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Horses and freezing weather?

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  • Horses and freezing weather?

    DH and I have decided we are definitely moving from Southern California to Wisconsin. I know it's going to be a big culture shock for me having lived in So Cal my whole life. DH grew up in WI and only came to CA when he joined the Marines, so he knows more about life there and can help me through that part.

    We are taking our two horses with us, and I really could use some helpful suggestions for what to do with them when the weather turns cold and freezing in the frigid north! The master plan is to rent a house in town and board the horses for the first year, and then buy a house on some land (with hopefully a barn and some horse setup already there, but the area we are moving to isn't a horsey area so that might be hard to find). So I will have the security of a boarding barn to help me figure things out that first winter (and hopefully an indoor arena to ride in...something I probably won't have again for quite a while!). We are planning to move in June, so that gives me a few months to prepare.

    What would you tell someone who has never lived in a cold climate about how to take care of horses in real winter conditions? My horses are older, early 20's, but both are still spry and in good condition, easy keepers, no health issues. My mare is a sensitive Thoroughbred type so I bet I will have to get her some heavy duty blankets. DH's gelding is a tough Standardbred who resembles a yak even in our 80-degree winter months so I think after the first winter he will probably adjust fine.

    I think I know theoretically what to do (giving extra hay for warmth, making sure buckets are not frozen, etc.) I think I am more worried about how to know when it is safe or not safe to turnout, how to tell if the horse is cold and needs extra hay/blankets, and anything that I am completely and totally not thinking about that might be important to know.

    Thanks for the help! I am excited about the move because my horses will be able to graze on green pastures for the first time in their lives. I think they deserve that kind of retirement.
    Last edited by tbgurl; Feb. 18, 2013, 02:51 AM. Reason: think I posted in wrong forum, tried to change it
    Happiness is the sweet smell of horses, leather, and hay.

  • #2
    I think you are worrying too much about it.

    A little bit of cold will not affect the horse's ability to go out. If things become a sheet of ice and turn out is not safe, then sure, restrict turn out.

    I would be more worried about the transition to turn out on green grass than the winter issues.

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    • #3
      My horse, who was bred in Florida, prefers the freezing cold to the hot summer. Your horses will be fine.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm sure you know that horses do better in cold weather than hot (they do).

        I have 11 horses here (last night the temp was about 5 degrees, and about -10 with windchill) and all the horses live out 24/7, *including* the two 30 year old TB's* (as well as some younger TBs). In my opinion, more turnout for older horses is better as they can get creaky and the gentle movement of walking around helps arthritic joints.

        You could see how the TBs do -- you would be surprised how much coat many of them can grow if allowed to. My own retired TB came to me with strict warnings to blanket heavily b/c he never grew a winter coat. I did the first winter, but the second one I waited to blanket him and lo and behold he has a very thick coat. (As do the 30 year old TBs, I might add, though I do blanket them much more than the others).

        You already know the key things: shelter and a lot of hay. Your horses will probably be thrilled at the climate change!


        *who were very fancy show horses in their day: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...type=3&theater
        (and today (that's not me!) http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...type=3&theater )
        https://www.facebook.com/SugarMapleFarm
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        www.PeonyVodka.com

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        • #5
          I know of horses that were born in Brazil, 1000 miles from the Equator, and live in MI. I've got a few that live in East TN. They do just fine.

          The horse, genetically, is a creature of the short grass steppe. They are pretty much "temperature neutral" in a range of temps from roughly 15 degrees F. to 60 degrees F. Below that some human help is needed; above that you've got to look to sun shade and water availability.

          The biggest change is that in the cold months you have to increase hay availability and ensure that you water supply is open. The act of digesting hay generates heat. Some folks add extra grain, but generally this is not as effective as a "warming strategy" as feeding extra hay.

          If you move in the spring it won't be an issue. The horses will have a full summer to "acclimate." If you move in Nov. then you'll have to be more watchful, but the odds are that they will fare well with some good hay and water.

          Good luck in your move.

          G.

          B.A., Marquette Univ., 1968; J.D., Marquette Univ. Law School, 1976
          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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          • #6
            While you are boarding that first winter, educate yourself on things like frost-free water pumps, heated buckets, barn insulation and airflow, types of all-weather footing for sacrifice areas, manure management in winter, etc. These are things that will make a difference when you get your own property ... the difference between a relatively safe and easy-to-manage set-up and one that fights you every day because things are a little 'off'. Something that is easy to do when the temps are above 70 degrees can become a nightmare when the temps are in the single digits with snow on the ground and the wind blowing.

