Readers Share Cold-Weather Horse Care Survival Tips

Readers Share Cold-Weather Horse Care Survival Tips

Extreme winter weather conditions can make horse care and barn chores challenging!

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

From bitterly cold temperatures to blizzardlike conditions caused by Winter Storm Grayson, winter has definitely arrived in the first week of 2018. These extreme winter weather conditions can make horse care and barn chores more challenging for owners.

To help out, we asked our readers to share their top winter horse care tips and offered advice on staying warm during barn chores. Here are some of their tips, as well as a few from our staff, that you might find useful!

Blankets: Not Just for Keeping Horses Cozy

“Roll up old horse blankets and tie with hay string. Lay them at the base of all doors to the exterior of your barn. Keeping cold air from leaking under the bottom of doors will really help keep your barn warmer. Since they’re tied in neat tubes, it’s easy to move them to aside to let horses in and out during the day.” – Connie Bison

Staying Warm and Safe During Barn Chores:

“Layer, but not too tight to cut off circulation, especially in boots. You want some breathing room in your feet, don't forget air is good when it's trapped in your clothes, because it insulates.” – Carly McGowan

“Put a pair of medical style rubber gloves under your work gloves. They make a great light weight insulation layer, and if your gloves do happen to get wet, your hands stay dry.” – Anna Maria Hibbs

“I borrowed some advice from another horsewoman. (Use) a heating pad with gloves sandwiched in it, then trade them out when your hands start getting cold! Works wonderfully!” – Lynn Esty

“Layers! The first layer needs to be a moisture-wicking one.” – Jennifer Andrews

“Shirts with thumb holes are finger savers! They stop the air gap that occurs between the gloves and coat and act like fingerless gloves if you need to pop your gloves off for dexterity. Speaking of gloves, I use neoprene ice-fishing gloves when cleaning troughs and waterers—you can totally submerge your hand and not get cold!” – Alice Burrows

“Keep your phone with you. Get in the habit of texting someone when you go out for chores and when you get back in if you are home alone. It could save your life if you were to not be able to make it to shelter. For example, a simple fall on ice that is not fatal but slows or renders your ability to stand could become a twisted knee that costs you your life.” – Zita Arrendale Strother

Tips for Feeding and Watering Horses:

“Wetting feed down for extra moisture, offering extra forage, using trough heaters and heated water buckets keeps everyone hydrated and warm.” – M Freya Evenstad

“We use insulated bucket holders, floats, and twice daily additions of an orange juice jug full of warm water instead of electric heater.” – Anna Maria Hibbs

“If you're in a barn that has limited electric and need to heat water, Bed Bath & Beyond has electric tea kettles (plastic) that boil water in a matter of minutes for feed, etc.– Shannon Long-Lehman

Editor’s note: To prevent fire, make sure any appliance are supervised during use and unplugged when not in use.

“Put hot water for the horses into rubber buckets. Rubber buckets hold the heat longer and you can beat them up without them breaking when they freeze. Add 2 gallons hot and top off with cold.” – Chani Atrieadies

In addition, members of The Horse staff shared tips for caring for horses during the colder weather:

Jennifer Whittle, web producer, suggests having plenty of hay ready for horses on colder days.

“We always make sure we have plenty of hay on hand for our herd before winter hits,” she said. “Then on days when the temperatures plummet or the wind chill is a big factor, we try to keep hay in front of the horses to keep them munching and warm from the inside out.”

If your horse has poor dentition and doesn’t do well on long-stem hay (or, like news editor Erica Larson’s equine picky eater, doesn’t always consume the hay he has access to), consider adding other kinds of forage to their diets.

“Hay pellets (dry or soaked), soaked beet pulp, and complete feeds—those that include a forage component—can be invaluable during the winter months to help keep dentally-challenged horses at an appropriate weight.,” she said.

Finally, Michelle Anderson, The Horse’s digital managing editor, offers suggestions for those who watch their electricity bills rise during the winter months.

“I recently found out that—when left running 24 hours a day—my water trough heaters cost more to run than our new hot tub! I was astounded. Save electricity by purchasing water trough heaters with thermostat controls set to automatic turn off when temps rise above freezing. Or, in more mild climates where daytime ambient temperatures reliably get above freezing, use a timer at the outlet (with a ground-fault circuit interrupter!) to turn of heaters during the day.”

Additional Winter Horse Care Resources

Here are a few additional cold-weather horse care resources to help you make it through the rest of winter:

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