My horses are normally on 24/7 turnout, but after yesterday's snow followed by ice I've kept them in for the last 24 hours. Snow alone I don't mind, but when it's covered with a layer of ice things get a little dicey. I had a hard time not busting my own tail walking to the barn! What do you think? I'd really love to put them back out, but I'm worried about injury. What do you do?
If it is just a layer of ice over snow the horses will break through and crunch their way around (where we humans may be too light to break through so we would just slip and fall).
It's the *black ice* you need to look out for. Thick, smooth and level is what is deadly. Crunchy, rough ice is not that bad.
Check your turnout area before hand if you can. Get to know it and where an area may form a sheet of ice.
I watched my pony (1100 lb. Cob) slip a tad on one area and he began to be more careful. He is able to go out 24/7 and has free access to the barn and his stall.
When the temps are warm, he will gallop into and out of the barn (and trot). When it begins to snow and freeze, he gets a lot more careful. Nice, steady walk. Same with him beginning to understand how to handle wet clay (also can be slick as ice sometimes).
He is much calmer if allowed out 24/7, so much less apt to have excess energy.
ETA: I get to know the horse and the area. I do want my horse(s) to understand how to handle themselves in all weather ... wet clay, rough ice and to recognize black ice and go around it. I see it as part of training. One step at a time under a watchful eye in limited areas.
Also, by getting them out consistently, their ligaments and tendons will be fitter and they are less likely to get injured (sprain or strain) on slick stuff.
If they have shoes on without winter studs keep them in, but if they are barefoot and have been turned out on ice before than it should be ok. But if they haven't met Mr. Ice before and its going to melt off soon I would just keep them in.
This is the general rule I use for my horse since I can't keep him locked up all winter in Alaska. I also put hay in the pasture so he wont be so tempted to go for a run as soon as I let him out on ice. We also don't turn the older horses out if they have problems getting up.
Definitely not worth turning horses out in either black ice or ice on top of snow so thick that when they do break through, they can injure their lower leg.
In those situations, I run my tractor, my car, whatever over the area to break the ice myself.
Both the ice they can slip on, and the hard crusty ice on top of snow both can cause damage.
If horses are being kept in, another good point made was to cut the grain.
When I lived in colder climates I turned out in anything but tornadoes, lightening and ice. Not on your life!
I've been known to tie the whole herd in the alley way for a couple days, happily munching on hay until the ice melts.
I agree with BaroguePony - we notice that the horses become much more careful about how they "travel" -- we are luck to have several "flat" paddocks /and arena that the bigger horse can get out, move around and munch on hay / and have some social time. Our herd of ponies -- are more adept - and have been able to get turnout time into bigger pastures, that also include more varied terrain. They have proven (to me) that these true native breeds can manage better than most in ice covered snow. It does become a judgment call, and knowing your turnout areas.
By all means -- reduce the feed - Not the hay, if they are staying up.
Well, mine are out 24/7 regardless, so my answer would have to be yes...they are also barefoot though. Btw they are Thoroughbreds, a Quarab, and WB's or WB crosses. All tall lanky horses, not ponies or such. I admit, just as with any other person, it's tempting, especially since my horses ARE so important to me and some are very valuable. Occasionally I might bring a horse or two in at the one facility, if I feel they need it and happen to be home (I work on the road), but usually not, and at the other facility I board at, the option to keep them in is not an option, as there is no barn. And when I do bring them in, it's usually because we are in the midst of a massive blizzard, never because of ice. Granted, the horses are each in large-ish pastures where they can avoid severe icy spots, but they learn how to a) walk on ice and b) avoid the real bad spots where possible. In all our years of horse-keeping (whether boarding or on our own property), I can only recall maybe one or two incidents where maybe a muscle was suspected to be pulled at most. Horses are meant to be outside and if I brought mine in on all the icy days up here in the Great White North, they'd spend the vast majority of their life inside, which just would not work. Same follows for mud in the fall and spring...
If you are bringing them in, I definitely recommend reducing or even eliminating grains, increasing roughage, and putting your horse to work in the arena!
....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.
We got a bit less than 2" and a layer of ice on top. Definitely crunchy crunchy. Mine are out all the time, so they are used to changing footing. Everyone is careful, though they did go racing up the hill last night.
I don't worry about the slickness. If I did they'd spend a good part of Winter in as there is nothing not-slick about wet red clay.
However, if this ice layer was thicker, and all of it deep enough I worried about it cutting pasterns, then they would be staying in until it was otherwise.
______________________________ The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET
My horses are out all the time, and I've never put them in because of ice (I tend to put them in the barn if there's a blizzard w/high winds that blow into the run-ins). So far I haven't had a crust of ice on top that was a worry. My pastures are large, with varied terrain, so most of the fields are not icy.
However, one flat area had an ice "pond" one year, and I learned from COTH to pour a thin layer of water on it, and then put shavings (or used bedding, or pine branches) down. The thin layer of water freezes quickly, holding the shavings in place. Problem solved.
Mine are out 24/7 and although I DO worry about them on bad days, I don't really have an option to selectively keep them in where I am...so I have learned to just trust their own senses of self-preservation.
It does seem that if they are out full time they learn to adjust on their own -- both because they are out while conditions are changing (as opposed to coming in when ground is good, and being let out after it has gone bad -- how are they to know until it's too late?) and because over time they have to deal with sub-optimal footing over and over.
I would be much more leary of putting horses up for a while, getting them all excited to go back out on ground that has deteriorated while they have been in, and THEN turning them out.
SMF11 that is a good idea you had there... I also have the occasionall ice pond that I worry about because mine will storm around and "find" themselves on top of a solid area of ice, skidding until they hit the rough edges and it gives me multiple heart attacks. I have been known to sledge hammer the ponds to try to break it up, but sometimes it's SO frozen...I like the idea of re-freezing some used bedding onto the top. If you just throw used bedding onto hard ice, it slips around and makes it even worse!
I have one barefoot mare and one with front shoes. The snow is so bad and deep right now the shod mare keeps getting the snow balls in her front hooves. So I'm stalling her at night just to give her some relief and not have 24/7 stress on her front legs.
Pure ice, I"ll stall them both. Ice on top of snow, not so much if they are busting through with no problems.
Last edited by SLW; Jan. 12, 2011 at 10:14 AM.
Reason: needed more coffee to flow to my fingertips
I had a mare that slipped on some ice as I was leading her from the barn to the indoor arena. She got two bone chips in the front of a hind fetlock. She was an event horse. She became a broodmare.
Five years later, her son was turned out with other geldings in an icy paddock. He loved to play halter tag. Apparently, he must have slipped and sat down on his butt. He broke a vertebrae just above the dock of his tail. He could not lift his tail to poop, so ended up with an impaction colic. He spent four days in a vet hospital on fluids trying to resolve it.
It took six months of "physical therapy" on his tail for him to be able to swish it to the right. After about a year, he regained some use to the left. Having a really bad fly season that summer helped, too. The large bump on the top of his croup never went away.