            *star*
            "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
            - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926

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            • #7
              If you're going to be boarding for the first year, and it's not self care, find yourself a barn with a really great BO/BM and take their advice.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ShotenStar View Post
                While you are boarding that first winter, educate yourself on things like frost-free water pumps, heated buckets, barn insulation and airflow, types of all-weather footing for sacrifice areas, manure management in winter, etc. These are things that will make a difference when you get your own property ... the difference between a relatively safe and easy-to-manage set-up and one that fights you every day because things are a little 'off'. Something that is easy to do when the temps are above 70 degrees can become a nightmare when the temps are in the single digits with snow on the ground and the wind blowing.

                *star*
                PRINT THIS POST FOR REFERENCE!

                I can only say "Ditto" to everything star said, but also wanted to let you know my Big Guy (Australian WB) was bred in the part of Australia with weather like FL, then spent near 10 years in FL before coming to live with me (Midwest) 3 years ago. He turned 18 this Summer.
                He arrived December 1 with zero haircoat, slick as all getout, which made me go

                I blanketed that first Winter and watched him the next Fall to see how fuzzy he'd get.
                The answer: not very.

                He grows a short, thick coat and it seems to keep him warm enough.
                I do not blanket unless we get a stretch of sub-zero days, or a bout of wet & windy weather that has him soaked through to the skin on his back. Even then, once he's dry, the blanket comes off.

                Even though he has access to a stall 24/7 he seems to prefer being Out to In.
                Keeping him stoked with freechoice hay seems to work best.
                I check belly, inside flanks, ear tips and general demeanor - if all check out warm & nonplussed he stays nekkid.

                Welcome to the Midwest where Winter roars in around November and sticks around until the end of March.
                We've had snow in May, but not as a Rule.
                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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                • #9
                  make sure you have heated buckets so they stay hydrated, lots and lots of hay for them to stay eating and use the energy to stay warm. Check blankets often to make sure they aren't too warm or too cold. THey'll be fine, horses are very adaptable. Oh, and shelter. Mine stay in if it's going to be below 25 degrees at night, but we're in NC.....
                  Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors

                  Stop Wasting Hay and Extend Consumption Time With Round Bale Hay Nets!!

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                  • #10
                    Lots of good advice here! Horses are incredibly resilient, I think they'll probably surprise you. The first cold winter will probably be the "toughest" for them as they adjust to the colder temps, but blankets, access to shelter and plenty of good hay and plenty of water and they'll be fine. Believe it or not, it's not the freezing temps that make horsekeeping in the winter the worst, it's the mud that follows. Ugh. Mud mud mud. As long as the ground isn't a sheet of ice, turn 'em out. Mine love it when it snows!

                    If your horses are shivering, they are cold. If they lose weight during the winter, pile on the hay and even increase the grain a bit if you need to. They will feel less inclined to drink during the winter, so I do give mine super soupy warm beet pulp morn and night with their grain to be sure they are at least getting SOME liquid in them. Because you are throwing so much more hay at them to help them keep warm, colic can be a problem if they aren't drinking well. If I notice one of mine isn't drinking as much as necessary, I warm the water a bit and add some apple juice and chopped up apples to float on the water to entice drinking. They'll get some extra water down while "bobbing for apples." It generally works.

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                    • #11
                      Lots of great advice here, and most likely you will have more culture shock than the horses about things like learning to drive in the snow, and having to wear (and come to love ) Carhartt & Sorel. You look like a lineman, but you are warm!

                      I have a mare who despite being born in NH doesn't grow much coat, and she gets blanketed through the winter. She also colics when she's too hot - princess.

                      I think those are the 2 biggies - they have to drink enough when it's cold, and you can't let them get too hot when the temperature spikes 60 degrees one random day in February.

                      Your plan to board the first year is a good one - let someone who knows how, do the work and you can learn from them.

                      Horses thrive in cool weather and for them, cool is less than 60.

