Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Fun!

So this weekend the Seattle area got blasted with snow, not a very common occurrence for us. It's roughly 18-24 degrees and Brrrrrr cold, so now what?? First things first. Winter care of your horse is a bit more demanding then that of summer (OK, that's a big Duh, but I had to say it.) So let's start off here.

Winter Care for the ones you love.
More HAY!!! Eating more hay will keep your horse warmer and help maintain their weight. The act of eating the hay helps warm up their systems. Don't bump up grain, bump up hay. Even if it's just a filler hay. I give my horses free choice filler hay and then they get their alfalfa for breakfast and dinner.

Horses have long fluffy coats for a reason. Let them grow!!! OR blanket them with a toasty warm cover. I have a Thoroughbred who doesn't grow much of a coat and so he needs that added warmth.
Give them a hot mash once a week. It's a nice treat for them and they'll appreciate it!

Horses don't drink as much water in the winter, so make sure they ARE getting what they need with your assistance. Water down grain with warm water. Warm up their water bucket, or add salt to their food.

I'm sure I've missed a bunch of stuff, but really I could go on and on...

What's more beautiful and peaceful then a winter's ride?? Not a thing.

HOOVES! No hooves, no horse. If it's icy out make sure your horses hooves are either shod properly to handle the ice and snow. Or trimmed properly so they don't slip, ship or crack. If they get packed with snow and ice, clean them out and put a bit of Vaseline in them. It will stop the ice form sticking. I've also heard of PAM non stick spray too, but have never used it.

Avoid to steep of hills. They can be too tricky to maneuver when slick.

Take it slow at first, allow them a lot of time to warm up AND COOL DOWN!
Know you're terrain. Stick to familiar areas on the trails. Places you know pretty well.

Bring water for yourself to drink and let your horse take breaks.

Dress WARM and if your horse has little coat or is used to a blanket then ride with a quarter sheet.

Stay safe, tell people WHERE you're going and take your cell. A Winter wonderland can be confusing when it's nothing but white.
It's a lot harder to work in the winter air, keep this in mind for your horse!!!

Above all have fun! Winter time is NO reason to stop riding! In fact it makes for a nice change of pace, so enjoy!!!

I know that those of you who are more used to the snow have some great tips as well! Please share as we Seattle-folk don't harbor too much snow very often!


2toads2luv said...

Pam actually works great, and since it's an aresol, easy to use.

BB is a fur ball, so no blankets here, but being able to get out of the wind and snow is key. We have about 5 inches of snow, it's 5 degrees, and blowing about 20. I think my cheeks froze when I fed (extra hay here too) this morning.


Oh, yeah, my other "stay toasty" trick... I agree, you definitely have to remember to drink water. But fill a thermos with hot water. Hydrates and warm ya up from the inside out.

Trainer X said...

ahhhhhh YES!!! That is awesome!!!

2toads2luv said...

Plain hot water doesn't sound that exciting, but let me tell you!!! It's the shizzle!

Trainer X said...

You know Sometimes a good furry, fluffy hair coat is better than a blanket! I'm glad BB stays warm!! LOL

Hot anything on a 0 degree day is the SHIZ!!

Mikolaj said...

FEEL OUR PAIN! Up here on the barren Canadian prairies, winter finally hit the way we know and fear this weekend. We hovered around -14F but the violent wind and blizzarding snow brought it to -40 (same damn thing C or F). What did we do? We rode of course!

Our horses winter outside without blankets and free choice hay. Personally, I like to ensure the horses are a bit chunky going into winter - a heavy coat and extra fat goes SUCH a long way for warmth. We keep our rides light and short, no sweating allowed. And for rider warmth? TIS BAREBACK SEASON! Haha, the saddles rarely get brought out as we don't have an arena or even a barn. Oh, biggest thing - take your bridles inside! When it gets bitter cold, warming the bit with your hands simply doesn't work - your skin freezes to it. Imagine your poor ponies tongue!

Our herd is kept in groups of three for huddle warmth. I would never ask a horse to come through winter as bitter as ours without a blanket and without buddies. And I think my biggest tip is just stay aware - my Arab mare grows a pathetic coat and I finally caught her shivering this weekend so on went the blanket. The horses are checked daily to ensure good health and good weight, to clean out the "snowballs", and farrier work does NOT get shirked just because it's winter.

