Trotting Into 2023 (But Mostly Just Trying To Survive Winter)

Greetings, dear readers! I am pleased to be back to blogging after my Christmas writing break. My backyard horses and I welcome you to 2023!

I don’t know about you, but my main focus this time of year is simply surviving another Mid-Western Winter. Bearing up under year after year of harsh Winters with a bare bones, backyard horse-care setup is my reality. It is also something that I’m physically struggling with more each year. Especially when things go wrong. Say, for example, during the December 2022 polar vortex that gripped much of the US.

I took the following photo on December 23rd, 2022. Piper is barely visible inside the shed as his bay coat tends to blend into the background. Shiloh is standing just outside at the shed opening but still under the awning. The actual temperature was minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of minus 35.

That’s pretty cold. So cold that the heater outdoor water tank kept freezing over and the outdoor water pump handle froze up. This left me having to hand-haul water from the house out to the horses. Five times a day. This went on for three days in a row until the outdoor pump started to work again on Christmas Day- best present ever!

If you’ve never experienced going outside in that type of cold, it is difficult to imagine, but I’ll try to paint you a picture.

First, see yourself putting on so many layers of clothing that your movements are slow and awkward. Each time you prepare to go feed/water the horses, you felt like you are suiting up to go into outerspace.

Then see yourself opening your back door and stepping outside, the wind immediately hitting your face as the snow kicks up all around you. The air is so cold that you soon develop what I can only describe as an “ice cream headache.”

Then after maybe ten to fifteen minutes, your feet feel so cold and heavy like your leg bones are attached to inanimate blocks. But the pain in your hands is the worst. Your fingers are so cold, painful and stiff that operating latches and clips is often impossible. Sometimes the discomfort brings tears to your eyes.

As you might imagine, dealing with all of that while hauling heavy jugs of water out to the horses five times a day was absolutely exhausting. A week after the polar vortex, I’m still feeling tired.

Shiloh and Piper, thankfully, both came through the wicked Winter weather well. I took the photo at the top of the post of them trotting about on Christmas Day when the temperatures finally rose to a comparatively balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the storm, the horse ate (I kept hay in front of them 24/7). They readily drank the water I hauled out to them. I also keep blankets at the ready in case of emergency, but I didn’t use them. I never saw either of them shiver or otherwise look chilled. The run-in shed thankfully provided adequate shelter in this case. Both Shiloh and Piper stayed healthy and in good spirits.

Yet for all my challenges of caring for horses during Winter, I can only write so many posts lamenting the difficulties I encounter. Ditto for my endless frustrations with the lack of backyard riding opportunities. Shiloh hasn’t seen a saddle since the end of November.

Likely for the remainder of Winter, therefore, I will churn out a new blog post just once a week (with perhaps a bonus post added on occasion). I am challenging myself to write about something else besides the misfortunes of caring for my horses during the Winter. We’ll see how successful I am as the season continues. My frustrations do tend to pile up like snowfall totals.

But for those of you in a similar situation, who want to commiserate about Winter horse care before I move on to explore other topics in future posts, I list some links below to posts of Winters past. They are a mix of Winter horse care tips, some standard complaints about caring for horses during Winter and important reminders that there is beauty to behold even during a harsh weather season.

Winter Barn Hack: Extending The Life of Disposable Hand Warmers

Winter Barn Hack: Help For The Reluctant Hay Eater

Does Your Horse Wear A Grazing Muzzle During Winter?

Six Ideas For What To Do If You Can’t Ride During Winter (A Guest Blog Post that I wrote for the Savvy Horsewoman Blog)

The Beauty of Horses in Snow

Fun and Festive Winter Horse-Craft

From Snow to Mud

Pea Gravel For Paddocks

20 thoughts on “Trotting Into 2023 (But Mostly Just Trying To Survive Winter)

  1. We all survived the brutal storm as well. One hack I use is to wear surgical gloves under my wool or leather gloves. It keeps hands warmer for a little while longer. Glad warmer temps are here!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so glad you made it through that bitter cold the other week without too much harm though that sounds tough hauling water! It was gruesome here in Tenn too! I mean not as bad as you but pretty cold for this area. My snot froze in my nose several times when I was out taking care of the minis. That is a new one for me in the south!! Happy New Year!!

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  3. Hi Mary Lynne,

    Happy New Year!! Sorry to read about your woes with horse care in the bitter weather. I Agree, those cold fingers, the finger tips, are the absolute worst. And the weather swings are so hard for the horses. We had one swing that changed 71 degrees in a few days. Potential colic weather. Fortunately we didn’t have that issue. But we have a few old timers 26 and 29 years old who start shivering when it hits the twenties. We have a very old place but with a fairly snug barn so all of our horses were in during this weather in Missouri. Unfortuately our electricity went out so all the water tanks froze and we turned the barn water off as well. Got cold in the house. At one point we thought we’d open the refrigerater to preserve the food! The electricity was only out for 26 hours. Lots of blankets and winter underwear helped! The minus temps get harder each year and I’m grateful so far as I can manage them. But gosh I’m looking forward to spring!

    I enjoy your website and your newsletters.

    Barbara Ellin Fox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Barbara! I enjoy reading what you write too! Man, 26 hours is a long time to go without electricity, especially when you have horses to care for. I know it is not any fun to stay layered and huddled inside your own house. Glad all your horses including your seniors made it through. Here’s hoping for an early Spring and a happy new year for you!


  4. I love the snow pics , but wow it’s pretty harsh in the winters. I used to live in MT , and some of my friends had horses . It was always a struggle some winters with how cold it would get and trying to keep weight on horses . But your’s look really good !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I imagine that would indeed be challenging to do Winter with horses in Montana. I have frequently had trouble over the years keeping my horses from getting too fat, which is definitely a concern and can cause all kinds of horse health problems. But during extreme cold snaps, it is the only time of year where I feel like having extra insulation from fat actually works to their advantage.

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  5. Happy New Year! Oh boy, what a struggle but I’m so happy you and your beautiful horses made it through the cold snap. I can’t imagine that kind of cold, but your descriptions give me a good idea and no worries, we all need to commiserate together. Your horses look happy and healthy. I hope 2023 brings wonderful things your way and it’s a great year for all! 💖🐴💖

    Liked by 1 person

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