Surviving The Winter
 By Winniefield Park   •   5th Jan 2016   •   1,160 views   •   0 comments

I was chatting with my dogís vet recently, and although she is a small animal veterinarian, she also has a stable full of horses. She was asking what I did in the winter and did I ride much. I told her I did ride in the arena on the mild days, but I also downhill ski and snowshoe. She however said that after an hour and a half of chores each morning and evening, sheís glad to stay indoors for the rest of the time. Winter she said, triples the time it takes to get anything done. And the last two winters have been particularly trying.

So, how does a horse person survive the wintery-est weather? Itís worth taking some time before the snow flies to get ready. Of course, youíre going to have a good stock of feed and bedding put away so you donít find supplies short on a day when itís difficult to drive anywhere. Any farm machinery you use, especially your tractor and scoop or snow blower should be kept in good repair. All the jumps and other stuff like barrels and poles should be put away so they donít become hidden hazards under the snow. Fences should be checked regularly. And, all winter rugs, heated buckets and waterers, and other pieces of equipment that you count on to work in the winter should be checked well before the cold weather hits.

If there is a drifting hazard around your paddocks that blocks gates or doors, consider putting up a few lengths of snow fencing. Even a few bales of straw laid out in a line can help divert the drifts. And if you have underground pipe that freezes easily, a few bales of straw laid on top of the ground the length of the pipeís run can prevent it from icing up.

When the weather dips below freezing, it can be really hard to get yourself out the door. Itís tempting to just slip on any old pair of boots, a coat and try to rush through looking after your horses as quickly as possible before you freeze to death. But, this is how you make mistakes and make yourself miserable. I find a pair of insulated coveralls the handiest thing to hop into to head to the barn in. Good gloves or mittens are essential. A hat that you can pull down to protect your face is handy when the wind whips up. I donít care for scarves in the stable because they strike me as a tangling hazard.

And good boots - warm, with a heavy tread, but not too heavy in weight are a must. The ones everyone tends to wear around here are like rubber boots on the bottom, with a more flexible fabric up the leg. That way, your feet donít get soaked walking through an icey, and possibly manure polluted puddle.

When horses are stabled more during the winter, it means youíll spend more time stall cleaning. Some people like to clean every day. But some people deep bed, and only clean at the end of the season. There are pros and cons to both methods. Sometimes itís helpful to remember what good exercise stall cleaning is and itís one way to stay warm when youíre out in the stable.

Winter means the days are short and often dull. Good lighting in your stable will help you get your work done safely, and make the job seem less gloomy. There are lots of great battery operated LED lanterns that can supplement stable lighting that isnít quite as bright as youíd like.

Even if you canít ride as much as youíd like, thereís still lots you can do with your horse. While youíre cleaning, you can take quick breaks to clicker train. You can work on ground manners. It sometimes takes some creativity, but I think itís important to actually do something with your horse rather than just the chores it takes to look after it.

Winter has its challenges for the horse owner, but it really only takes some planning to get around most. Staying safe, staying warm are the biggest two. And, remembering who weíre doing it for makes it more worthwhile.
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