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.
Looking after horses in winter often leaves us scrambling to get things done during the frigid cold 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.
Hay tends to become short on supply deep in winter time, so make sure you buy enough for food and bedding.
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
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.
Aim to have this work completed in late summer or early autumn. Looking after horses in winter is all about preparation!
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.
Having a backup power source such as a generator is also a very good idea, as power supplies always tend to go down right when you don't need it to; in the dead of winter!
Now is also a good time to check on your lighting situation in the barn or stable, often there will not be enough light, so upgrading your bulbs or installing new ones will be something you are very thankful for in a few months time.
Make sure that all repairs needed around the barn are done before the first snow hits!
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 or sustained rain.
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.
Worn or broken wood panels have the potential to quickly become a major problem when faced with a few days heavy snow or rain.
Closely inspecting the roof joins and edges will also prevent draft issues, which will help keep you and the horses warmer and safe from frigid blasts of air when you will need it most.
Lastly, if you have the time, replacing old and rusty screws and jointing will help keep your roof safe for all inside.
4. Secure Safe Water Sources
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.
Also make sure that there is an adequate water run-off solution around your stable. Winter inevitably brings downpours of rain, and snow melts, so make sure drains are not blocked and running free.
You will certainly thank yourself when you find yourself trudging out to the barn in the dark every morning.
6. 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 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.
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