Preparing Your Horse Farm for Winter
Winter is not too far away. Some of us have already gotten a taste of the chilly weather. Now is a great time to make preparations on your horse farm to make winter more manageable and less of a headache.
Begin the preparations with your horses, by reviewing the health of your horses. It is important to have proper dental care, a vaccination program as well as a parasite program in place. Consult your veterinarian about the management program, and if your horse requires attention in any or all of these areas. Have this taken care of before winter weather sets in. It is important that the horses maintain their body condition since they use a lot of energy to keep warm.
Stock up on your winter supply of hay now. The hay should be fresh-smelling, leafy, and green, NOT moldy, discolored, dusty and full of weeds. It is suggested that horses be fed 1.5%-2% of their body weight in forage daily. For an average horse, that is about 20 pounds of hay per day. Calculate how much hay will be needed to aminatin the horses throughout the winter. Figure in about 10% for waste. If you are unable to store that much hay on your farm, check with the farmer, or a neighboring farm, to see if they would be able to store the purchased hay for you.
Adding footing material to the high traffic areas, such as gates areas and in front of stall doors and walkways to cut down on mud during the thaws. Adding material such as coarse sand or chpped wood will help absorb excess water in these areas.
Picking up manure in paddocks, stalls and confined areas will also minimize mud. It will also reduce parasites, flies and odors, help prevent groundwater and surface water pollution and it will also improve pastures when composted manure is applied to them for fertilization.
Clean out and repair the gutters and downspouts. Have the rainwater and melting snow divert away from the building and confined areas, as well as working areas. They can be diverted into pastures, rain barrels, dry wells, woods or even into stock tanks. Also, reroute any standing water from large flat areas, such as driveways, parking areas or hillsides for ice management.
It is a good idea to bring the horses in off of the pastures and confine them to a paddock. During the fall, the grasses tend to be grazed too closely and will be slow to return in the spring, due to the fact that the grasses grow dorman during the winter months. Plus, the soil will be compacted.
Healthy horses are able to withstand the cold temperatures, but do need shelter from the winds and precipitation. Body heat is lost when it is windy and when the coat is wet. A three-sided run-in shed facing east would work well. Make sure it is well ventilated and well-drained. Also, have the barn well-ventilated to prevent mold and germ growth. Make sure the barn is not drafty.
Horses drink 8-12 gallons of water per day. It is especially important that water intake is maintained through the winter to keep the digestion tract moving along smoothly. Without enough water, horses can end up with colic, which can be fatal. Horses will not drink cold water, nor will they break through the ice. Insulate the water pipes, spigots, have heated buckets in the stalls, and put a stock tank heater in the water tank.
Rodents love to find warm cozy places in the winter that also has a good food supply. Place all grains and feed in closed containers to prevent rodents from making your barn their home.
Be prepared for winter emergencies. Have flashlights handy in the home and the barn in accessible places with extra batteries on hand. Have fuel on hand for generators, and lanterns. It is best to have a back up plan for watering the horses in case of a power outage. Storing water in rain barrels is one way. Strongly suggest having at least a 3 day supply of water on hand, or 30 gallons per horse.
Have winter tools on hand ready for when they are needed, which include shovels, tractor implements (such as harrow and blade), and intact manure forks.
The last item is to check the fenceline for damage before winter weather sets in. The fencing should also be checked after high winds or heavy snows. It is better to repair the fence rather than having your horses escape and become injured on the broken fence.
If you take the time during the fall to prepare your horse farm for winter, it will cut down considerably on the work required during the cold, windy and snowy weather and allow you and your horses to be more comfortable.
Brigita McKelvie is a REALTOR® (Pennsylvania License #RS297130) with Cindy Stys Equestrian & Country Properties, specializing in rural and horse properties and farms in Eastern Pennsylvania. She has an e-Pro® (Certified Internet Expert) certification and a GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) designation.
Brigita McKelvie, REALTOR
Pennsylvania License #RS297130
Rural and Horse Properties and Farms
Cindy Stys Equestrian & Country Properties, Ltd.
The Premier Equine and Country Real Estate firm serving Eastern Pennsylvania from back yard operations to world class equestrian facilities.
Use a REALTOR with "horse sense" that doesn't horse around when it comes to horse properties.