Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keepin' 'em healthy

Apparently I spoke too soon about having unseasonably warm weather.

It got cold and dumped ice and snow on us. Fun! Thank goodness the water tank heaters are working. I can deal with just about any aspect of winter that comes with having horses, but breaking ice I absolutely ABHOR.

Actually, instead of getting cold and staying cold, Mother Nature has been at the roulette table again. A day before the ice and cold it was 60+ degrees out. It got so damn cold and windy and snowy Thursday and Friday I ended up calling the farrier and giving him the option to reschedule. I don't have a proper barn so standing out there in the wind and cold and snow makes farrier work absolutely miserable. He rescheduled and I am glad he did! I don't like standing out there any more than he does! Their hooves actually look really, really good at the moment and it won't hurt hurt them one bit to wait a couple of weeks. Calypso has a touch of thrush in her front feet, but she always seems to have a touch of thrush, no matter how often I treat it.

Monday this week it was again 60+ degrees. Then it rained and rained and thunderstormed and hailed and the wind gusted like no one's business. Think Midwestern spring weather.

That evening, it turned frigid and cold again.

Weather like this is a horse owner's nightmare.

Colic is always a worry when the weather won't settle into something stable for a while. The constant change from warm to cold to warm to cold wreaks havoc on our poor beasts. And there's not a whole lot you can do to prevent it but keep them as hydrated, moving and as full of hay as they want to be. That's why I absolutely love my tank heaters and will never go through a winter without them. I know that my horses always have unfrozen, slightly warm water to keep their finicky digestive tracts moving like they are supposed to. And the extra helps too, not only to keep them toasty warm even on the most frigid nights, but to keep something in those guts. I'm a HUGE advocate of feeding well-soaked beet pulp during the winter, too, anything to help get as much water into them as possible, especially when it's cold and I know they tend to decrease their water intake. I think the horses really enjoy their morning and evening meals of steaming beet pulp, especially when sometimes I'm feeling extra generous and hide a couple of peppermints in the mix. They dig in and slurp away!

On the bright side, I've already noticed the daylight sticking around a little bit longer every day and poor Gabe is already starting to shed out some of his winter coat. The shedding seems a bit early to me, but who am I to argue with his internal clock? And it means spring is getting closer and closer, always a welcome time of year.

I have big plans for the spring, not only for riding and trail riding trips, but also plans to make some fairly significant lay-out changes to the farm to make things more user and horse friendly and make a little more room for a friend's horse I expect to move to my place this spring. We're moving paddocks, moving and rebuilding run-in sheds, increasing the size of the arena and adding a few more trails through the woods with cross country-style jump options. Actually, I need to get busy on clearing trails now, when all the foliage is gone and it's easy to get through the underbrush when I can see where my paths are going!


  1. We've been having swinging weather climates lately too! The real worry for us with colic is that it gets up to 65 during the day, but down in the 40s at night; 20 degree difference is hard on immunity for horses and humans alike! We don't use water heaters, but we put the water under the horses' lean-to or against the side of a building and that helps keep it from freezing. Winter is the best time for dreaming of spring and summer shows and horse trips- and renovating the paddocks/ barns. (p.s. friendly advice, don't forget to have a signed boarding agreement/ liability release for your friend's horse if don't already!) Nice to find your blog! Corinna

  2. These temperature swing are worrisome indeed. I've been adding two tablespoons of salt to am and pm feed, additional to free choice salt / mineral blocks. I also fill Val's water tub to the brim each feeding so it's easier to monitor how much water he drinks, plus keeps the temperature more inviting.

    I guess that's all you can do, besides worry. ;)

  3. Corinna, welcome and thank you for stopping by! I wish I could put the buckets (troughs) under the run-ins to keep 'em from freezing, but when we're hitting single digits at night...brrrrr!!! I'm doing a lot of spring/summer dreaming and planning right now, we'll see how much actually gets done. :) And thank you for the advice about the boarding agreement/liability release. I couldn't decide whether having one is necessary, but I think I'll have one to protect both of us. I'm looking forward to having a riding companion, that's for sure.

    Calm,Forward,Straight...Very, very worrisome. I've lost a couple of very good horses to colic so I'm super extra vigilant about it, and the weather changes definitely keep me on my toes. I'm a huge worrier this time of year. I tried adding salt to their feed last year and I really didn't see much of an uptick in their water consumption at all. They have free choice salt/mineral and right now, they seem to be going through more of it than they did during the summer! Horses...sheesh. :D

  4. Weather abnormalities here in Cali too. I also fill our water tubs to the brim so we can make sure each is drinking their usual amount. Isn't it grand making and revising property as you figure out what works for you and what doesn't? It never ends and our place will never be our 'dream' place because the cowboy s always dreaming up some new, better idea. I love it!