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