We were actually out fixing fence in this god forsaken weather, and regardless of working fence or going for a trail ride in bitter winter, Butter Ripple Shnapps is ALWAYS welcome =D It sure made fixing fence feel a little toastier! (I know I know, alcohol doesn't actually warm you up, but it tricked my tummy and that's all I care about!)

Trainer X said...

Wow! Those are excellent TIPS!!! Very nice!!! Yeah people don't understand that horses use A LOT Of energy trying to stay warm and can end up losing a lot of weight...

kestrel said...

Best invention ever...those hand and feet warmer things that you break open and they get warm...or, I have a pair of electric socks! Yesss!
Also, go slow. Cold tendons and leg bones can tear and break, mine included. I'll wrap legs if the snow is crusty, saves on scraped legs, and never ride on ice if you can avoid it. I'll get off and lead. Snow is not nearly as slippery. Plus what everybody else said, and add Ginger Shnapps!

sterling said...

My horses get hay, and three are butterballs anyways, so the three fat ones get a whole bale a day in the winter; the two not so fat ones get a half bale per day, plus rice bran, alfalfa pellets, two pounds of grain for the thin one (we just got her, she's doing much better now) and one pound of grain for the hot one (gots to love my ay-rab, but he's got fat on him, and a good coat, the extra grain is not needed any more; just helps to get him overexcited when its time for a ride, lol!).

Also, bareback time here is quite exciting; you've also got to be extra careful, and wear your helmet! Snow does not make the best padding for a head, trust the person who goes sledding ;). Also, our horses are much friskier in the winter, so bucking is a given for the first five minutes of the longe (or the ride if I didn't longe).

Staying warm is difficult here in Wisconsin because we get so much snow. We rarely blanket our horses, because they've all got such good coats this year, and even the newest member of our herd is doing better than I had expected. Hot cocoa or tea to drink while the horses are eating is a great idea. I have a hard time keeping my hands warm, but toasting them under my horse's mane is a really nice thing to do while grooming or riding! Also, to warm the bit, I'll hold it between my thighs so my hands won't freeze, or bring some hot towels out.

Trainer X said...

sterling said...
My horses get hay, and three are butterballs anyways,
LMFAO!!!! Ahahaha Butterballs, how a happy horse going into winter SHOULD BE!!

chickenrider said...

Another quick way to warm up bits is keep a hair dryer in the barn! or (even easier) just run it under hot water.

Doesn't look like you've posted about clipping yet so here goes.

1. Clipping is a pain in the A$$. Unless you REALLY need to work your horse or show during winter months--don't do it! It will take time money and energy to maintain a clipped horse and keep them from getting overly cold/hot.

2. One reason clipping is a pain is that you are going to need several layers of blankets to keep a clipped horse warm properly. For a partly (trace) clipped horse this includes at bare minimum a warm sheet and turn-out rug. Also recommended are a stall blanket (to let that turn-out rug dry when it is wet and icky) and jammies. Jammies are those tight 80's looking horse pajamas that go under the whole blanket layer. If it is VERY cold you may even need a hood on your blanket or a 3rd layer of lighter blanket between the sheet and outer cover.

3. With all those layers of blankets and the need to take them off and move around depending on the temperature. A clipped horse gets cold in weather where you would just leave the blankets off an unclipped one. However if a horse gets too hot it is even worse! Sweat in winter can be deadly. This means rotating blankets and blanket ordering on a daily and sometimes multiple times a day basis. Either you need to do or you need well paid and experienced barn staff to do it for you.

3. Guess what? For working this pampered pumpkin you will need EVEN MORE horsey clothes! Before the horse is warmed up it will be COLD without blankets. Enter the wool or fleece cooler. (They make 3/4 sheets which work great as well.) Wrap it around your thighs/saddle and the horses buttocks and flanks. After you're both warmed up drop it off but not too far! When you're done riding that cooler goes right back on. The fastest way to cool them down is by hand walking without tack and with a cooler (sometimes MULTIPLE coolers depending on the work-out). However since the point of clipping your horse was to help them cool down more quickly and not get as hot when working this shouldn't take forever.

4. So yeah, clipping is a giant PITA. General rule of thumb the smaller the clipped area the less mucking around with blankets and what-not required. Which is how you end up with horses looking like this.

