Changing of the Seasons
Sad news for those of us in the northern hemisphere ... Winter is on her way - in another 6 weeks she will have formally announced her presence and we'll all hope below zero weather and feet of snow will somehow slide over us.
No matter what season you are preparing for, it's work. Sometimes it is HARD work physically. Sometimes it's more mental exercise. Each have their challenges. I got asked what winter prep I do and was then told to blog about it. So, without further ado - here is my list - in no particular order !
Water - this is a time of year I make sure troughs are clean and appealing, I sort out hoses, heaters and whatever else I might need to make sure the horses have clean water they will want to drink. As grasses dry and die off and hay becomes a bigger part of the diet water consumption often drops off - which is a No Good Thing. I often add warm water to a bucket, or to a grain meal - add apples to feed and loose salt too - if I get really concerned I will add electrolytes to rations as well.
Feed - I look at each horse and get my hands on them. I do an approximate body score - mostly looking for unexpected changes in condition and weight Aging horses (like humans) sometimes need more or less feed to stay in shape - a change of season is a good time to tweak a program. Older horses can feel the cold more and may need a little more "hard" feed. We always feed free choice hay here - though we use small hole nets to slow the fatties down in the summer- if we didn't I would decide who needed free choice forage over the winter and group horses accordingly.
Blankets - there is no way to avoid this debate if you live where winter is extreme (minus 40 happens here most years - sigh!) I sort and clean and waterproof all horse outerwear and more autumns than not come up with a system to store and label blankets that doesn't quite work. I am optimistic that this year's will work well - and will happily report once it's in action!
Have horses outgrown their coats? Are there rips and tears that need work? I have a small selection of leg straps on hand to replace any that get too worn. Each horse here has 2 rain sheets, a light and mid weight blanket. The skinny old guys have a heavy blanket too as they prefer to be out no matter the weather. (The mention of rain sheets reminds me to say - the cold wet bothers me and the horses more than colder dry seems too - the only time I have ever found a horse shivering was in unexpected cold rain)
Fencing and Footing We spend quite awhile making sure rocks are out of paddocks, ruts are as smooth as possible and fencing is secure Time invested now saves hours in lousy weather.
Snow Fencing - Think back to last Winter. Is there a spot on your property you can recall the snow always drifting in? Consider whether adding a snow fence in those areas could make your daily chores easier.
Cleaning - these last few weeks of preparation include disinfecting buckets and scrubbing everywhere and everything possible. I'll take advantage of a nice winter day and clean, and if something gets gross it gets cleaned no matter the weather - but extra buckets, brushes and weird little collecting spots under shelves are not my priority on the coldest days.
Hay Security - we spend quite awhile ensuring we have more hay then we think we'll need - winter can hang around longer than expected - and some years start earlier than we want (we are already feeding a fair amount of hay weekly this year for example - as the fields are so wet the horses are largely off grass!) We source hay locally and grow our own - and we know how lucky we are to have those options!
Winterize The Barn - Keep your barn extra cozy by putting plastic over old windows. An old barn I used to work at had a window in each stall. Great in the Summer, not so great in the Winter. Part of the annual Winter prep involved covering each window from the outside using a roll of plastic sheeting. Cut the plastic to size and secure using a staple gun. We'd then add thin strips of wood screwed around and over-top of the plastic to ensure the fierce Winter winds didn't just rip the plastic off. This really cut down on the drafts inside the barn.
Fill Holes and Cracks - Another way to reduce drafts is to fill any gaps and cracks. I would use expanding insulating foam and it worked like a charm. This will also reduce the chances of mice sneaking in - Bonus!
What does your seasonal prep look like? What have I forgotten to tell you about in my time change haze? I'd love to know!