Wintering with Horses

Hi Folks,

Those of you that live in a climate where the weather can change in a moments notice understand how difficult it can be to take care of your livestock, especially hard-keeper horses.

We had a snowstorm that hit without much warning. The weather forecast claimed a dusting of snow and temps above 32 degrees. I left all my horses in their shared paddock without blanketing. I woke up the next morning to one of the worst blizzards I’ve experienced in this area. I couldn’t see 20 feet in front of me when I first stepped out of the door in my pj’s. I ran out to check on the goats, gave them some paths in their pen so they could access their water and rotate huts and gave them some extra hay. When I made it out to the horses, I felt so horrible. I found the dominant horses in their shed, but shivering. The horses lower on the pecking order were standing out in the brutal wind and snow. They were covered in ice and shivering. I got the halter on Rio, the coldest and most at risk horse and lead him to the shed closest to the house with the most wind protection. Next was to get Remmy, Buck, and Joe moved over. It was a long process. Once the horses were over in the more protected area, they were able to huddle together to warm up. About 3 hours later, they were finally dry enough to get blankets on. The dominant horses in their pen had to get hand dried for their blankets, and they were fed ample hay to help warm them up from the inside. The eldest and mini’s were moved into the hay barn to warm up, then they got their blankets on once they were dry enough. It was a brutal day for everyone with livestock in our area, and many people lost power during that storm. We were fortunate to still have power.

What I took from that experience is to always just do the best you can, especially dealing with horses. Having the knowledge is key. Knowing which horses get along to put into a tight space or area; which horses are spooky that wouldn’t handle a situation as well; and which you could trust with your life. I didn’t know if Rio would follow me through 3 foot drifted snow, but I had to try. I kept coaxing him along. He trusted me enough to follow me through the nasty blizzard to the better protected pen.

When cold happens unexpectedly, make sure to feed plenty of grass hay. Alfalfa is too rich and gives them too much energy too quickly. Drying the horse off with towels when they’ve been soaked is ideal. Give them a good rub to increase circulation. If you have power, and the horse is calm enough, a hair dryer can be used too. Once the horse is dry enough keeping them dry will be the key to getting them warm enough. Feeding warm water with a sweet taste, such as apple juice mixed in, will help warm them up and get them hydrated. In storms or bad weather horses usually don’t drink enough water.

If you don’t have adequate shelter, proving enough hay for them to continually eat along with keeping fresh warm water available will help get you and your horses through a nasty storm.

All the horses, goats, and dogs on the property made it through the storm without any bad injuries or illness.

May you stay safe and healthy with your loved ones through the year.

Warm Regards,

Kate with OCHS






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