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Questions for those who live Where It Really Is Winter

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  • Questions for those who live Where It Really Is Winter

    So, it's fairly craptastic in my neck of the woods in the PNW. I think we have gotten more snow in the past week (with more to come tonight) then we have had cumulatively in the past decade. And I know the cold and snow is worse in other places (and that it could be worse here), but I'm still baffled as to how this happening!

    Anyways, I'm wonder how you guys in the places where it is known for being under snow the better portion of winter and 15'F as being balmy freaking cope with having horses!? How does the weather effect how you do things management wise? For example, it rains here; we have gravel for high traffic areas, we have dehumidifiers in the tack rooms and at times we put bees wax on tack so the mud can eat that before it eats the leather.

    So, as someone who is seeing 6"+ and more to come of snow and has their eyes positively bugging out of their head (and I thought living close to sea level would keep me safe), enlighten me please? Do you change stabling/turn out schedules seasonally? Does snow have anything to say about what fences you have? What about riding or manure management (I recently threw my hands up at the idea of cleaning pastures. I can see anything to pick up!)?

    Just ever curious and hoping I have power to read any replies to this thread tomorrow! We're supposed to get scary winds and I hope my one pair of polar fleece pants get dry before the power goes out!

  • #2
    my horse is in interior Alaska, where winter temps are between 10 and minus 20, most days, with weeklong spells of down to minus 40 or 50.

    First of all: SERIOUS winter clothes. Ya know, insulated bibs, down underwear, what not. I've found most folks have never seen real winter clothes (even if they say they come from a wintry place) until they come to interior Alaska in January.

    My horse lives outdoors all year. It's possible as long as:
    he has a walk-in shelter
    plenty of hay for producing interior warmth
    plenty of blankets as needed (up to 3 on top of each other)

    He's always been very healthy and has never lost any weight in winter. Still, when it's that cold, you have to check on your horse every day. It's been our experience that if horses are neglected at 40 below, they can go from bad to worse to dead in just days. Sadly, there are folks here (as anywhere) who don't look after their horses as they should. Our barn owner ends up taking in rescue horses every winter.

    We have a heated indoor arena for riding Heated means it's maybe 35 or 40 degrees in there, just enough to keep things from freezing. If my horse got sweaty, I make VERY sure I blow-dry him completely before turning him back out again. That and a toasty blanket, if very cold.

    We have electric water heaters in all water tubs. Tubs are much easier to keep unfrozen if they're not too big, but then you have to fill them up more often, too. There are horses who don't like to drink when it's cold, even heated water. I always offer my horse a bucket in the barn after working, so I know he drinks enough.

    I pick up frozen turds in his paddock by shovel and wheelbarrow Good exercise and gets me warm. Occasional trail rides on well-packed trails, but not if it's too cold. I would worry about his lower joints getting too cold and injury prone in very cold snow.

    Anyways, hope that helps.


    • #3
      The horses love new snow! Turn them out in the ring (where they know the footing underneath is solid?) and they go right to it - making snow angels and cruising around. I give up on the poop outside and spend time scooping up the ice balls in the stalls which the horses now use as a place to dry their feet occasionally. I switched to wood pellets over shavings, which I just toss in and their foot water activates. Horses prefer hay outside in the snow rather than inside, so toss that on the snow. Throw fresh snow in their heated Rubbermaid water trough (fresh rain water is their favorite). Every couple days, I bed the stalls and lock them in for the night, which is not the mare's favorite, but my guy loves to lie down and sleep.

      Riding? Ha. The work volume pretty much consumes the time for that.


      • #4
        Well, I'm in CT so we get real winter but not arctic winter like some places get. Surely nothing like Alaska!
        At worst our weather usually never drops below -15 to -20 with windchills. Some years we gt tons of snow...others not much unfortunately.
        Agree with Spotted Mustang...the right winter clothes make the difference. I'm perfectly comfy outside all day in single digits and below without getting frozen toes. Fingers get cold after a while if then gloves get wet, but we always have changes of gloves around to swap out for dry ones. A pair of latex gloves under good winter gloves keeps your hands warmer and dry.
        For picking the paddocks...I use a children's sled with a much bucket in it and just slide it over the top of the snow to all the funky colored "dents" in the snow and then pop the pile out with a fork and dump it in the muck bucket. Snow poops are easier to pick up than poops frozen solid to the ground. The sled is very easy to slide around behind you as you look for piles.
        I do change turnout in winter...more for the lack of daylight. In summer they;re out sunrise to sunset. In winter they go out at 7 am and come in by 4 pm as the sun is starting to set. My main paddock is also my sacrifice paddock so no turnout location change.
        We also keep gravel walks and areas near barn doors, gates, etc. Because although we don't get as much rain as you we still get a lot, not to mention snow melts and makes a mess too.
        We ride like normal...actually after a good heavy new snow you start seeing a lot more hoofprints around from trail riders getting back out to enjoy the scenery. Heck, riding off bareback during a snow storm is one of my favorite things to do! If we have indoors then there isn't much change in riding/schooling except for the rare big spook your horse might do when the snow slides off the arena roof, LOL! That "whoooosh....WHUMP!" noise can be scary to many horses.
        It can't be easy for you guys there in the PNW...this weather isn't normal at all for that area and you're not likely to have the same things colder areas have to deal with snow and colder temps. Things like heat tape for all exposed waterlines, decent outer winter clothes and good polartec fleece under layers, sleds, if you shoe I'm not sure your farrier put in snowball pads or boriums for traction and keeping the shoes from making snowballs in the feet. PLow blades and snow plows, snow blowers, etc.
        many of us also keep generators so less worries about being stuck without power. The colder and worse the winter is in some regions...the more prevelent generators are. Frankly I'm surprised more people in CT don't have them...we often get power losses due to being so heavily wooded everywhere...heavy or broken branches are a top cause of losing power.
        I'm actually enjoying the snow...my motto is if it's got to be cold might as well look pretty with snow on the ground. It does increase the workload with constant digging out and defrosting stuff but the horses LOVE it, they act like little children running around and playing in it.
        You jump in the saddle,
        Hold onto the bridle!
        Jump in the line!


