Poll Recap: Dealing With Ice and Horses

Poll Recap: Dealing With Ice and Horses

More than half of the poll respondents said ice is a problem on their horse property during the winter months.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Winter can be a challenging time for horse owners, from sub-zero temperatures and constantly frozen water sources to various forms preciptation including snow, freezing rain, and ice making transportation a hassle. Ice (either on the ground or falling) can be dangerous to both horses and horse owners. Last week, we asked our readers if ice is a problem on their horse property. More than 375 people responded and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 395 respondents, 234 (59%) said ice is a problem on their horse property. The remaining 161 respondents (41%) said it is not.

Additionally, more than 100 people commented about how they deal with ice and keep their horses safe during winter.

Many people shared their solutions for icy areas on their horse property:

  • “I rake out fresh manure over the ice as well as shavings.”
  • “I use woodstove ashes on ice leading into pastures.”
  • “I put down pelleted shavings to absorb water and eliminate the ice.”
  • “We use barn lime for ice around the barn. It adds traction and seems to promote melting.”
  • “I always clear a pathway along the most traveled routes, plus I'll spread fresh manure on icy spots.”
  • “I keep a barrel of sand/salt by the door to sprinkle around, then cover with sawdust.”
  • “Make a path over the ice with manure when you muck stalls for traction and quicker melting.”
  • “We use sand and shake loose hay over wet areas before it refreezes.”
  • “We spread sand or lime down to help the ground be more abrasive.”
  • “My barn owner will either use sand or manure from the stalls and spreads it between barn and indoor.”
  • “We break up ice on the ground with an ax and use brooms to knock down icicles.”
  • “Whack the icicles down. Salt with calcium chloride at doorways and collection points.”
  • “We add salt to iced walkways.”
  • “I have a large pile of medium coarse sand that l use to hand spread on the ice when needed.”
  • “We have a supply of sand and salt to cover icy patches.”
  • “I spread pet-safe ice melt or use manure/bedding from stalls.”
  • “Sprinkling sand, clay cat litter, or sawdust around on the ice (doesn't take much)!”
  • “We have tried many things but have the best luck with spreading manure over the slippery surface.”
  • “I use a mix of 75% clay kitty litter to 25% rock salt and sprinkle it on the ice in my paddock.”
  • “We buy the most expensive, quick-thawing salt that will work in temperatures typical of a Michigan.”
  • “Thick ice on ground this year, had to spread sand for vehicle traction and human and horse safety.”

Others commented on different management changes they make when dealing with icy conditions:

  • “My horse's paddock is at the bottom of a hill. He stays in if the footing is icy.”
  • “At my boarding barn in Maryland, if icy conditions threaten, horses go/stay in the barns/stalls.”
  • “We either don't turn out or we run a tractor over ice to break it up.”
  • “The horses spend more time in their stalls until the ice starts to melt.”
  • “I try to break up the ice and remove it from areas where they walk frequently.”
  • “No turnout if there is ice!”
  • “I don't go out riding when it's icy!”
  • “I don't even ride when it's icy or muddy. I almost fell the other day just feeding my horses!”
  • “I'm especially careful not to let water over run the tanks, but I have one run that has a low spot.”
  • “I buy and bring ice melt for his paddock and pathway. Just got winter shoes.”

Some respondents said they use special shoes or hoof protection for horses:

  • “Ice studs and rim pads.”
  • “Borium horseshoe nails”
  • “My shod horse wears borium-tipped 'grip' nails.”
  • “Frost nails!”
  • “Cleated boots for horse and human. Lock in at night to get boots off if icy outside.”
  • “Horse shoes with ice spikes, and salt on the ground near stables.”

A few people commented that they don’t have problems with ice:

  • “We live in Texas, not much ice here.”
  • “Not often an issue in the deep south.”
  • “Ice not much of a problem here in South Carolina.”
  • “Luckily, no ice in San Diego. We get frost in the mornings, but not a problem for the horses.”
  • “Ice? What ice? (I live in the Arizona desert!)”
  • “We live in an area of California that very rarely sees freezing temps.”
  • “We are located in the Phoenix area. Ice is rare.”
  • “Although it freezes, we rarely get ice buildup enough to cause problems.”

And others left general comments:

  • “Ice on the ground and coming off our metal barn roof. We move the horses as best we can.”
  • “My fields all slant down to a brook and everything usually runs off before turning to ice.”
  • “I'm in Florida. Ice is basically an apocalypse!”
  • “The freeze/thaw/refreeze cycle is a nightmare. Very dangerous.”
  • “Hard frozen mud is difficult to walk on, especially for the 33-year-old.”
  • “Learn to look for ice and ride on grassier areas.”

You can find additional information on winter hoof care for horses, why it’s important to keep horses away from frozen ponds and waterways, get tips for preparing your horse property for winter weather disasters, and learn about different options for winter paddock footing at TheHorse.com! You can also search for “winter horse care” or visit our “winter care” subtopic page for more cold weather horse care resources. 

This week, we want to know: what's your biggest concern during the cold winter months? Vote now and share your comments at TheHorse.com/polls

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer, is a lifelong horse owner who competes with her Appaloosas in Western performance events. She is a University of Kentucky graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Community Communications and Leadership Development, and master's degree in Career, Technical, and Leadership Education. She currently lives on a small farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

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