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Barn Ice Management Solutions
 By Winniefield Park   •   6th Mar 2019   •   582 views   •   0 comments


This has turned into one of the iciest winters Iíve seen in a long time. Many horse owners are worried about the safety of their paddocks for people and horses. There have been quite a few news stories of horses rescued from icy ponds, or simply doing Bambi sprawls in their paddock and needing emergency rescue to regain their feet.

You can shovel snow and go at it with a snow blower, but ice is harder to move. Ideally, a good layer of heavy snowfalls over it and melts into it a bit so itís not so slippery. Or a thaw dissolves it all together. But, mother nature rarely plays fair, leaving us with days of skating rinks where they arenít wanted. This has left many of us wondering how to keep our horses, and ourselves safe.

Ideally, you need to find a way to make the footing less slippery, without putting something on the ice thatís bad for the environment, your horse and other pets. This means salt, like they put down on sidewalks and roadways. I have heard of one person who in desperation had a company come and spread salt. There are a few problems with putting salt down. If itís used in grassy areas, it can kill the grass. It can damage cement and metal items such as plumbing and gates. Is salt bad for a horseís hooves? It may dry them out a bit, but otherwise it shouldnít be a big problem. It will hurt your dogís feet, and itís a mess if it gets tracked into your house. On the upside, itís pretty cheap and easy to sprinkle where itís needed.

If you really need to melt the ice, there are other de-icers that are easier on plants and wonít affect an animalís feet. Unfortunately, they arenít easier on your budget. Look for deicers that are non-toxic and safe for plants.

There are things you can put down that are not as hard on your pasture plants as salt. These wonít melt the ice, but will provide some traction. My daughter heats her home with a wood stove. This means behind the woodshed, there is a large pile of unfrozen wood ashes. She has been sprinkling the approaches to the waterer and gates with a thin layer of wood ashes.

Kitty litter can be used in slippery spots and will decompose into the soil once the ice is gone. Or you could buy a few bags of sand. You can store some in the fall, or you can buy it. It gives some traction, but doesnít really melt it. And, it can freeze hard in lumps if it has any moisture in it, so it can be a pain in the neck to spread. We keep sealed bags of sandbox play sand in the back of the truck for stability on icy roads and use them when we need to sand slippery spots.

I have used manure and bedding to give more traction on slippery areas. Itís cheap, harmless but messy. It also insulates the ice, so when there is a thaw, the ice beneath the manure path stay frozen much longer. Hay and manure is a pretty good insulator. Iíve seen ice remain will into the early days of summer covered with hay and manure around a feeder.

Simply covering the ice up with boards or mats only works until those things are covered in ice themselves. And they can present a hazard if they slip on the ice as you or a horse steps on them.

Ideally, youíll prevent ice before it forms. This is done by paying attention to the runoff and drainage around your buildings and paddocks, and piling snow where it isnít going to cause puddles when a thaw comes. But, often, the ice falls directly out of the sky. So you do the best you can to keep your paddocks de-iced and if you can, keep horses in as long as itís too dangerous. Then, be prepared with deicers that do minimum damage to grounds, horses, pets and wallets.

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