Well, it’s happened, winter finally came. I knew it would get here eventually. Why does it seem just before we are all about ready to pull our hair out in anticipation of better weather the below freezing temperatures show up? It’s inevitable I guess.
Thankfully we are at the end of winter, and not the beginning!
It may not look that cold outside, but right now, at the time of writing this, the thermometer is reading about 3 degrees Fahrenheit. And this is just the beginning of the Artic blast of cold that is coming our way. Tomorrow night it’s supposed to be -10 degrees. Now that’s cold!
And with the weather being so frigidly cold, I thought I would share some of the things I am doing to help keep my senior horses warm and content during this cold spell.
Winter Time Horse Care Hacks
I decided to call this winter time equestrian hacks because, well anything I can do to get my horses safely through subzero temperatures, well, I’m going to do it. And maybe these tips will help you and your horses too.
You Can Lead A Horse To Water
The biggest challenge for me when the temperature drops into the negative is to keep the water, water. It important to make sure your horse has access to water at all times.
Did you know there was a study done that showed most horses prefer their drinking water to be around 40 degrees? Yep, there really was a study done to prove what temperature horses prefer their drinking water to be.
And there are a couple of ways I do this….
If you are going to consider a tank heater for your water tank, make sure you get the right one. For example my water tank is rubber. That means I need to make sure the heater is safe for rubber tanks.
The heater I have is a floating tank heater/deicer. And it works very well. I have had it for 3 seasons now, and it’s still going strong, thankfully. There is nothing worse than coming outside and seeing your horses water tank frozen.
Keeping a floating (or submergible) heater in the water tank is a great way to limit the amount of ice that forms. For my set up, we don’t have electricity in our barn. So I run a heavy duty extension cord from the tank to my little barn, and then an even heavier duty extension cord from the little barn to our garage.
The further the electricity has to travel from the electric source, the thicker the cord needs to be.
The difference between outdoor extension cords and indoor extension cords is construction based on use. Most indoor cords are generally thinner, shorter and less powerful than outdoor options. Outdoor extension cords are designed with a thick, durable layer of protective insulation. They can also come in much longer lengths and carry more current. Outdoor extension cords fall into three broad categories:
- Occasional use cords are suitable for smaller projects and tools.
- Frequent use cords can handle larger tools and equipment and heavier use.
- Rugged cords are designed for continual use on job sites, even in extreme weather, and are suitable for high-amperage tools.
Choosing the best outdoor extension cord or indoor cord relies on understanding how amperage, cord length and gauge ratings work together. Each one of these attributes affects the performance and power of an extension cord. And while I am no expert when it comes to electricity, I do know I want to keep my horses and my home safe. So here is a little more information on the basics of extension cords.
Winter Time Equestrian Hacks
Amperage is how much power (or amps) a cord is made to handle. For example, high-amperage appliance extension cords are designed to carry 20 amps or more.
All extension cords have an AWG (American wire gauge) rating. This rating is a standardized wire gauge system for measuring electrical wire. A lower AWG number indicates a thicker wire and a higher capacity. The lower the number, the higher the cord’s capacity to deliver power. Gauge is typically listed along with the number of conducting wires in the cord. For example, a 14/3 cord contains 14-gauge wire and has three conductions inside.
Extension cord lengths determine the cord’s power capacity. Every extra foot of cord increases the electrical resistance. This decreases the power the cord can deliver to connected devices. For best results, use the shortest extension cord possible.
Lots of Water Sources
I have the big shared water tank between my horses pens. This is where I keep the tank heater, and it’s outside.
But I also have a water source inside as well. Unfortunately, this water source is not heated, nor automatic.
However, I have found a way to keep the water inside their stalls unfrozen too, thanks to bucket insulators. At first, I didn’t really understand how to use a bucket insulator. But with trial and error (mostly error) I figured out how they work.
To make these work, you need to add warm water. Then the insulator works by keeping the water within it, warm. It does take a little extra work because I have to fill it the bucket with hot water, and then take it out to the stalls. But it’s worth the extra work, especially when I know my horses will be able to have access to their water.
This picture is from this morning. It is 3 degrees outside, and from me filling this bucket insulator with hot tap water the night before, around 6:00 PM, this is the amount of ice that was in the water this moring.
Frisby seems to enjoy the warm water. And I know he drinks more when the water is warm. And he enjoys having the water inside next to his hay.
Plezant on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to care. He will drink a sip or too from the bucket, but he doesn’t drink nearly as much as Frisby does. But I like knowing there is a second water source, just in case.
Once I figured out the bucket insulators, I am really glad I bought them. They weren’t cheap, but they were definitely worth the investment. And I like that I can simply replace the bucket that goes inside of it.
Keep Them Warm From The Inside Out
If you are worried about your horse staying warm during long periods of cold weather, a good option is to give him extra hay. Feeding high quality hay is a good way to keep your horse warm, from the inside.
When our horses eat, the digesting of hay helps to provide heat (warmth) for the horse. And the longer they are eating, the longer they will stay warm. This is why I like to use hay nets.
Sure, there are those who feel feeding from hay nets is not a good thing to do. However if I want to encourage my horses to eat, and for their hay to stay debris free, I find hay nets help a lot.
There are different types of hay nets, and my favorite for Frisby, who is a very greedy eater is the Shires Deluxe Hay Net. I think the biggest reason I like these is because of the little metal rings that make the net easier to extend out when I’m filling them.
But the last a really long time. I am still using the first ones I bought 3 or 4 years ago, and they are still working great.
I do have regular ‘hole’ size hay nets too for Plezant. He is not nearly as greedy about food. So I can hang one of these is his pen, or stall, and he will make the hay last.
For Plezant, the Regular Poly Hay Nets are fine, and more affordable. And just like the Shires brand, they have held up very well.
Extra Calories And Extra Water
And during cold spells, I want to make sure my boys are getting water AND extra calories. And, I have found an excellent way to do it.
One way to make sure my horses are getting the water they need is to turn their pellets into a mash. It’s easy to do. I simply add enough water to soften the pellets, and their extras. For Frisby, I add about 2 gallons of water.
For Plezant, I add about 3 gallons of water. And when it’s really cold, I add warm water. This way I know they are getting at least 4 gallons of water a day, simply by eating their meals.
I also add in some extra calories with beet pulp. And the water that has to be added to the pulp gives them even more water. So I call that a win win!
And if your horse is sensitive to carbohydrates, like Frisby is, beet pulp is a good low sugar forage to add some extra calories which will help keep them warm during this cold spell.
Oh, and I always add in electrolytes too! It keeps them drinking when its really cold.
All Bedding Is Not Created Equal
Most of the year, I use pelletized bedding for my stalls. It is an affordable option to shavings, and it makes a nice soft bed for the horses to lie down in.
But when the temperature drops, and I mean really drops, I use straw. A bale of straw is pretty affordable here, around $6.00 a bale, and that bale will fill my 10 x 12 stall.
The chickens like it too, so I fill their house, and their igloo with straw too.
Straw retain heat better than sawdust or shavings. It is a complete pain in the rear end to clean out. But if my horses stay warm, it’s worth it to me.
Winter Time Horse Care Hacks
I hope you and your horses are staying warm during this Arctic blast. Hopefully some of these ‘hacks’ will help give you peace of mind that your horses will be content, and warm until spring really gets here!