If you know me, or are friends with me on Facebook, you know good and well how tired I am of winter. Sure, the snow is pretty, as long as you can view it from inside your warm house. But when you have horses to take care of, winter can be a pain in the neck (literally!). And to add on top of that, winter in Kentucky can mean a variety of things. For example, you could start off with sunshine and 40 degrees, followed by rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow, and then end up with subzero temperatures all in one day! This year has proven to be no different so far, and according to Chris Bailey (@Kentuckyweather), a Lexington meteorologist, February will have its share of wild winter weather as well.
Layers, Layers, Layers! - The only way I’ve found to keep the bitter cold from chewing you up and spitting you back out is to wear multiple layers of clothing. Usually it takes me longer to get dressed to go outside than it actually does to finish my barn chores. Coveralls are your best friend! Thick boot socks are a must, along with tall rubber (and if you’re lucky enough, insulated) boots . Make sure whatever footwear you wear has rubber soles that will help you maintain your footing instead of go skating across the frozen ice and snow. And don’t forget gloves! Metal bucket handles are not nice to bare hands, especially when it’s 10 below!
a.Stock Tank Heaters - The horses on our farm that are turned out have access to large water tanks that have stock-tank heaters in them, allowing for warm, free-choice water.
b. Stalled Horses - If your horse is stalled, it’s a little trickier. We usually break the ice in the buckets and offer warm water to horses 2-3 times a day. This is more labor-intensive, but it keeps horses hydrated.
c.Turn buckets upside down and set in the sunshine for them to unthaw – this is an easy way to get ice out of buckets on sunny days when the temperature is above 20 degrees. If it’s colder than that, things usually don’t melt.
d. Bucket-Hut – We’ve also been known to unthaw frozen water buckets on our farm by using what we call a bucket hut. Basically we gather our water buckets around the dryer exhaust vent outside our house, and then surround the buckets with cardboard or some kind of insulating material. This traps the heat released by the dryer and essentially unthaws the ice. This is a very good method to use on laundry days!
Frozen Snaps – Use a lighter! If you have a horse like ours, who prefers to play in their water bucket and/or dump it, you are probably familiar with frozen snaps. This also occurs when freezing rain, sleet and snow leave the farm in a deep freeze. The simple solution: carry a lighter in your pocket. This can help quickly unthaw frozen snaps and chains. Use with caution, though, and make sure not to expose wood or bedding to the open flames.
a. Provide windbreaks and shelters for horses in pastures – Horses need a place to get in and hide from the wind, especially when the wind chill tanks.
b. Provide plenty of hay – Our horses get fed quality hay twice a day to help keep them warm. And make sure you secure your winter hay supply BEFORE winter. Hauling and unloading hay mid-winter is no fun (trust me, I know.)
c. Clean, dry bedding – Horses will stay warmer (and cleaner) if they have plenty of clean, dry bedding in their stalls.
Do you have any tips for surviving the cold and caring for horses during the winter? Feel free to share them in the comments below!