The recent cold snap definitely let us know that winter is here. Most horse owners know that icy ground is just one more thing we get to worry about. Here are some tips to help keep your horses safe when the ground freezes over:
How much ice you get each winter and how you deal with it depends on where you live. Some stables live with ice all winter, while others only have to deal with it for a few days or weeks. Regardless of how long the slippery stuff is around, keeping your horses safe is a key concern.
Action step to take in the fall before the ground freezes:
- Install gutters and direct water away from doorways, horse paths and paddocks. Already have gutters?Make sure they are clean and functional before winter weather hits.
- Create trenches that will drain water away from traffic areas, gates and doorway.
- Identify a source of pet-friendly ice melt and purchase in the fall before winter weather sets in. Keep it in a handy place and remember a little goes a long way.
- Order a load of sand from your local farm supply store or landscape supply company. Spreading sand is a great way to increase traction on icy surfaces.
- Clear away and level the dirt around gates so that when the ground freezes gates will easily open and swing.
- Put gravel on both sides of your gates to encourage drainage and reduce mud that holds water, which leads to icing.
- Work with your horse on ground manners before winter sets in so they will walk quietly and behave on icy surfaces.
Action steps to take when the ground is icy:
- Avoid emptying water buckets and water tanks where ice can accumulate in traffic area.
- Regularly remove snow from paths and gateways.
- When clearing snow with a shovel, plow or snow blower, pile snow in an area where the runoff won’t impact high traffic areas, if possible.
- Spread grit, clay kitty litter or sand, or a mixture of pet-safe ice melt and sand over high traffic areas. Avoid putting dry shavings or straw on top of ice since they don’t offer traction and may increase the risk of a slip and fall.
- In a pinch, manure (muck) from stalls can be put over ice. One big drawback of using muck is that it needs to be cleaned up as soon as the temperatures begin to rise. If left in place in warmer weather, muck will retain water and create a muddy mess.
- Remove snow and ice from your horse’s hooves before walking on icy areas to reduce the risk of slipping.
- In areas with long, icy winters, discuss different shoeing options with your farrier.
Important note: Horses love salt, so don’t spread commercial ice melts or salt and sand mixtures where a horse is tempted to eat it.
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