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                      • #12
                        I grew up in NorCal and DH in San Diego. KY doesn't keep much snow on the ground which is actually more of a pain, freeze/thaw makes slippery muck. I actually like a hard freeze because the ground freezes and if you've been careful it won't be full of giant pock marks. Anyway, the horses are fine, it's us that have to figure it out. A frost free hydrant is a necessity, it's a funny looking thing like this . The handle lifts up to turn on the water and once you push it down if it's installed properly the water in the pipe drains out into the ground underneath. You'll have to learn about draining hoses and keeping pipes from freezing (they freeze and they burst, but that's happened to us in NorCal and at high elevation in San Diego county, it's just more consistent here in KY and especially WI) and the various kind of tank heaters and home made insulated stock tank boxes, there are also fabric bucket cozies and heated everything, dog bowls, buckets and muck tubs.
                        I just wore my nylon bib ski overalls, DH graduated to Schmidt bib overalls, they look like Carharrts but came in Short. Oh yeah, Muck brand rubber boots for farm chores, they have a half an inch of neoprene. Lots of knit beanies or those ear covers and something around your neck, I use my old wool gloves because they stay warm when wet. And don't forget winter underwear and winter riding clothing! You could go up to the mountains for learning how to drive, but the snow is different and they use salt here so there's a lot of slush, nasty stuff. Don't forget to wash your car fairly regularly in the winter as the deicer can eat up metal auto bodies.

                        Your SO should know all this. And the boarding barn is a very good idea. You might consider boarding during the winter even after you get a place. Good luck, I miss the ocean but it's still beautiful to see the change of the seasons and the green grass.
                        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                        Incredible Invisible

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                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          You guys are the best! Thanks so much for all the helpful tips! I bookmarked this thread and will be printing it out for future reference lol. I'm glad to know I'm over thinking it...I tend to do that. I'm sure my horses will be much happier in the snow than they are during our miserable 90-100 degree summers. Heck, I agree with them. The colder it gets here the happier I am. But I've never been in below-freezing weather for more than a week. lol
                          Happiness is the sweet smell of horses, leather, and hay.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by tbgurl View Post
                            You guys are the best! Thanks so much for all the helpful tips! I bookmarked this thread and will be printing it out for future reference lol. I'm glad to know I'm over thinking it...I tend to do that. I'm sure my horses will be much happier in the snow than they are during our miserable 90-100 degree summers. Heck, I agree with them. The colder it gets here the happier I am. But I've never been in below-freezing weather for more than a week. lol
                            Ugh, I'm the opposite....much rather have those hot days than freezing cold miserable snow. Yuck! bad for business, can't teach if it's that bad since we only have an outdoor.
                            Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors

                            Stop Wasting Hay and Extend Consumption Time With Round Bale Hay Nets!!

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                            • #15
                              Remember how different horses are from us. They grow natural hair coats that keep them warm by providing insulation. putting something on them will mash this fluffy layer FLAT so there's no warmth. And they don't live in nice warm houses like we do, they're locked in sunless barns where they can't use their natural warm-up mechanism, moving around. Horses are WARMER and HAPPIER outside, where they can move around and adjust their conditions to the weather.

                              Just keep them out of freezing rain. That's the killer...

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Second everyone's advice.

                                My bit: buy your winter blankets NOW when they go on mad "spring clearance". You'll save a bundle instead of waiting til next fall!

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                                • #17
                                  Your horses will be fine. You, not so much!
                                  McDowell Racing Stables

                                  Home Away From Home

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                                  • #18
                                    I would say hydration is the biggest thing. Once in a great while I will get one that colics when the weather goes from warm to super cold. I use heated buckets, trough heaters, and electrolytes. Some of them just don't like to drink the cold water.
                                    Derby Lyn Farms Website

                                    Derby Lyn Farms on Facebook!

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                                    • #19
                                      Since everyone's taken care of the horse side, I'll make notes on the human side.

                                      Learn to dress in thin layers, carefully chosen and put on in the right order. Cuddle Duds or Under Armour first (something thin that wicks), long-sleeve turtle neck, fleece and something wind proof... etc.

                                      For feet, spray them with Anti Perspirant before donning socks. Sweaty toes = toesicles. Waterproof & insulated boots are your feets' friends.

                                      Best of luck on your move!!!
                                      <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

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                                      • #20
                                        Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but horse keeping in Wisconsin in winter sucks. It is absolutely horrible - see my post in Horse Care this morning if you want an idea of what winter has been like in Wisconsin so far this year. Regardless of what people say about horses preferring the cold, most I know absolutely do not. Even when it is safe to turn out, the horses can barely move around. They become sore and fresh all at once.

                                        Ugh. I have absolutely nothing nice to say about Wisconsin winters, and I have lived here and had horses here most of my life.

                                        What part of WI are you moving to?

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