axel stands from Halfords work well too!

£10 per pair from Halfords, see:

Peter Laidley, the barefoot trimmer for Oz, recommends the plastic agitator out of a top loading washing machine.  My hubby got hold of one for me and it works a treat.  Similar to a traffic cone but stronger and more stable and shorter.  I just taped an old sponge to the top to cushion it.  Very cheap (or nothing if you know someone who is chucking one out).


10. Managing Thrush - 1

Tiffany says: I have been using grapefruit seed extract on my mustang gelding for thrush. Great tip from my farrier. Works like a charm and has so many other uses for horses, pets and humans.


Managing Thrush - 2

Alex offers this tip: I seem to remember seeing some conversations about thrush generally in the e-mails on the site and I would like to remind you to carefully wash all equipment you use on it.  If you have athletes' foot or thrush yourself, washing socks and pants in the washing machine doesn't kill it off and you can re-infect.  I believe putting such items in the microwave works.  Therefore, any cloths and non-metallic tools can be subjected to a blast but boiling water and laid out in the sun to dry seems the answer for the rest.


11. Managing Mud Fever - 1

Branwen offers this tip: To avoid mud fever I bring in my horses every night and never hose legs off.  Mud fever can only occur if the germ in the mud is in contact with the skin and has sufficient moisture to multiply.  The horse's feathers and leg hair keep any mud and moisture away from the skin - until we blast it with a hosepipe of course. Hosing soaks through to the skin and can drive mud in between the hairs.

Rub only in the direction of the hair with a handful of hay or straw until all the mud is removed.  It takes me less than five minutes to do two horses (a lot quicker than hosing).  This will also help to dry off any excess moisture held in the coat and not force any mud or water into contact with the skin.  Any white socks may still look a bit brown, but will be glistening by morning.

We've had terrible trouble at our yard with mud fever and mine are the only horses that don't get hosed and don't have mud fever.

If you're unfortunate enough to catch a dose there are very few effective chemicals - iodine (which stains everything yellow) or chlorhexidine (the main ingredient of Hibiscrub) are the main ones.  If you use Hibiscrub as a wash, you'll end up soaking the skin and removing any natural oils - so not a lot of help!  In the past I've treated mud fever using another common product containing chlorhexidine - mouthwash!  You can spray it on (from a plant mister) so you don't have to mess about scrubbing or rubbing very sore skin and it's alcohol based so dries quickly.  I found it penetrates the scabs well too.  And your horse smells beautifully minty!

Please note - only some mouthwashes (generally the more expensive) contain chlorhexidine.

Hope this is a help.  I also read that flowers of sulphur (which is brilliant as a feed additive for strong hooves and supple joints) mixed with glycerine has been used on American racehorses for over 100 years with great effect.

Remember:  Prevention is better than a cure.


Managing Mud Fever - 2

Ray would like to pass on what he does to mange mud fever and he says it has worked beautifully.  We have three Clydesdale horses with a lot of white feathers, living fulltime in a paddock.  I started by putting dry sulphur of flowers on their legs.  They had a lot of sores and bare skin we just couldnít keep on top of no matter what we did or used from the vet.  As soon as we applied sulphur the improvement started.  Every second day, we dusted the legs rubbing the feathers up the leg and blowing sulphur out of the table salt container we use to apply it.  Nine weeks later, there were no sores and the skin healed and there were long feathers again.  Acidic skin is the natural Ph for the skin to protect itself against bacteria.  The sulphur simply keeps the pH down to protect the skin.  It's cheap, easy to apply, doesnít sting them and very effective.  If you accidentally get sulphur from your skin in your eyes I found ordinary eyewash is not helpful but a teaspoon (3.5ml) of baking soda in some water was a really good eye wash and neutralised the sulphur.  Baking soda is used to clean corrosion on car batteries so I figured it would work with acidic sulphur.


Managing Mud Fever - 3

Angela would like to share her experiences of managing mud fever.  When I bought my heavily feathered Cob/Exmoor mare from a riding school she had thrush and mud fever.  The thrush was easily dealt with by vet with a tetracycline spray then kept under control with weekly purple spray.

I found a way to control the mud fever without cutting off her beautiful feathers.  Horses attract all sorts of biters.  Biters bite.  Horses scratch.  Lesions open. Bacteria gets in - from horse's mouth and outside.  Solution - Frontline spray to control the biters.  No bites.  No lesions.  No mud fever. I  also spray her feathers with fly spray whenever biters are around.  There are also plenty of creams for lesions but the object is to seal the skin to prevent bacteria getting in and to help the skin heal.

Also, I am not a fan of too much hosing down and shampooing.  It softens the skin, which is what we ladies like, but horses need good strong, naturally oily skin to combat water and biters.  Horrible thought but humans and horses actually need natural body oil to support the good mites that live on us and clean our skin.  Washing it off and replacing it with another oil means the mites can't survive.

Skin as well as other organs, produces vital hormones.  Too much washing upsets this production.  This sounds a bit Hippie but by too much washing I do mean using unnecessary shampoos more than once a week!  I hope this helps.

