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SPINOFF: Simplifying Winter Barn Chores

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    SPINOFF: Simplifying Winter Barn Chores

    The thread about winter horse keeping got my wheels turning about ways to make barn chores as painless as possible during the miserable winter months.

    Most people agree that keeping them OUT 24/7 with access to a stall or shelter, heated water and free choice hay is the easiest way to go, but what other tips and tricks have you come up with to make winter a little more pleasant?

    I only have two at home, and what I've that found is making my life easier at the moment is:

    Both horses have 40x90 paddocks attached to their stalls. They come and go 24/7...which means the stalls are generally pretty clean.

    I have vinyl fencing with hotwire (hard to hang things from), so I had the fence guys sink a 4x4 in the paddocks with a screw eye on it so I can hang hay nets from that. If I feed their hay outside, they usually don't have more than a pile or two to clean the next day in their stalls, and cleaning paddocks takes 5 minutes.

    My frost free hydrant is about 1' away from each horse's heated tub, and I've discovered that a pocket hose with a quick release attachment is the way to go! Those little hoses are SO easy to drain, fold up, and throw in the heated tack room until the next day! And with the quick attachment thingy, no frozen fingers trying to screw in a hose!

    Alright, what else have you guys discovered that's made your barn chores easier?!

    #2
    Thanks for the pocket hose suggestion,., winter watering can definitely be a hassle.
    I try to look for opportunity to top off my water tubs between hard freezes,
    and then drain the hoses when not in use.
    I definitely keep deicers in my water tubs, and have a heated water buckets for
    the stalls during those lengthy hard freezes.
    I have a run in shed in the pasture that I will feed inside of,
    if I have to put hay out in crappy weather.
    Otherwise, I keep an assortment of waterproof blankets for daily turn out,
    and an enclosed barn for night time, and extreme conditions.
    I try to reuse hay from the stall (previous nights hay left uneaten)
    to feed outside in the field,
    so every night they gets fresh hay in the stall and nothing goes to waste.
    My biggest problem is running/emptying the manure spreader
    during extended bad weather.
    I try to fill it ^ sparingly and will instead,
    muck and dump each day out in the pasture if it becomes slick, sloppy, muddy or snowy for long durations of time.
    I keep extra hay, hay cubes and bedding on hand during
    unpredictable weather, and watch the long term forecasts
    to stay ahead (as best one can) of any approaching bad weather.
    If we really get dumped on with heavy snow, I get hubby to clear some paths with the tractor so I can get to, and from,
    all of the usual places without slipping, sliding, or falling down.
    Lastly, I pray that winter comes and goes quickly without too many hassles

    Comment


      #3
      Two things that have saved me time/energy/frustration this winter.
      Pocket hoses. I have 200 ft. Which is enough to reach my furthest tank. It all gets stored in a muck tub in the house.

      Hunters/Ice fishing sled. Its big & robust. Can haul 3 bales through the snow with minimal effort. Or through the mud with more effort. However, still way better than walking it out or trying to get my wheelbarrow out to my farthest paddocks. Put a tarp down and use it for mucking too.
      "The Friesian syndrome... a mix between Black Beauty disease and DQ Butterfly farting ailment." Alibi_18

      Comment


        #4
        Winter weather isn't that big a deal around here, fortunately. However, I have to say that I love, love, love my pocket hoses.

        Comment


          #5
          Yep, I use the red sled from my childhood to drag hay bales to the pasture. Horses end up staying inside a lot more in winter because pasture is not attached and in the middle of a huge field, so the wind blows.

          I do have a question...I was at a vet clinic one day and a client called- her mare went to drink out of a water tub, was electricuted, and her foal was nursing, and they died too. I have stayed away from water heaters becsuse of this- are any safe? I am not sure I want power cords running through my barn either....I usually have two buckets per horse, one freezes, goes in my house to my bathtub, other gets filled. Then swap

          Comment


            #6
            I don't have to deal with typical "winter" so much being in central Florida, but one thing I have started doing is bringing a bucket with alfalfa cubes into the house at night so I can soak them in the morning in warm water before I even go outside.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Callista17 View Post
              I do have a question...I was at a vet clinic one day and a client called- her mare went to drink out of a water tub, was electricuted, and her foal was nursing, and they died too. I have stayed away from water heaters becsuse of this- are any safe? I am not sure I want power cords running through my barn either....I usually have two buckets per horse, one freezes, goes in my house to my bathtub, other gets filled. Then swap
              This is exactly why I don't use the things. I assume someone used them improperly or they were very old and had exposed wiring, but I would hate the anxiety associated with having to check and worry.

              To the OP... I have stalls with run-outs so they're easy to take care of year-round. One thing I learned (the hard way) my first winter was that it's actually best to lock them IN during a big snowstorm. Because after a few snowstorms, spring is hell trying to clean the run-outs. Poop gets buried and frozen and you will never get it up until it's one frozen ice block in June that you're still waiting to thaw. Yes that means the stalls are harder once, but killing my and my SO's backs in the spring was not worth the slightly easier stalls.

