Horse keeping in any season has its challenges, but no season beats winter when it comes to trials and tribulations.
Use these five tips to help plan for a smooth transition before the first freeze hits, and you and your horses will all have a much more comfortable winter.
Now is the time to review how much hay you have on hand and how much you still need to purchase to get through the winter. Consider how and where you’ll provide winter hay rations – for example, will horses be primarily fed inside, where small, square bales will be the best approach? Or do you need to have large, round bales ready and waiting for pasture feeding?
Remember that wet, windy and cold conditions will have an impact on nutrient needs for horses, so add those considerations into your planning.
Adequate water intake is essential to the health and well-being of your horses. If you live in an area where temperatures dip below freezing, make sure you have heated water sources so your horses never go without the eight to 12 gallons they need each day to thrive. Research suggests that horses will consume more water if it's maintained at a temperature between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plan Your Route
Are there areas on your farm that can become hard to navigate or are prone to freezing in cold weather? A quick walk around your farm, considering paths through gates, buildings and pastures, will help you assess if there are any pre-winter modifications you need to make.
Now is the time to test the equipment that’s been on hiatus since last winter. If you have farm equipment specific to snow removal, rev up that engine now and make sure it still works and doesn’t need any maintenance. Get out those winter boots, clothes, Carharts, gloves and other essentials. Make sure they fit and are in good enough condition to get you through another cold season.
There’s nothing more frustrating than pulling out your horse’s blanket from last season and discovering a gaping hole or finding that it just doesn’t fit anymore. Fall is the perfect time to get out those blankets and make sure they are in good shape and still fit your equine charges. Consider what size and weight each horse needs – and if there is something you’re missing, order it now, so you’ll have it in good time.