With cold weather upon us, the time has come for all good horse owners to trade in their paddock boots and polo shirts for warm winter gear. And after you’ve changed out your wardrobe, it’s time to think about preparing your stable and barnyard for the approaching winter chill.
1. Winter water prep
Do your horses drink from heated water sources during the winter? Whether you utilize heated buckets, trough heaters, or an automatic watering system, you’ll want to perform a check of the heaters ahead of time. Make sure that power cords are free of cracks and wear, and test the heater. If the water is warm to touch instead of crazy cold, you’ll know you’re in good shape!
While on the subject of water, how about those hoses you have snaking around the barnyard? Of course they’re great help during the summer, but they aren’t going to do much good if they’re frozen solid or stuck under snow all winter. To save unnecessary wear to your hoses, plan on draining them, rolling them up, and storing them indoors before winter arrives. Do you have a short hose that you need to use all year long? Store it somewhere heated (like the tack room) when it’s not in use; then it will always be ready to go.
2. Find, wash, and re-fit blankets
Most healthy horses put on an adequate winter coat and don’t require any additional help from their owners. But with some horses and situations, blanketing during winter turnout may be needed, due to age, health, or even just because they get clipped. But say, where did you put those blankets last spring? You did wash the mud off them, fold them, and put them on a shelf in the tack room so they’d be ready now…right? Hm, maybe you’d better go check…
3. Check for drafts
It’s always important to make sure that your stable is properly ventilated—and winter is no exception. But there’s no reason to allow unnecessary airflow in the cold, either. Give your entire stable a once over, checking windows and doorways for drafts, and consider blocking off or insulating any cracks or gaps you may find.
4. Prepare for snow removal
If you live in an area that receives ample snowfall, take a few steps now to save yourself some work later. Put away pieces of equipment (lawn tractors, horse trailers, ATVs) so that there is plenty of room for snowplowing. Also, check the conditions of snow removal tools such as shovels and blowers.
5. Get plenty of hay
What if winter goes long—really long? Stock up now and make sure your storage buildings are full. You’ll enjoy the peace of mind, and you’ll be able to feed extra on those really cold days. Your horses will appreciate it!