What season is it in your part of the world? I am technically in the later part of Fall. But it sure is feeling like Winter. Cold, wet, windy. Pretty soon, my backyard will look like the photo above, taken on the last day of December in 2017.
It may not be official yet on the calendar, but when my horse-water tubs start to freeze at night, I know the coldest, darkest days are just around the corner. I spent last week and weekend doing Winter preparation.
To start things off on the right hoof, I got in an enjoyable and productive ride on both Shiloh and Piper. It was a cold but mercifully sunny day. We had something new to look at during our rides as the harvest was in full swing with all the combines/trucks out and about.
I am happy to report that neither Shiloh nor Piper seemed upset by the commotion. I recall that Bear used to be very difficult to ride during harvest time as he was afraid of the large vehicles and all the related noise. Those repeated previous experiences now leave me wondering how any horse that I ride will handle those situations.
While it may not be my final at-home-ride day of the year, it was likely one of the last. The combination of cold-wind-clouds-frozen/muddy ground in my area typically makes regular riding outside painfully uncomfortable for me. I usually am not able to ride at home again with any consistency until almost May.
Since the rest of the week didn’t look promising for backyard riding, I then tackled other items on my Winter prep list:
Item #1 Move horse trailer to its Winter storage position
I don’t think I’ve ever hauled a horse between December and February. In an emergency, though, I might decide to take the horse(s) to the vet clinic rather than wait for a vet to arrive to my property. I want the trailer easy to access but somewhat protected from weather and out of the way for visitors. In good weather, it’s easy to run outside and move the horse trailer at the last minute so the farrier can easily park his truck. In bad weather, when I have to wade through snow drifts to get to the trailer, moving it becomes a major chore. Better to move it out of the way now. And lookie here, I got the ball lined up just right on the first try! Why doesn’t that happen on a warm Summer day when I am excited to hook up the trailer and go for a ride?
Item #2 Take all liquid barn products into the house
Those of you with a more traditional barn may not have this issue. But I have to bring all those bottles of liquid into my house so they don’t freeze in my open air barn. Tack cleaner, fly sprays, mane detangler and shampoo can all freeze and bust out of their containers. It creates a wasteful mess that I learned to avoid by organizing an annual migration for all my barn potions and lotions.
Item #3 Organize Barn Area and Count Supplies
The end of my at-home-riding season is a great time to dig through my tack and equipment bins. It reminds me of items I previously set aside to be repaired or replaced. It allows me to count what I still have left over. And to realize what I need to restock. I take special note of items that I use more often during Winter, trying to make sure I have enough on hand to last through a Winter weather storm. Sometimes getting to my local feed store or Tractor Supply Store is difficult or downright dangerous during those times. Having enough hay on hand is an absolute must. Also things like bedding and stall deodorizer for my run-in-shed. In good weather, the horses tend to do their business away from the run-in shed. But in cold, snowy, windy weather, I am regularly cleaning up big messes in and around the shed as they spend more time around the shelter.
Item #4 Set up water tank with heater
Without a way to heat my water tanks, my horses’ water consumption would plummet. Unheated water tanks will freeze over in December and not thaw out until March in my area. Read almost any literature about colic in horses during Winter, and it will inevitably mention lack of water as a major contributing factor.
The one situation that I have not been able to resolve to my satisfaction yet? My on-again-off-again quest to buy a second run-in-shed before Winter. I’ve been fortunate that after almost twenty years, I’ve had up to four horses all be able to use the one run-in-shed equitably. But my newest horse, Piper, is not as apt to share. I’ve been waffling about whether or not to get a second shed. Piper’s resource guarding behavior has waxed and waned since he arrived, leading me to wonder if a second shed is actually necessary or not. Another complicating factor is that all the recent wet weather is not conducive to bringing in large equipment to prep a site and bring in a heavy shed. Way too much soft ground and mud. So my plans are still in limbo and may realistically need to wait until next year.
What about you? Do you live in an area with formidable Winters? Are you ready? Preparation doesn’t help us avoid all disasters. All the same, doing as much as you can ahead of time will give you the peace of having some resources in place and at the ready for what can be a long and harsh season around the barn.