As you prepare for Old Man Winter, use these 10 tips to help you protect your horse farm from the sleet, snow, mud and bitter cold – while keeping your horses healthy and comfortable.
- Stock up on hay. Experts say horses should be fed about 2 percent of their body weight in hay or forage per day. That’s about 600 pounds of hay per month for an average 1,000-pound horse, which is especially important in winter if snow covers the grazing ground. Store hay in a clean, dry and convenient area so when the snow falls, it’s easy to get to.
- Create an emergency and winter storm plan. Flashlights, extra batteries, fuel for generators, car charger for your cell phone and battery powered radio/weather radio are a few supplies you should have on-hand in your home as well as in the barn. Consider investing in battery-powered headlamps to keep your hands free while performing chores during a power-outage.
- Preserve your tack. Winter cold is hard on your tack. Before the cold sets in, consider giving it a thorough cleaning and conditioning. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of it for insurance purposes.
- Keep the bedding soft and dry. If your horse is in a stall all or part of the time, the material used to keep the bed of the stall dry is important. Research your options, as there are many. Cleaning the stall and keeping the bedding dry will help maintain the health and comfort of your horse.
- Maintain safe outdoor lighting. Make sure the lighting both outside your barn and inside your stalls is bright enough to take care of your horses. This will also ensure a safer environment for you and any boarders. Outdoor lighting can also help keep critters away.
- Wash your blankets. If your horse wears a blanket inside, make sure it’s clean, dry and in good shape for the winter. Check for signs of mold and mice, and replace any blankets that don’t pass muster. Ensure any blankets properly fit your horse(s) before it gets cold enough to need them.
- Tend your pasture. Before the snow flies, take the time to mow your pasture one last time, but not too closely – keep it at four inches or more – as that could damage the pasture and slow growth in the spring. If you bring your horses in for the winter, drag the manure in the pasture to allow it to decompose. You may also want to create an outdoor winter enclosure for your horse(s) outdoors.
- Keep your tools and equipment in working order. Be efficient by keeping the right tools and equipment at your fingertips. Get your power equipment tuned up and parked for easy access. Change or rotate tires and add snow chains as needed. Consider using a trickle charger for tractors and other large implements. And stock up on supplies like antifreeze and extra belts and hoses.
- Have water at the ready. If you use an automatic water system, check to make sure they are working well. Horses cannot get enough water by eating snow and tend to drink less when the water is very cold. If your water tends to freeze, a stock tank heater or heated stall buckets may do the trick.
- Safeguard your operation. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have the right insurance coverage for your operation. Standard homeowners policies may not cover things like losing your horses to fire, lightning and collision. And you may be exposed to liability claims that could be financially catastrophic. Customized horse insurance can help you protect your horses and your operation, even your livelihood.
Being prepared for winter is half the battle. Don’t forget about yourself as you prepare. Making sure your boots, waterproof jacket riding clothes and gloves don’t need to be repaired or replaced before the weather turns cold. Following these tips can help give you peace of mind that you’re geared up for the cold, and your horses will be safe and sound for the season.