Managing Mud Fever - 4

Linda says: Before winter, I start using a mixture of pig oil and flowers of sulphur on my (very) hairy's legs.  I use an old washing up liquid bottle to squirt it deep into the hair close to the skin and then rub it in.  When I bring him, in I don't hose his legs I just brush the mud off when it has dried overnight.  It never seems to get through to the skin as the oil stops mud sticking and the sulphur kills any bacteria.  It also helps to prevent leg mites which is a common problem in hairy legged breeds.  Another advantage is that it keeps the hair in good condition so, by show season, it is soft and silky and really flies when they move!  I believe this method has been used by draft horse owners in the UK for well over a hundred years so its tried and tested.


12. Mud Fever Recommendation - 1

Lewis has been asked about methods of dealing with Mud Fever and what he has verified from the veterinarians that he checked with back in Texas and in the UK, as well as other trainers with MF experience is explained on Lewis's website.


Mud Fever Recommendation - 2

Elaine says: To prevent this painful condition, before I turn my horses out into the field, I get some baby oil in an old spray bottle and I spray their legs up to the knees.  With a spare body brush I make sure it is rubbed in and I then turn them out.  I never hose down their legs when I bring them in, I just simply put them in the stable and leave them.  You will be amazed in the morning the mud is almost gone and just brush off the remains, which comes off really easily due to the oil.  I hope you find this helpful.


Mud Fever Recommendation - 3

Denise says: My daughter's mare, Flick had really bad mud fever, which wasn't clearing up.  The vet said they now think the reason some horses are more prone to it, is to do with poor immune system. After many months of vets visits and trying everything we decided that, instead of using Hibiscrub to clean her legs, we would try a domestic spray of the kind that you use to wipe kitchen surfaces, or a hand foam from a high street chemist that is used to kill bacteria and viruses and claims to protect for up to six hours.  I would say do a 24 hour skin sensitivity test on a very small patch of skin, as this product is not for use on wounds and does not promote itself to be that.  The reason we used it was because it kills all germs, both bacterial and viruses.  It even kills M.R.S.A. so we did wonder whether the bacteria in mud fever had become resistant to antibiotics (and Flick has had plenty of these) she also had other treatments, but to no avail.  Cleaning up her legs with this spray over a period of time, seemed to do the trick. She had no reaction nor became sore. We would spray it on and leave it for five minutes or so, then dry her legs up.

If that hadn't worked we were going to use Manuka honey with a UMF factor of 15 or higher.  Manuka honey has been used very successfully in hospitals on open wounds that are infected by super-bugs such as M.R.S.A. etc, where antibiotics have failed.  It has also been used successfully on leg ulcers, where conventional treatment has failed.  Manuka honey along with normal honey has naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide, which is a great antiseptic and fantastic for killing bacteria such as those that cause mud fever, because they breed where there is no oxygen.  Manuka honey however has some other special properties; these are known as UMF, or Unique Manuka Factors.  It is these properties that make manuka honey stand head and shoulders above the crowd.  I always keep a jar on the shelf and it has many, many healing benefits both internal and external.  Though I do appreciate that using it in the summer, on a horses wounds would probably attract the flies and wasps; maybe adding some wound fly repellent or bandaging, if the wound is on a leg.


13. Manuka Honey

Ray would like to tell you of his experience with manuka honey on open wounds.  A Clydesdale stallion that was little handled cut a gash on his leg.  I bought a jar UMF 10 manuka honey and applied it three times a day.  I just walked up to his back leg and gently smeared a thick amount on.  This is a horse you couldnít get a halter on, as he wasnít broken in, though he seemed aware I was there to help him and let me apply it.  I did this for three or four days and then I did it twice a day for a few more days eventually going to once a day.  During the last two or three days, he started getting progressively ancy about me applying it, allowing me a brief opportunity to get it on.  Then he just wouldnít let me near him.  He knew he was now okay. 

The wound never became infected, the antibiotics in the honey was healing it and the honey is also a deterrent to flies.  You donít need to bandage or cover it, just apply and leave.   There are no scars to see, though the hair didnít grow back quite as thick in that place.  Cheaper than, and I think more effective than, some of the antibiotics that the vet seems to offer.  The wound never looked back and I would not hesitate to use manuka honey again.


14. Feeding Pills

I am sure that we have all had 'fun' feeding medication to our horses: MSM powder sandwiches, apples spiked with wormer (that we scraped off our cheek because it escaped from the syringe in the routine struggle), treacle flavoured with 'bute', and so on.  We had a new challenge with Nenagh trying to feed her with Pergolide pills, which she could spot in every handful of treats that we tied; she would manage to spit out the pill whilst nonchalantly eating the rest!  After grovelling around in wet grass a few times trying to retrieve them, I hit on the idea of hiding the pills in spearmint treats because she really loves them:

  • Drill a suitable hole in the treat (photos 1 and 2) and push the pill well inside (photos 3 and 4). 

In this case, a 6.6mm drill made a hole that was just right for a snug fit but, if the only suitable drill that you have is a bit larger, then a dob of butter or treacle should keep it in.


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If you have a really useful, time saving or just plain neat idea that you'd like to pass on to others, just let me know by sending me an e-mail, preferably with a picture to illustrate it, and I'll include it here with an acknowledgement.