For those of you who have lived in both the north and the south, is there a significant difference to the ease of horse keeping in the different regions? I always start dreaming of moving from the northeast to the southeast at this time of year, and each winter I become more serious about the move. Thank you.
I suppose it all depends on how you define "ease of horse keeping," of course.
But personally, I find it MUCH easier, and a lot more pleasant, to have horses in the south. I lived and rode in the northeast for 8 years before moving back to the south about a year ago. I never did get used to dealing with the cold, the snow, the ice sliding off the roof of the indoor, etc and had to force myself to ride from about November to oh, April or so. It just wasn't pleasant a lot of the time!
I ride after work, so in the winter, that means traipsing out to the barn in the dark this time of year. Getting there, feeling bad about pulling blankets off the poor horsie, bundling him up in quarter sheet/cooler etc and trying to ride while dressed like the Michelin Man (which makes it difficult to deal with said horsie acting like an unbroke 2 year old due to weather-limited turnout, slip-sliding on the icy path to the indoor, and then the fun of riding through the ice crashing off the roof of the indoor at random moments...? Um, NOT FUN.
One of the main reasons I worked hard to move back south was the degree to which riding had become unpleasant for half the year in CT. I have to say that being back here in the nicer weather has been a huge improvement in quality of both riding and life in general!
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
I started to say 'no, it is just a trade off', but I'm not sure about that.
I grew up in Missouri, lived in Michigan as an adult, and have lived in Texas as an adult. I do hate our Texas heat in the summer, BUT most days I can get up early and ride before it is too miserable. There were times in MI where it didn't matter what time you went to the barn, it was too cold to ride. I do think both extremes can be very hard on older horses or those who are somewhat compromised - and that's hard to manage in either place.
If I had to pick, though, I would rather be here in Texas with my horses than in the frozen north. (You can remind me of that and laugh at me when it is 115 this summer and I'm moaning about how I want to move north!)
I don't ride in July and August. The rest of the year I ride quite a bit. I'm in Central Alabama. This past weekend it was gloriously sunny and mid 50s, and riding was just a delight.
The worst part of the south is the bugs. horseflies, greenhead flies, deerflies, mosquitos...those are pretty awful in the hottest months but 75% of the time, the riding down here is really good. Grass hay is fairly cheap, and for better or worse, there are lots of horses.
I think it's easier in the SE as compared to the West anyway. Grass and creeks and pastures and much less freezing are all benefits. In the west, you can get the grass, but only if you irrigate which you don't have to do in the South - and irrigating and the entire society that comes with irrigating is bad. It seems to me that the NE would be more difficult than either the west or the SE. There are places in the SE where the summers aren't bay imo and the winters are short.
I went from Norcal, which is not "sunny CA" but it's still temperate, to KY, which has four seasons and should be classified as part of the land of sweat and freeze (why my dad relocated to CA after Korea - NH winters). I think it is by and large easier in warmer climates even though the heat can be excessive. CA being a Mediterranean or even desert climate with low humidity once the sun goes down it chills down and I did a lot of summer riding at night, quite comfortably. You do get mud as the trade off in the winter, I rather like it when the ground finally freezes up solid - as long as there are no ice patches. but you cannot use a frozen hose and you have to be ever vigilant when you do use it because when you forget to drain and put it up - we actually just lay ours out on the slope in a sort of Z shape - but when you miscalculate or forget you could damage your hydrant or have to bucket water from the house or have to buy yet another hose, which is easy enough but really a waste of time.
Now, the true South has humidity to go with the heat and I don't know how I personally would cope with that - actually I do recall Disney World in July where we stood in line for the cool and dark Pirates of the Caribbean ride just to stand there in the cool and the dark. In the summers here we moved lesson time to 9 AM, in the winter it was 10 AM.
I've done both and the South wins. Yeah, there's humidity and bugs, but I'll take them anyday over frozen water buckets, frost-bitten toes (yes, all 10 toes), finger-cicles and wearing so many layers you can't move.
Yes, we get "cold" here too... like tonight will be low 20's, so the tank de-icer gets plugged in before sundown, the mares have a round bale & are furry yaks. It'll be back in the 50's in 3 days. IF we get snow/ice, it lasts but a day or two.
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What are your biggest deals/concerns? If you have enough acreage in the South, and only have to feed hay for 3-4 months of the year, and for whatever reason can't find a good source of hay locally, then having to pay higher hay prices in exchange for not needing an indoor, not needing to do all the things you have to for very cold weather, and for several months at a time, could be very well worth it.
But "down South" doesn't remotely mean you HAVE to ship hay from anywhere. Orchard Grass is common in many places in the SE (which, btw, covers many states). I'm in NC and there are a half dozen hay farmers within about a 30 minutes drive from me. If you're ok with OG and Fescue hay, you're good to go. But if you just must have Timothy, or much alfalfa, well yeah, you're going to have to ship it in.
Winters aren't cold enough, often enough, to really knock down bugs. So if you or your horse just CAN NOT deal with bugs, then this is a sucky place
I've only ever owned/ridden/cared for horses here in NC. That doesn't mean we haven't had significant snow and ice storms, and I can tell you, even though I have a water heater, and warm clothes, that I remotely enjoy hauling hay out into a snow covered field, or draining hoses at night, or any of those other things that are just par for every single day for months and months up North, and I'd MUCH rather deal with a couple months of heat and humidity than a full Winter in Vermont LOL
So "better" or "easier" is very relative to how you care for your horses, whether you MUST ride all Winter, whether you can deal with showing in August in the SE, etc.