        • #5
          I AM SOOOO BUYING A SLED!!!!! I love that idea! I just came in from wrestling my wheelbarrow through 12" of snow

          I own a ton of warm weather gear. My favorite is my insulated muck boots which I wear constantly. In addition, I also wear a lot of Carhartt... quilt lined bibs, thermal jackets, fleece lines canvas duck pants. Keep your neck covered and head as well and you will be amazed at how warm you stay!

          My guys are out 24/7 with stall access and have wooly coats. They choose to be out most of the time. Invest the $70 or so dollars in 16 gallon heated water tubs if you can. They are nearly maintenance free and work even in brutal weather.

          Overall, just make sure your guys are drinking plenty and add electrolytes if necessary. They will adjust, it just might take time. Access to shelter is soooo important. And tons of forage. They will love you for it! I do keep my stalls bedded so if they do come in by choice they can also roll or laydown and it makes clean up a little easier. Whatever I don't have to chip from the paddock is less work for me!!! Speaking of which, I do still clean the paddock, as best I can. Whatever I can't see will appear in the spring!!!!

          Not sure what you use for fencing, but I use Horsegaurd Tape. The bottom strand already has snow up to it and covering in some places but I check it with a tester regularly and it is still carrying a hell of a charge. I am assuming I will have to disconnect my bottom strand here in a few weeks. We are getting hit with another 12-14" today!

          As for riding, I haven't in a few weeks which is not to mean I won't. My Appy is barefoot and I still lunge him in the snow and will probably begin trail riding when we stop getting hit with major winter storms every few days!
          Gone gaited....


          • #6
            Originally posted by MistyBlue View Post
            .my motto is if it's got to be cold might as well look pretty with snow on the ground. It does increase the workload with constant digging out and defrosting stuff but the horses LOVE it, they act like little children running around and playing in it.

            I'm in CT as well and Mistyblue is spot on with her cold weather advice

            A decent water heating device is a must. I find the drain plug heaters for the big rubbermaid tubs to work nicely. Tall muck boots, good gloves, and warm hats make all the difference too. Lately I've been wearing a pair of thin long johns under my riding jeans and that has worked suprisingly well.

            I also wanted to add that I completely agree with your motto and everyone I know around here couldnt' wait for riding in the snow! Cold weather riding without snow really stinks, the ground is rock hard so your banished to boarding at a barn with an indoor or trucking in. Snow makes the footing on the trails the greatest ,soft and fluffy. The best is riding on snowmobile tracks and bareback riding on the trails is much less daunting on my 16+ hand horse when there is a foot of snow on the ground.

            Most horses I know love the snow. My guy chose to sleep in the snow last night rather than his clean, bedded in/out stall....go figure.


            • #7
              Originally posted by spotted mustang View Post
              My horse lives outdoors all year. It's possible as long as:
              he has a walk-in shelter
              plenty of hay for producing interior warmth
              plenty of blankets as needed (up to 3 on top of each other)


              CT certainly isn't a Alaska but my horse is able to live out in all weather for the same reasons above. We do have access to box stalls if needed but I rarely use them, I will use them due to excessive rain/ice rather than snow....


              • #8
                I am so jealous of people with horses who prefer it outside. My barn aisle can double as a run in area when I swing the interior gate around but as soon as anything wet falls from the sky my two head into the aisle. And they will not come back out until it stops.
                I was just laughing at those two wimps because it was a light dry snow all morning and they were fine out in that (waterproof blankets on) but as soon as the flakes came down faster and turned into the bigger not so dry flakes, both headed into the barn. I watched from the window expecting to see them back out again in a few minutes because the hay was outside...one did come back out. He went out and grabbed a unfluffed flake and brought it back in the barn with him! So I went down and put both in their stalls. Dorks...I wish mine were happier outside. Saving on bedding for the stall pig one would be nice.
                Although oddly the snow melts on both my horses...they never get a snow build up on their backs. I think they have faulty coat insulation.
                You jump in the saddle,
                Hold onto the bridle!
                Jump in the line!


