Winter is Coming!
We had our first official snow this past week. And that got me thinking about helping others get prepared, preparing for winter time horse care in advance for what ever storms are headed our way this winter. We were lucky with this storm. It did get really cold, about a 65 degree temperature change in 24 hours, but there wasn’t a ton of snow.
I still have the memory of last year’s bomb cyclone that I was not prepared for. And after that, I vowed to never be unprepared for the weather again.
When the weather turns cold, it is really important to have a plan for how you will care for your horse. It doesn’t matter if your horse lives outside, or in a barn, you still need to be prepared.
Think about this, what if you are snowed in for a week, and can’t get to the feed store? What if your power goes out, and you can’t get water to your horse? And of course, we can’t forget some sort of shelter, or protection for your horse. These are all the things you need to think about BEFORE the weather turns bad. So lets start planning for the bad weather now.
I pay attention to the weather this time of year more than ever. I stalk the weather channel app on my phone looking over the long term forecasts to see what the weather predictions hold for the upcoming two weeks. And when there is a projected storm coming, I like to make sure I have an idea of what the temperatures are going to be, as well as any potential for snow, and wind.
Hay and Grain
After the bomb cyclone last year, I make sure to have a stock pile of everything my horse eats. Meaning I have at least a 1 month supply of hay, supplements, and feed. Frisby doesn’t get grain per say, but he does get Triple Crown Senior feed, which I treat like grain.
And when the weather is predicted to get bad, I make sure to have enough to get through that predicted time frame, and extra if I am able too. And hay is the most important thing to have a supply of.
If the weather gets really cold, and you are worried about your horse getting cold, give them extra hay, not grain. If your horse has a constant supply of hay in front of him, it will help to keep him warm. It is best to have a high quality grass hay. And to keep the horse eating for a longer period of time, you some sort of a slow feeder.
I like to use the slow feed hay nets. My favorite ones are the Shires brand slow feed hay nets. They have metal rings at the top, making it easy to close the nets up, as well as to open them. They last forever, and are worth the cost of $14.00 per hay net. The hay nets helps to reduce wasted hay, as well as making my horse eat slower. The idea is to keep them eating hay for longer periods of time, and the slow feed hay nets really help to accomplish this.
I will typically put a hay net in his stall, as well as hanging one out in his paddock. This way I know he will have enough hay to keep him busy for at least 6 or 7 hours.
I have a rather large collection of hay nets. And I like to keep them full, and still have extra hay, just in case. It’s not like the hay is going to go bad, and I will end up using it eventually. And if I have 24 hay nets filled, and ready to go, and still have 10 or 12 bales of hay, I don’t have to worry about running out of hay.
The most important thing to consider when getting your hay is where are you going to store it? I have my hay stacked on pallets in a storage barn that doubles as my tack room too. And if you don’t have a set up like this, or a barn to store your hay, consider buying a small storage shed to use as your hay barn. The hay needs to stay dry and be up off the floor in order to make it last. With a little planning on your part, you can make this happen, you just have to get creative.
As for my ‘grain’ (aka senior complete horse feed) and alfalfa cubes, I store these in galvanized trash cans. This helps to keep mice and other critters out of my grain. And I keep these storage containers right next to my hay, so everything is easily accessed.
All of Frisby’s supplements are kept in storage containers as well, to keep pests out of them.
Your horse needs water, regardless of the time of year. But wintertime in Colorado presents some challenges for keeping the water clear of ice, as well as keeping the water tank full. There have been may times when I have been lazy, and not kept the water tank full, or the weather has prevented me from hooking up the hose (because I left it outside and it froze) so I have resorted to getting buckets from the barn, and filling the water tank from my kitchen sink.
This is easily preventable by simply keeping the hose protected from freezing and keeping it somewhere warm as well as blowing the water out of it after it has been used. I have to say though I have gotten MUCH better about keeping the water tank full, so I don’t have to lug 50 lb buckets of water from my kitchen sink all the way out to Frisby’s tank.
And there is also a 5 gallon bucket hanging inside his stall.
I do have bucket insulators, which probably help some, but the water still freezes in his stall. So I keep spare buckets so I can switch out the 5 gallon ice cube for water that Frisby can actually drink from.
I like having the bucket in his stall, next to the hay hanger and his feed bucket so I have multiple sources of water for him to drink from.
Another thing that you really should have for your water tank is a tank heater. They are worth their purchase price because your horse will be able to access his water in even the coldest conditions of winter. I bought mine for about $45.00 and it has lasted 2 years so far. My water tank is the heavy rubber plastic type, and this heater is safe for it. I always get this style of tank heater and find that it lasts the longest if I only use it when I need to.
I don’t have electricity in my barn, so we have to run an extension cord to the tank heater all the way from our garage. And this is a loooooong way. Because of this, I make sure to use a heavy duty extension cord that is a heavier gauge. The heavier gauge is very important if you are running an extension cord a long way, because the lower gauge of the cord, the better it will protect. Have you ever felt an extension cord get warm? It’s a little scary, because it could cause a fire. So invest in the lowest gauge cord you can, especially if you have to run the cord over 50 feet. They aren’t cheap, but they are worth it.