              Easy barn chores all comes down to set up. So unfortunately there's not a lot you can do to fix a poorly-planned barn. I built mine knowing what I needed to be able to do and when, so chores for 3 horses is max of 30 minutes in the morning, and that's the longest I'm out there. I spend about an hour per day total, with 4 feedings/checks and one person doing the work.

              To help in the winter, I have insulated water buckets and I ran hot water to my frost-free hydrant (there's a spot to switch from cold to hot in the house, so it's set for hot all winter long and a few times in the summer for bathing). That combination means I never have frozen buckets, even with highs in the single digits and my barn being VERY open. I add hot water 3 times during the day, to top off the buckets, and then at night dump them out and refill with just hot water.

              I bed the stalls well, so I had my SO add a 4x4 at the bottom of their back doors to keep them from dragging all of their bedding outside, which was also a pain in the spring. My barn is a shed-row style, 3 stalls with an overhang and a large storage room at the end that is the same width as the stalls and aisle, so the "closed" portion of the building is an L. For the winter, I put up a piece of translucent plastic along the long side of the aisle to stop the wind, which actually keeps the barn about 10-15* warmer because it faces south and gets lots of sun, even with the stalls wide open.

              Other than that, nothing changes in my routine from summer to winter, because everything is close together. I clean stalls and run-outs 3x a day (early morning before work, immediately after work, and at nightcheck) using a muck bucket and cart, which I dump into a gigantic wheelbarrow. Once a day that gets walked to the manure pit.

              Comment


                #8
                Callista17:
                That sounds like the textbook illustration of "freak accident"
                How very horrible for that mare owner.

                That said, I have used a sinking deicer in a 50gal barrel for over 10yrs w/o a problem. I run the cord from where it attaches to the unit to where it exits the barrel through PVC piping cobbled together with a U joint & duct tape so horses cannot chew on it. The biggest problems I have had were:
                1)When my Jr. Engineer pony would pull the whole thing out of the barrel - no biggie, the deicer shut off, but the water (of course) froze, at least a couple inches on top I had to break open.
                I solved the problem by burying the PVC & cord running into the barn in cinderblock filled with gravel. Once he could not easily dislodge the toy it lost any attraction.
                2) Had to replace the original after year 5 when a "helpful" neighbor stripped the wiring near the plug to make it fit easier in the tubing (I just wrestled it in). I found this out after I plugged it in for the first time that year & it kept shorting out. < This was BEFORE I left it for the horses' use.

                For the heated buckets in the stalls, I run the wire-coil-covered cords through a hole drilled in the stall wall, up along the outside of the stall grilles to an outlet I had placed between the stalls at the top of the wall there.
                I used heavy duty staples to hold the cord in place - these staples are wide enough so they span the cord, no danger of punching through.
                These buckets are in use year-round, just unplugged as soon as temps stay above 40F.

                ETA:
                I need to check out those pocket hoses!
                A 50' one would make refilling buckets a helluva lot easier for me than my present Solo Bucket Brigade method.
                *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

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  #9
                  I'm surprised I didn't discover those pocket hoses sooner, they are fabulous!

                  Trailrides4fun - Every day when I clean stalls I carefully sift through dropped hay and pile it neatly in the corner...how the heck did I never think to just throw it in the field for them? That kills two birds with one stone, brilliant! Thanks for the tip!

                  Nestor - Good point about the run ins! I'll keep that in mind when we have a big snow in the forecast. When we only get a couple of inches I try to keep them out because one of my geldings is an absolute piggy and destroys his stall so bad that I want to cry in the morning.

                  One more tip that may be helpful...I bought a couple of those 5 gallon water jugs with lids that screw on and I'll fill them with hot water, put them in the wheelbarrow and take them out to the one field without a hydrant. I have a muck tub out there and two of those jugs fills it pretty close to full. The horses are out from around 9-3 and it doesn't freeze in that time.

                  Comment

                    Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                    Callista17:
                    That sounds like the textbook illustration of "freak accident"
                    How very horrible for that mare owner.
                    How terrible! I hope they were able to pinpoint the cause, such as faulty wiring or something. Scary if it just malfunctioned...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I'm curious about these pocket hoses. The reviews on Amazon are dreadful, with many folks saying they spring leaks after just a couple uses.

                      But are they really a winter lifesaver around the barn? If so, I'm about to click to purchase one...
                      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
                        I'm curious about these pocket hoses. The reviews on Amazon are dreadful, with many folks saying they spring leaks after just a couple uses.

                        But are they really a winter lifesaver around the barn? If so, I'm about to click to purchase one...
                        I've been using the same one for almost a year. Granted, it was just used at shows, and it just recently became my outdoor hose, but so far, so good. I just like how lightweight and flexible it is, it's so so much easier than a normal hose. I think I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond and IIRC it was pretty inexpensive.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I absolutely refuse to drag & drain water hoses around in the winter time. Too many stock tanks too far away from frost free hydrants at our farm. That's why I built a 150 gallon water cart we pull behind the 4 wheeler or tractor. Outside watering takes less than 10 minutes to complete. When not in use, it's stored in a heated area. The cart also makes watering the indoor easy all year long.
                          "It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races."