PS I know most of the reader/commenters and you TX are experienced horse people. Sorry if that came off a bit basic. I just get tired of running into people up here in the land of big snow (Michigan and Upstate NY) that think ooh I'll just CLIP my horse, that will be EASIER. Hah. Hah.

Trainer X said...

No, thank you Chicken rider, I did forget to mention clipping! That's great advice about the hair dryer too!!!

twilightecho said...

Here in the UP of Michigan we get an average of 200+ inches of snow a winter. So for us, winter riding takes up half of the year. I usually just hit the roads--not heavily traveled and snowy, not icy. I'm going to have to try the Vaseline in the hooves, wouldn't the Pam freeze if left outside? I'd forget to bring it in from the barn. :/
Today we had a temp of -12 so the horse got an extra helping of hay for breakfast.

2toads2luv said...


We get temps in the negaitve single digits, but not for days at a time. We do get single digit temps, and I've never had a problem with pam freezing. Then again, it might be wise to check the can to see what the recommended storage temps are- could be I've just been lucky. (scary thought)

Not sure how either would fare with your lovely temps!

Kirasmommy said...

Hey everyone pretty much what everyone else said too but I figured I would add to it:

I live in Renton WA now (3rd winter) but my mare and I are both born and bred Clevelanders, that being said:

- feed extra hay (if you are feeding a lg round bale watch for mold)
- check your horses everyone morning and evening for any changes (as in bumps, bruises, dehydration, check their gums for any stress, pick hooves etc)
- if they wear a blanket they still should be checked under the blanket I am amazed at some people in WA state (and probably all over the nation)who leave blankets on and never take them off and are confused 2 months down the road when they pull the blanket and find a skinny horse
- Keep Worming!!
- before you put your horses out walk the field/paddock/turnout looking at it doesn't do squat I have seen many horses fall over and injury themselves because their owners never took the time to check the turnout for safety (black ice in particular)
- give electrolytes as needed and make sure the water doesn't freeze, but a bucket or grab an ice pick and go to town - that was me this morning!
- if your animal doesn't know how to handle itself on ice and snow either put it with a knowledgable buddy who it can learn from, supervise it, or (as a last resort) keep it inside. It won't kill your horse to be in for one day if it is a choise between that or a broken leg
- Know your animal's boundaries and as needed try to expand them: if you own a TB with a thin coat it prob. won't be able to hand 15 below weather w/o help, but on the less cold days see if you can't go with a lighter or no blanket at all - toughen your guys up.
- ditto on hooves
- ditto on clipping
- I am queen of bareback riding in the winter
- Amen chickenrider
So I own two Hackney's 1 Haackney pony I have owned since I was in college and she was a filly and my 10 month old Hackney horse filly. And I had some rescues back in Cleveland as well. My filly Rhea Experienced her first snow on Friday and since then she has been getting a crash course from my mare and I on to handle it. Thank God she is a pretty mellow girl (in comparison to my mare), but my mare is a true snow baby and eats it, rolls in it, sleeps in it, and slides on her butt down hills in it. Currently my mare is the only horse at my barn (on May Valley Road) that can be ridden in this weather. So Friday I had bucking pony, Saturday I had rearing pony, and I am not quite sure what I had on Sunday but it was entertaining. Also, if you don’t need shoes in the winter pull them off your horse, it will help keep the sliding to a minimum. This is a great list guys. Also, if you have an outdoor arena as soon as you get the chance (weatherwise) drag it, that way when it hardens it is still usable for some very easy flat work and no jumping on the hard icy ground. Back home I was amazed at people who would do that and wonder how the animal hurt itself doing that. I like the blowdryer idea. And great point 2toads2luv about the wind - most horses can handle very low temps but you add in the windchill and then we have a problem...

Kirasmommy said...

Damn that was long - sorry guys!

Trainer X said...

Kirasmommy said...if they wear a blanket they still should be checked under the blanket I am amazed at some people in WA state (and probably all over the nation)who leave blankets on and never take them off and are confused 2 months down the road when they pull the blanket and find a skinny horse

OMFG!! THANK YOU!!! That is sooooo damn true around here!!!!

Mikolaj said...


I will never in a million years understand people who stop riding in winter. We don't need to "check" blankets - they come off daily when we ride!!