We have a 10 gauge 100 foot cord that we use that we have buried in a trench that runs from the barn to our garage. It cost $108.00 on Amazon, but it has lasted 2 years, and it always has out fence charger plugged in. I have a 12 gauge extension cord that I run from my little barn to the tank heater, and I only use that cord when the weather is below freezing. Tank heaters take a LOT of electricity, so using a lower gauge cord is really important. #safetyfirst
Having a horse blanketed for the colder weather is a seriously debated topic. And I am of the opinion that you need to do what is right for you and your horse. For myself, and my horse, I have blankets. And because Frisby is the blanket terminator, I have lots of spare parts from blankets he has destroyed in previous years. But I keep them all. I also have several blankets that are pretty much Frisby proof, thankfully.
But as he has gotten older, it is hard for him to keep his weight in the winter. So I do blanket him. But his blanket needs are different, depending on the weather. If the temperature is above freezing, he doesn’t wear a blanket. Below freezing, but no wind, or snow, he wears a waterproof, windproof, and breathable lightweight turnout blanket with 80 grams of fill. He wears this one most of the time. But when the weather gets severe, he has a 300 gram fill heavy blanket that he wears.
But I always keep an eye on him, even with that super heavy duty blanket.
He was wearing that super heavy duty blanket during the bomb cyclone, and the wind and snow were so severe that even that blanket froze (literally) and I had to piece together 2 layers of blankets to get him warm. He was shivering, even in the heaviest of heavy winter blankets.
This is why I keep all of my old blankets. Because you just never know what can happen. And it’s nice to have a spare blanket or two in case you need to change them out.
I also like that the blankets keep him clean!
And since he will be wearing a blanket a lot this winter, I also like having an under blanket, or shoulder protector on to protect him from being rubbed by the blanket.
It isn’t 100% necessary, but it is nice to have. Rambo makes a shoulder slinky that is affordable at around $45.00 and it really helps to protect your horse from being rubbed by the blanket.
If you have your horse at home, he really should have some sort of shelter. Even if it is something like mine, and just a three-sided shelter. I have turned my loafing shed into 2 stalls with paddocks. I really want to put a sliding door on the front, but I haven’t done that yet.
But even with the shelter, sometimes the snow gets in, which is why I want to have a large sliding door! The benefit of having one horse, and two stalls is that if there is a blizzard again this year, I can move him to the stall that doesn’t get as much snow inside. In the past I have put up a snow fence to help keep the snow out, and it works, but not as well as a barn door would.
But having even a three sides shelter allows the horse to get out of the elements, if he so chooses to do so.
Ok, so this isn’t a necessity, but it is really nice to have. I have set up light strings in my stalls as well as in my tack/feed room. I use LED low watt bulbs, and they put off a lot of light. True, it isn’t necessary, and is more of a luxury. However, these lights have proved invaluable when I need to check on my horse, or in the past when I have had the vet out at night, they are super helpful.
And not only for emergencies, just for being able to see! I come home after dark during the winter, and it’s nice to be able to see what I’m doing when mixing feed, or getting hay nets out to feed.
And something new that I am working on in anticipation of the COTH Lose the Leathers challenge for November is making a riding area that is lit. So when I get home at night, I will be able to ride for a bit while its dark. All in, this riding arena light set up is going to cost me around $100.00. And I am super excited to get this project done, so I can share it with you.
Just imaging being able to ride at night, because you have a light system set up1 How cool would that be?
I promise, I will post the full instructions when I am done, I think you will really like it!
Cold Weather Gear
Ok, now that we have the horse part all taken care of, we can’t forget about ourselves, right? I mean, you have to be warm to get out there and do chores, as well as feeding, and spending time with your horse right?
I have many pair of winter gloves. Like an entire drawer full of them. And hands down, the best winter gloves I have ever had are made by SSG. They are called SSG Work ‘N Horse Riding Gloves and they are my most favorite pair of winter gloves. They keep my hands warm, but still allow me to feel. SO I can ride, or put a blanket on, tie a hay net or saddle my horse all while my hands stay warm.
They don’t last forever, after about a year the fleece on the inside wears down and I can feel the cold. But they will last a complete winter season, unlike some other gloves I have bought. And maybe it’s because I’m a wimp. But I hate having cold hands.
These aren’t cheap gloves, but anything worth having aren’t going to be cheap. You get what you pay for right?
But these are definitely worth their price, especially if you spend a lot of time outside. They run around $27.00 on Amazon, and they can be hard to find. So when I am able to find them, I buy a couple pair.
There are lots of different choices for outwear. And because this post is so long already, I am going to do another blog post about this topic. I was able to put together a fantastic (and warm) riding outfit for fall that I want to share with you. So be on the look out for that post, coming soon!