As we enjoy riding in the crisp Autumn air and being able to spend time at the barn with our horses without breaking much of a sweat, it can be easy to forget about how quickly winter is able to creep up and set in. This often leaves us scrambling to get things done during the frigid winter months, which can prove to be quite challenging, not to mention miserable. It is extremely important to have a plan set in place to help get the barn prepped and ready for winter before you’re left out in the cold
1. Stock Up On Essentials
Nasty weather during the winter can cause complications and delays in deliveries and shipments, and it can make it hard for you to make it into town or to the store when you need something short-notice. For this reason, it is important to stock up on the essentials before winter arrives. Make sure the barn is stocked up on hay, straw or shavings, and feed. This will be one less thing for you to worry about when winter hits; you will be able to have peace of mind knowing that your horses will always be warm, dry, and fed, no matter what the winter brings.
2. Make Necessary Repairs
Broken windows, holes in the walls, or even something as minimal as a stall door off of its hinges can prove to be a larger hassle in the winter. Make sure that all repairs that are needed around the barn are completed, and if the jobs call for a professional, make sure that you bring them out to get the work done as soon as you possibly can. It’s also a good idea to walk the fence lines and make sure any repairs to the fences are done before the ground freezes. Repairing or replacing a fence post in the dead of winter can prove to be next to impossible. Make sure that all repairs needed around the barn are done before the first snow hits; you’ll thank yourself later!
3. Inspect The Roof
A weak spot or hole in the roof has the potential to become catastrophic in the case of a large snowstorm. Set aside the time to evaluate and inspect the entirety of the barn’s roof to make sure that any and all repairs that are needed to be done before the end of autumn. This will also prevent draft issues, which will help keep you and the horses warmer and safe from frigid drafts of air when you will need it most.
4. Secure Safe Water Sources
Surprisingly, the majority of dehydration cases in horses are usually observed in the winter. In the dead of winter, it is not uncommon for pipes to freeze up. This can leave you in a tough spot when it’s time to fill water buckets, and it can put your horses at risk for dehydration, and possibly colic if the situation is not corrected. Make sure you have a plan to follow through with in the case that your regular water source becomes unreliable so that you will be able to provide your horses with clean, fresh water all winter long. Some people choose to install heaters near their water source, while others see the benefit in investing in a heated water system. Keep in mind that automatic waterers have the potential to freeze up in the winter, so it is always a good idea to keep rubber buckets on hand to ensure that you will always be able to provide the horses with fresh water right away.
5. Stock Up On Snow Removal Supplies
You won’t want to wait until the first snowstorm hits to check your stockpile of rock salt, or the condition of your snow shovels or snow plow. Stock up on all of your snow removal supplies in the fall so you will be ready to take on whatever the winter has to bring you. You will certainly thank yourself when you find yourself trudging out to the barn in the dark every morning.
6. Schedule A Farrier Visit
If anyone has thrown a shoe or needs a trim, make sure it is done before the end of autumn. Arrange to have your farrier come out before the first snowfall of the year. While it is surely not the end of the world to have a small setback in your horse’s usual farrier appointments, you don’t want to get caught in the dead of winter with no way for your farrier to get to you in the case of an emergency.
7. Make Sure Coats Are Clipped
If you clip your horses’ coats in the winter, make sure that coats are clipped as soon as possible. This will help ensure that their coats dry quickly after a workout, which will help them stay warm and comfortable.
8. Preventing Winter Boredom
Nasty weather usually means that turning out can become next to impossible. This essentially means that the horses are bound to end up spending a considerable amount of time in their stalls. Invest in toys and salt licks to help keep the horses occupied, and to help prevent them from going stir-crazy. It is also a good idea to invest in slow-feeder hay nets, which can be quite stimulating and prevent the horses from eating too quickly.
Winter certainly has a way of sneaking up on us, but it is important to make sure that you are prepared. Setting aside some time during the autumn months to prepare everything can have a massive positive impact on how your barn handles the winter months, making things easier and more enjoyable for you, other riders in the barn, and of course, the horses. Winter can prove to be quite tough, and is always accompanied by challenges, but with the proper planning and management methods, you can ensure that every winter will be safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for everyone in the barn.