Northerners might mock us, but we have our own problems, okay?
Admittedly, I have been a southern gal my whole life. I was once invited to go skiing — an invitation I promptly denied — where I asked, “You know snow is cold, right?” So when I see beautiful pictures of snow capped hills and tobogganed people, they might as well have been taken in Narnia.
I’m not alone in my sentiment. Houston, Texas had a blizzard last winter. Honest truth — schools were closed, generators were bought, and chaos ran rampant on the streets. It looked like this…
But us southerners have our own set of woes. First off let’s talk mud, because every time it snows up north it rains down here.
Thrush prevention becomes a regular part of my daily routine November through February. I also dry my horse’s pastern area and coronet band at least once a day and check for any signs of scratches. Product I love: No-Thrush. It is an all-natural, dry, powder formula with cornstarch consistency. You think it won’t stay in the hoof, but it does… even on horses like mine with 24/7/365 turnout access.
Speaking of inappropriate wetness, sweating can be a problem this time of year. Temperatures average 60 degrees Fahrenheit in December, which sounds dandy until you realize your horse has a full winter coat. Fun fact: Horses grow winter coats in response to less daylight hours not lowering temperatures. Clipping is the absolute best way to get around this problem. I do a low trace clip, which keeps my horse cool on the sweaty zones and warm everywhere else. For more info on clips check out this fact sheet.
The biggest problem with southern winters can be summed up in two three words: polar freakin’ vortex.
So, you are riding along in a long sleeved shirt because it is sunny and 62 degrees. All is good with the world, but then a light breeze picks up. Twenty minutes later the temperature has dropped 20 to 30 degrees. For two long days, the temperatures hover just above freezing. Then, as if by magic, the temperatures return to the high 70’s.
This is not theoretical. It happened here in Texas last week.
When temperatures fluctuate, blanketing becomes a game of Russian roulette. Equestrians become OCD about checking weather forecasts. I once had to have my husband leave work to remove turnouts at 10 am because the temperature rose 40 degrees in three hours.
Through all of this, you have to laugh to keep from crying. My #1 survival tip is to feed the highest quality forage you can afford free choice. Even without blankets, a horse with plenty of food and adequate shelter will be just fine. I know when a front is moving in because my horses start eating whole bales of hay at a time… digestion keeps them warm ya’know. I also increase my horse’s Omega-3 supplements, for antioxidant support. Senior horse owners might look into supplements specifically designed to increase senior immunity, because hot to cold to hot to wet weather can really do a number on an immune system.
Got any more tips for surviving the “brutal” southern winters? Shout out in the comments section!