It happens every year, and yet it still seems that most horse people are surprised when winter weather really sets in. Days of snow, slippery footing, and freezing temperatures are all an unfortunate symptom of the winter season, but with a few tricks, you can make caring for horses in the winter less of a chore!
If you’re one of the lucky facilities that have hot water on demand, count your blessings. For many, hot water is a commodity, and often a necessity, during winter. Store a crockpot or instant hot kettle in the barn, so you can create warm mashes for feeding, have access to hot water for grooming and tack cleaning, and much more!
Your own body heat can go a long way when trying to complete winter tasks around the farm. Blow on frozen gate chains to help thaw them. Tuck your cold hands around your neck to quickly heat them back up. Your body heat can benefit your horse too! Hang the bridle around your neck and tuck it into your coat while tacking up to keep the bit warm.
If going to the barn means walking outside your house, plan to throw your coat, gloves and hat in the dryer ten minutes before walking out the front door. The extra warmth will be worth the extra hassle! You can also preheat your winter gear if you commute to the barn, by turning on heated seats or directing hot air vents over your hat and gloves.
Cold hands are one of the worst feelings, especially as you try to complete tasks and it feels like your fingers aren’t responding! Try using hunting mittens when working around the barn to keep your hands warmer and reduce the amount of time you spend taking gloves off and on. These mittens are a fingerless glove and mitten combo, where the mitten can flip back off your fingers so you can quickly perform tasks before covering them again.
You can also use hand warmers to help keep your hands toasty. A great trick to reduce the number of hand warmers you go through, is to store them tightly in a ziplock bag after use. By removing all the air from the bag and zipping it completely closed, you can reuse hand warmers multiple times before they lose their heat!
There’s nothing worse in the winter than going to turn on a hose and no water coming out. No one wants to play the “what part of the water system is frozen” game. Be sure to unhook all hoses and stretch them out to drain in the warmest part of your barn or out in the sun after each use. Cut lengthwise down a foam pool noodle and slide it over pipes to help insulate them during cold spells. In extremely cold weather, you can move your manure pile over your buried outdoor pipes to act as another layer of ground insulation.
Invest in heated water buckets when possible to ensure your horses have access to drinking water. You can add some extra insulation to regular buckets by placing the bucket into a larger bucket and padding the areas underneath and in between with straw or bubble wrap.
While many horses love to play outside in the snow, it can lead to a few frustrations for horse owners. If you’ve never been hit with a horse tail full of snow and ice – it hurts! Consider wrapping your horse’s tail up in a mud knot to keep it dry. You can also cover the knot with an old sock for extra protection!
If you find that snow balls up in your horses hooves, use cooking spray or grooming oil on the bottom of his feet to help reduce snow buildup. Too much buildup of snow in the hooves can cause your horse to be unbalanced and increase the risk of an injury.
Just as you want to bundle yourself up, you also want to make sure your blankets are capable of keeping your horse comfortable! Holes in blankets let wet weather in and cause your horse to lose a lot of body heat. Be sure to patch blankets as holes appear. Dental floss is a great option for patching blankets as it’s stronger than normal thread. You can also use duct tape in a pinch to repel water until better patching can be done.
Winter can be a great time to organize your facility! Everything from catching up on records, handling billing and planning the next year’s show season can all be done from a warm office! Consider a tool like Stable Secretary to help make running your farm easier in the upcoming year.
Try a few of these tips to make your winter chores less frustrating, so you can enjoy some fun winter activities with your horse like hacking in the snow. Before you know it spring will be here!
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