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There's pros and cons to both. I agree to not go anywhere with an extreme climate...you don't have to choose to go from Freezer to Under The Broiler. There's some in-betweens.
Cons of winter in the north is that it is harder work to keep horses in winter. Keeping water thawed, doing chores over snow and ice, blanketing animals, body clipping and/or taking forever to cool out a fuzzy winter coat if you ride enough to make them sweat, not riding due to footing conditions or just not liking the cold weather, plowing, shovelling, breaking up sheet ice, etc.
All of that is made easier or even disappears in more southern areas. However...depending on where you decide to go you may not ride for some time annually due to it being too hot and muggy. There are more bugs. But I would guess the actual physical labor part is lessened by quite a bit. In general I have noticed that, if given the option, horses prefer cold weather to broiling hot/humid weather. But they deal with it, just like we do. And we can compensate with fans and shade or blankets and windbreaks depending on season.
Do check into drought areas...horse keeping where you can't grow grass or buy hay wouldn't be a decent trade off for winter up here. I'd also check for area taxes...many places outside of the Northeast have much lower taxes, which is a big help when buying property. (I know people who pay annually in taxes what I pay monthly LOL) But also check what those taxes cover...sometimes it's not a good trade off if you get a big break on taxes but there isn't any services that we're more used to having in the northeast.
If you really really loathe winters (and a lot of people do) and have to go outside to care for horses for months and months every year when you're hating the weather...start doing research and asking questions on here about where might be a good match for you in a warmer climate. If your lifestyle or career allows for you to move and you're really unhappy in the cold...it might make more sense to go somewhere warmer. Most places that don't get Africa Hot in summer might still have some winter weather, but not upstate NY winter weather.
Personally I love winter. I love having 4 distinct seasons and I like summer when it's not nasty humid or really hot. Mr Blue hints now and then he might prefer moving somewhere warm for retirement...I'll miss him if he goes.
You jump in the saddle,
Hold onto the bridle!
Jump in the line!
I really can't answer which one is easier or harder, since I've always lived in the north.
But I can say every spring in late March or early april, I magically lose about 15-20 lbs (it feels like)
All I have to do is shed the boots, the carrharts, the 2 quilted flannel shirts and 2 sweatshirts. And voila!
It's the ONLY benefit that I can think of living up north. Right now, it's icy (rained on snow frozen solid and had to sand and salt the paddocks a week ago). And once again, did not hit a high above zero for today... I'm praying for snow right now to cover up the ice because it sure won't melt soon... Sorry. I'm grumpy. I probably won't ride until this weekend where the highs will finally be in the 20s.
I love distinct seasons too, which we absolutely have in North Central NC. Some years, Spring is fairly short, but I still consider anything below 85 Spring Some years Summer won't let go and Fall just seems short, though we don't ever really have a short Fall, since it rarely ever gets really cold early.
______________________________ The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET
Easier for whom, horses or people? I think the South is easier for people, but I'm sure my horses are more stressed by a summer of temps in the 90s with high humidity than winters with temps in the 20s and snow. Horses handle cold much better than they handle heat.
YES YES YES!! I did winter horse keeping in North Western PA for 1.5 winters, and I was so sick and tired of it by the end and totally unmotivated to ride. It didn't help that the barn was a 40min drive assuming no snow on the road (unlikely...). First barn I did quite a lot of the work myself, because I wasn't thrilled with the care. 2nd place (thank you COTHER VCT!) my girl was much better cared for and didn't drop weight. First place she dropped weight FAST and it was really scary. VCT got a head start on that before the weather came in and she was much healthier, but definitely not happier. It showed in her attitude both in and out of the saddle. As far as people go, it gets really waring trudging through knee deep snow, tacking up with freezing cold hands, constantly breaking ice, etc.
I'm in the south now. Today was considered "cold." I wore a long sleeved t shirt and a hoody and my regular breeches. No hat or gloves or jacket.
I think as far as horses go, though it depends on the horse, overall they adjust. There's always stalls with fans, and of course plenty of water. My mare was definitely a southern diva - she HATED the cold and was a much happier horse in Virginia Summers than NW Pennsylvania winters.
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I'm with subk. South is definitely easier on people, north is easier on horses. I've done both, and I do love the warmth. But when I import horses, within a month or two, their lovely, hard feet have mushed up, and the bugs go to town on them until they adjust. The turnout in S FL is so bad (sand does not support grass that holds up to horses), that they want to come in after an hour or so, and you have to treat them to prevent sand colic. Some of them stop sweating. And, oh yeah, the cheapest usable T & A I can find this winter is $16/bale (the horses don't care about that, but my wallet sure does)! I miss the gorgeous turnouts at my old MD farm, but not enough to give up 70 degree weather in January!!
Raised in Ct....moved to NC...married, moved back to upstate, NY...then So. Pines, NC..now in HATEFUL Oklahoma and hoping to move south to North Texas. Been everywhere. Done it all!! In my older age I tell people I can move slowly enough to stay cool, but not fast enough to keep warm!!! It's a lot easier to bring horses in out of the sun, flip the fans on and pick stalls than blanketing, cleaning up frozen poop, beating my way through/shoveling the snow, breaking ice out of water buckets and tubs. Freezing my feet and hands and starting over again. I like a nice breeze in the summer, but winter has to go!!! I spent four hours holding horses for the blacksmith today and I'm still not warm!!! SOUTH any day!!