There is no denying it.
The frost has been on the pumpkins, the trees are dropping their leaves in great colorful drifts, there has been a thin skin of ice on the water tanks in the morning and the horses are getting fuzzier by the minute.
Winter is just around the corner.
The cold, the ice, the mud...oh. The mud. In this part of the world we hover right between being in The North and being considered Southern. Some winters are bitter cold and the ground freezes solid and we get real snow. Other winters are more southern in nature - we don't get real snow, we get ice storms - and nothing ever really stays frozen for long so we are left with lots of thick, sticky nasty mud, the bane of every horse owner every where. Mud sucks. Literally. It sucks off shoes, it sucks off boots, it pulls tendons and wrenches ankles. There is nothing that sucks the energy out of me faster than having to slog through mud. I can't even tell you the number of times I've walked right out of my muck boots and planted my poor socked foot deep into cold, nasty mud.
I spend every season battling mud. Gravel disappears into the quagmire of nastiness. I'm pretty sure the gravel breeds mud, no matter how much I put down there is always more mud. It's incorrigible.
Aside from spending the other seasons prepping for the mud in an attempt to stave it off in the winter, I've been preparing for winter in other ways too.
My hay shed is FULL of beautiful sweet-smelling hay. There is something very comforting about a full hay shed going into the winter. That is one thing on the list of things I won't have to worry about for a few months.
Blankets have been found, examined and repaired. I still need to get them to the laundromat for a good washing. The horses don't wear them often, I prefer their natural coats, but when we get a good ice storm with lots of wind I blanket 'em up. You can have a cold horse...you can have a wet horse, but you should never have a cold, wet horse. Those who have horses living on pasture know: Even if they have a place to escape the weather (ie cozy run-in sheds bedded with nice, fresh straw) they rarely use them when they are supposed to. Silly beasts!
The water tank heaters have been found and examined for wear and tear and tested to make sure they still work. Calcium deposits from the winter before have been scrubbed off.
Fences have been examined and tightened and repaired where needed. Pastures at rest for the winter closed off, sprayed for weeds, limed, the clumps of poo spread and mowed one last time. I missed the fall deadline for overseeding for this area, so that will be done as soon as possible in the spring. There are only a few areas that need it this time, thankfully.
Although it's not quite cold enough yet, the hose still needs to come inside at some point. Filling tanks with a frozen hose is not only frustrating, but often impossible and frequently ends with a burst hose.
It's also time to give all my brushes their seasonal scrubbing and disinfecting. I do this once every season. It gives me the chance to really examine my brushes, replace the worn ones and keep things nice and clean. You can't get a dirty horse clean with a filthy brush!
I found the Thrush Buster, the heavy duty mud brushes and the scratches remedy. Again, the mud. My bane.
Calypso likes to break out in rain rot every winter, so I've dug out the ointment/scrub for that, too. This year I'm going to do my damndest to try to prevent her from "rotting." We'll see what happens.
My tack needs a good scrubbing and conditioning. The cold, dry weather wreaks havoc on good leather.
While many people don't consider it, I also stock up on electrolytes for winter use. I have discovered it can be a challenge to find electrolytes during the winter at the feed store, so I stock up at the end of summer. The horses tend to drink less during the winter, and, combined with the cold, less desire to move around and increased dry roughage (hay), it's a recipe for colic. I feed electrolytes daily in the horse's warm beet pulp mash to encourage winter water consumption. It seems to work. The tanks don't empty quite as fast as they do in the summer, but the water level lowers steadily and gives me peace of mind knowing they're getting enough in their tummies to keep things moving right along properly.
And finally, now that I've found and fixed the horse's outerwear, it's time to find mine! Gloves, coats, hats, scarves, etc. Oh, and thick socks...must have thick socks for riding. I can stand cold noses. I can tolerate cold fingers, but when I dismount after a chilly ride, the last thing I want is to feel like I've shattered my feet when I hit the ground! So, warm socks top the list.
I still need to replace the handles on my wheelbarrow. They snapped this summer and need repaired. Can't clean run-ins without a wheelbarrow! I've been using the yard cart on my mower to keep them clean until now, but when it's muddy, that mower ain't going through it without a fight!
Are you ready for winter?