                • #9
                  There isn't a change in my turnout schedule -- the horses are out all the time (I bring them in twice a day for feed). I give more hay outside when it is very cold (0 F or below). I will bring them in if there is heavy sleet.

                  The inconvenience factor is high. I can't drive the truck over to the barn in the winter, so I have to drag horse feed from the truck to the barn. I use a metal snow scoop for this. I also have to shovel out the doorways and hammer snow balls out of the horses' feet at times.

                  There are some cost savings, believe it or not! No fly spray to buy. The hoof trimming schedule decreases to once every 8 weeks from the usual 6 weeks during the summer. Their feet just don't grow as quickly at this time of year.

                  Winter, love it or hate it, I guess I'm stuck with it.
                  My Equestrian Art Photography page


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks everyone! And I do have power to read the replies. We got off easy, everything is covered in ice though. I wish I had a sled like MistyBlue mentioned; pushing the wheel barrow was really difficult this morning. I can't imagine cleaning the fields with it.

                    Yeah MistyBlue, your right about the level of preparation for this sort of thing in the PNW. Although I have seen people raised in Alaska and Vermont complain about how cold it can get here with the rain soaking you to the bone. For clothes I've been wearing my sole pair of polar fleece breeches with the jeans I wear when I feel fat over them, along with two shirts and a big jacket that looks like a bag lady coat but keeps my cozy. Two hats, a pair of water proof Deluthe gloves and my muck boots and I'm actually dandy except the fact its the only get up I have to wear.

                    All of the 11 horses I am caring for now are outside. I topped all all the water troughs and drained the hoses, and dragged them under cover or even inside (under the Barn Owner's instructions). I made heated salt water jugs to float in the troughs with a decent success rate. Of course, the handles for the water sources are frozen! They were working just fine in the cold before the ice hit though . The moods were all ranging from the poor, pissy, bucking gelding who didn't like the fact that his blanket was frozen around the edges to my mare who seems to be enjoying herself (she wouldn't come eat breakfast in a distracted/perky way, not a distressed way; yeah she is special), just hasn't quite figured out to maneuver as efficiently as she would like.

                    Everyone, including the dog and myself (anyone who weighs enough to fall through the ice crust) has this tracking up, passage trot/string halt step going on to maneuver. The dog has gotten used to making snow angels and tried to make one first thing morning and gave up before he was even fully on the ground and went and pouted on the porch. He doesn't even look up when someone puts a boat on . With my short legs I was sort of running/lunging to get anywhere anytime soon and nearly tripped on the ice crust a few times.

                    As far as my farrier care, the four at my house are barefoot. Two different farriers work on them and my two were trimmed just last week and have not been balling up at all. The other two have a different farrier and one was balling up. I've noticed limited snow balls from the other group of seven, which is mostly shod, but they are still there.

                    Ughhhh, well I am house bound today! Which means long COTH posts and I might just open my Chemistry book for the new quarter and get a head start.


                    • #11
                      My snow weather barn get-up:
                      insulated snow pants from Dick's Sporting Goods ($30-$50 or so, on sale)
                      polar hat/polar balaclava (love it)/pimple or polar gloves
                      Lands End Extreme Squall boots (light, warm)
                      Lands End Extreme Squall jacket, or a down parka for fierce wind days
                      Heavy duty boots for mucky/deep water conditions: Dunham pack boots, wellies
                      hollofil socks (better than wool of fleece)
                      Thermals of varying weight and styles, tops and bottoms
                      fleece pants for non-snowy days
                      Vaseline on the face for cold, windy days
                      Neutrogena hand cream throughout the season

                      Connecticut weather does not usually require the down parka or Dunham pack boots, but I lived in New Hampshire for many years. Old habits die hard. Better to be prepared than sorry.
                      There are good sales online right now, with free shipping in some cases.
                      "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                      • #12
                        Salt water jugs???? Tell me how! How long do they tend to last and at what temp (coldest that is)????
                        Gone gaited....


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LookinSouth View Post
                          CT certainly isn't a Alaska but my horse is able to live out in all weather for the same reasons above. We do have access to box stalls if needed but I rarely use them, I will use them due to excessive rain/ice rather than snow....
                          ditto. I find that 40 degrees with driving rain is MUCH harder on the horses than a dry, windless 40 below.

                          After all, the critters' ancestors roamed the ice-age steppes of North America and Eurasia, so they've got the genes for living in tha cold


                          • #14
                            the one item I can't live without

                            talking of winter gear, here's one lil' thing that makes all the difference:

                            It's called a turtle fur shellaclava, although in Alaska everyone says "neckwarmer". It's usually sold as snowmachine gear, but everyone heading outside in winter needs one: they avoid heat loss from the collar and keep your neck warm and chin from freezing off. And the hood part adds warmth underneath your wool or fur hat.

                            edited to say: they do come in happier colors than black. I have a red one, pink one, neon green one, baby blue one, royal blue one, purple one...


                            • #15
                              Cabela's has a good selection of thermal weight undergarments and other cold weather apparel that might make you more comfy in the cold months. I always do lots of thin layers and then make sure to put wind-proof and water-proof clothing over the top (coat AND pants). It will keep your skin from getting that wicked chill that stings.