It’s December, time to hunker down for the winter. Though this adage usually doesn’t apply to horse people, since most of us ride all year long regardless of weather, it is time to address some cold weather barn issues.
Is your barn free of drafts? A draft and ventilation are two different things. You’ll want to have fresh air in your barn, weather permitting, daily. You’ll want to open the doors and get some ventilation passing through. But steady cold air circulating in the barn day and night through a gap in the doors, or a panel missing on the siding, is not a good thing. Make repairs now; don’t wait until the first blizzard. You’ll be out there stuffing feed sacks in the holes and wishing you’d been better prepared.
Close all the stall windows and latch them. Any broken windows should be replaced or covered. If there are stalls boards that have rotted or have been chewed on excessively (and you can see daylight through the cracks) these will need to be replaced or repaired also. Remember, no drafts. You don’t want an airtight barn, you want a barn with good purposeful ventilation.
Check your water source. If the pipes are prone to freezing, apply heat tape and be ready to plug it in as soon as the temperatures drop into the thirties. Remove hoses in the evening and take to a warm area; the tack room, the pump room, a heated garage. Nothing worse than a frozen hose, which can take hours to thaw.
If you have heated water buckets, make sure they are working properly. Fill them with water and plug them in before they are needed. Check the temperature. Remember the water will not be warm, but it should feel comfortably cool and not ice cold. Check the electrical connections for wear and tear. If you have automatic waterers, make sure they are all working properly. If you have well water, you may have to remove the scale buildup.
Wash the summer turnouts, coolers, fly masks and fly sheets, dry them thoroughly and store them away. Bring out the winter blankets and turnouts and hang near the horses’ stalls. Check to see if repairs are needed, if there are any tears or missing snaps or buckles. Have a supply of extra leg straps on hand, as you will surely need them before the winter is out.
Refresh your rodent feeding stations, since like every other creature on the farm; they too will be looking to hunker down in someplace warm for the winter. Favorite areas for mice to migrate to are the feed room and tack room.
If you haven’t done any maintenance to the indoor arena surface recently, now’s the time to assess if it needs a freeze preventative added, or calcium. You will not be able to water regularly, so you will want to take steps to keep the dust down.
Bundle up, stay warm, and Happy Riding!