Keep your horse comfortable and safe in the cold months!
Cold weather has been slowly creeping its way around the country, and while many of us have had a relatively mild winter so far, there is still some rough weather to come.
As I walked around the barn today after the first real snow and freeze of the season, I got to thinking about winterizing the barn and how we can make things easier on ourselves going forward. Here’s a few tips on getting your barn in top winter shape. This is by no means a comprehensive or exclusive list, so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
1. Beat the Ice
Frozen pipes, buckets and hoses are the worst. Some barns have the added feature of heated buckets and spigots, but if this is not an option, you’ll want to at least be prepared. To start, unhooking the hose from the spigot each night after draining all excess water from it will go a long way. This prevents ice from forming inside the hose and spigot.
A friend of mine has this nifty freezeproof spigot on her farm, and I think it’s definitely a worthwhile investment to prevent a huge headache when you can’t get any water from a frozen faucet.
Horse & Rider has a handy list of other ways to keep your pipes unfrozen during the winter, which you can check out here.
2. Keep Your Horses Hydrated
Some horses, mine included, aren’t super thirsty in the winter. Last year, I was running out to the barn during the day to give my horse warm water to prevent dehydration. After a suggestion to add salt to his feed, I found that he was much more willing to drink regular water. It’s important to keep your horses drinking during the colder months, so salt, Kool-Aid or Gatorade powder is often helpful.
3. Don’t Leave the Door Open
One of the most infuriating things after a good icing is the fact that your barn door is frozen. It’s hard to unseat a frozen, heavy barn door when it’s set in its ways. A good way to prevent this from happening is to ensure that the ground surrounding the barn door is clear. Cutting down on excess mud and debris will give the door less to stick to when it’s frozen. You’ll want to also ensure that the gutters and draining system on your barn are up to date and not in need of repair — this will help prevent melting snow and ice from collecting (and freezing) in the wrong places. Plus, your horses will thank you for not leaving the door open at night!
4. Keep the Ice Skating to a Minimum
There’s not a lot scarier than watching your horse slip and slide like a drunken ice dancer on the walk from the pasture to the barn. Horses’ hooves can get packed with snow and ice easily, leaving them with little defense to gain traction on a slippery surface. Packed snow can cause, among other things, sole bruising, so it’s important to keep your horse’s hooves clean as much as possible.
Some people suggest using cooking oil or vaseline on the sole to help keep snow from collecting, but these do require frequent reapplication. If your horse has shoes, there are also options for additional padding to help prevent snow build-up. What works for one does not always work for all, so keep in mind some different options when figuring out what is best for your horse.
5. Remember the Mental Health
It’s very easy to get bored during the winter. You’re stuck in the indoor — or you’re stuck without riding, period, if you don’t have an indoor — and we all know how monotonous that can get. So remember, if you’re bored, your horse might be as well. Keep things interesting — change your jump course regularly, find some good groundwork exercises, teach your horse something new. Mental stimulation is every bit as important as physical exercise, and this will keep your horse attentive to your aids. Here’s a useful list of “barn aisle exercises” you can work on this winter with your horse.
We’d love to hear your tips on beating winter! You can comment below and add in your suggestion! Go (Winter) Riding, and Go Fleeceworks!