                          Mark Twain

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I said it on the other thread, but I bring all my hay over on the weekend for during the work week and stack it on a couple pallets by the dry lot. I cover it with a boat tarp I have. This saves me a ton of time before work.
                            DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by SugarCubes View Post
                              I've been using the same one for almost a year. Granted, it was just used at shows, and it just recently became my outdoor hose, but so far, so good. I just like how lightweight and flexible it is, it's so so much easier than a normal hose. I think I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond and IIRC it was pretty inexpensive.
                              I have no water hydrants around my barn- the only water is from the spigot on my porch. I have a huge, heavy duty hose on a hose reel that I use for filling the trough and buckets. The hose reel makes it manageable to deal with, but it also makes it near impossible to drain properly this time of year and it's a bugger to get on and off the reel. In my area, it's not an issue the majority of the winter since daytime temps almost always reach above freezing. But when we have those deep freeze cold snaps (like now), it might be nice to have something like the pocket hose on hand.

                              The 100ft models is $46 on Amazon... decisions decisions!
                              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Best place to buy insulated water buckets? We?e moving to a colder climate* & I think we will need to make some changes in horse keeping.

                                *I have been in this climate for 20 years and have had to break ice exactly twice; both times this year.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Great thread!

                                  Originally posted by SugarCubes View Post
                                  My frost free hydrant is about 1' away from each horse's heated tub, and I've discovered that a pocket hose with a quick release attachment is the way to go! Those little hoses are SO easy to drain, fold up, and throw in the heated tack room until the next day! And with the quick attachment thingy, no frozen fingers trying to screw in a hose!
                                  Which quick connect attachments do you use that don't freeze? I have brass ones and I have to remove them in the winter because ice forms on them and they won't connect to each other anymore. Plus if you read the hydrant or hose bib manuals they will say not to leave those things on since they can cause ice to back up into the pipe. I would love to hear about one that doesn't have those problems!

                                  I do a few of the things other people have mentioned. One thing that's been helpful this year is to put a pallet out near the pasture and take 6 bales of hay or so out there at a time, covered by a tied-down tarp. Saves me the daily hassle of getting hay from the storage shed to the field.

                                  Once the hay is out there I put it in Slow Grazer boxes on a gravel and stonedust pad, so my horses are never standing in mud all day. Filling the boxes can be kind of a pain though so I'm still on the lookout for other solutions. I have a four-board fence so when the ground is frozen and won't turn to mud I can hang additional nets on there.
                                  Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I have about 5 pocket hoses. Be aware they are different brands, varying quality. The best have metal, not plastic, fittings.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Over the years we have simplified about as far as possible. We have insulated wooden boxes around the water tanks, with half covers so horses drink out of one end. We put covers over the open parts at night and plug in the tank heaters to run them all night. Horses come into barns at night, so won't be drinking from tanks anyway.

                                      I don't want the heaters on when horses will be using the tanks. We have had a couple occasions over the years when heaters leaked electric, shocked the horse drinking with tiny electricity. Horses quit drinking AT ALL! Even being pretty desperate for a drink they got shocked and wouldn't try anymore. Sure sucked down LOTS of water from buckets inside! We got "the Clue" when water levels were not going down, usually within a day or so. Removed heater, put in a new heater, then changed over to only running tank heaters when horses were not outside.

                                      So to never teach horses that tanks are going to bite if you drink, we just never have the heaters on now when horses are outside to use the tanks. With our insulated boxes, the water will stay liquid all day long even in very low temps for drinking outside. The horses are good drinkers, you can see the water going down daily to tell you they are drinking as they need to.

                                      I do start feeding extra granular salt daily, to all the horses when the weather gets colder, to INSURE they drink as needed to stay hydrated. I do a quick skin pinch test DAILY to see if skin retracts fast or stays up to show dehydration. Any dehydrated horse gets a bigger salt helping for the next few days. I want the inside buckets empty or only an inch at the bottom when I dump them the next morning. Consistant amounts of water gone from the tanks. We have an odd but consistant pattern of water intake from the tanks, less the first day, lots gone the second day, running on a 2-day cycle. Then tank needs topping off again. Kind of weird but it is consistant so I don't worry about it.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        At my farm, we have a small Kubota tractor with a dump cart that we use to drive hay out to the paddocks. Sometimes it's too cold for the tractor to start since it doesn't have a block heater and is a diesel, or the ground is too icy for traction, even with snow chains. In those cases, we have a sled which is actually used for ice fishing http://www.cabelas.com/product/fishi...F104561280.uts. It can hold 3-4 bales of hay when stacked on the short side, and is super easy to pull across frozen/snowy ground. Makes the lack of the tractor a non-issue altogether. It was a HUGE time saver during last year's terrible Massachusetts winter.

                                        Comment

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