How can I get the barn and farm ready for winter?
I know, major chores are usually undertaken in the Spring! It’s equally important to do a few things in the fall as you prepare for winter, which can bring with it storms, freezing temps, and a whole new slew of chores (think mud + blankets + rolling.)
So here’s a handy list of some things to consider before the weather gets inconvenient. Think of it as getting the barn ducks in a row.
Do you older horses, hard keepers, and/or hard workers need some help adding their natural fat layer? Work with your Veterinarian and/or Equine Nutritionist to determine if your horses need some more calories. These articles have ideas on why horses can be hard keepers, and what you can do to help the hard keeper stay plump during winter.
Work with you hay and grain suppliers to make sure you have quality hay in adequate amounts for the winter. Double and triple check your storage for hay - what may have been fine for summer sprinkles won’t be able to handle a big winter storm.
Get your horses used to eating wet grain/supplements. Often, water needs increase in winter and water intake actually decreases. Use their grain as a way to create a warm soupy mash for hydration.
Is your barn well ventilated in the summer, but not so much in the winter when the doors are closed? Work with a contractor or barn manufacturer to remedy this. Sensitive respiratory systems won’t be able to tolerate an unventilated area, especially if your horses are spending more time inside due to weather. Add Sweet PDZ into your routine to eliminate ammonia odors.
A little sprinkle is all you need.
For the outside horses, shelter is a must. Try and create a three sided shelter with a roof, and the open side faces away from the wind. You will need to know what direction most weather rolls in to figure this out! You can also observe the herd, horses like to stand with their butts into the wind and storms.
Know your herd dynamics so that during a major storm, the low man on the totem pole isn’t pushed out of the shelter. Also watch the herd dynamics during feeding time, so that everyone gets enough nutrition and their fair share of hay.
Do you have a way to keep pipes unfrozen and buckets/troughs free of ice? There are many products out there for this very purpose. If you are using last year’s models, please do a test run before the weather gets cold. You can also use compost to cover the earth where you know you have pipes that are close to the surface.
Do you have access to hot water in the barn/wash racks? This helps with grooming (hot towels!), making grain mashes, and bit warming.
Do you need and have an emergency generator? Does it work? Do you have plenty of fuel for it?
Does your truck and trailer have chains, and do you know how to put them on in a hurry?? Good snow tires? A recent check up? Appropriate levels of antifreeze?
-Miscellaneous things to do NOW so that you are not a headless chicken later.
Blankets - do they fit, need repairs, need to be waterproofed again? Be sure to try them on again this year, and if you layer thin sheets under heavier blankets, make sure the heavier ones can fit over the other layers.
Clippers - blades sharpened, plenty of oil, spray lubricant?
You can use a crock pot to keep warm water for towels and bit warming. Great for stain removal, hot toweling, and comfort foods.
Get a crock pot for the barn, it can be really handy! You can use it to warm water and towels for grooming and bit warming. Please do not use it unattended and make sure your electrical system is up to snuff.
Toys are great boredom busters for horrible weather!
Spray on cooking oil - have some in the barn so snow doesn’t pack in the hooves.
Help your footing in the arena stay safe - you may be able to use calcium chloride in the arenas to help with freeze prevention (always consult your footing manufacturer first) and have plenty of sand and cat litter on hand to sprinkle on ice and the ground in general. (Pea gravel is great for drainage and may negate the need to sand...depends on your weather!) This is for horse and human safety! More ideas on arena care can be found here.
Have plenty of horse boredom breakers on hand in case the horses need to “hunker down” for a bit. You can use mirrors, toys, stuffed animals, etc. You can also work on trick training, use slow feeders, and lots of hand walks.
Add your ideas and tips below!