Winterizing Your Barn
Winterizing Your Barn I
Winterizing Your Barn Part II I thought I would share with you a list of things to do to winterize your barn. I live in Ohio and have cared for horses on my property for almost 30 years, so I guess that makes me as much of an ‘expert’ as anyone. Feel free to add in the comments anything I might have missed.
Everything about taking care of your horse becomes more difficult in the winter. The biggies in horse care: Feeding, watering, manure management and turnout will become more of a challenge but with some preparation, you can make it easier on yourself and nicer for your horse. I will cover tips on handling turnout during mud season in another blog post.
Here is what I do:
get your winter hay supply lined up
check your stock tank heater from last year- I have yet to have one last much more than 1 season, so I always just buy another.
Get a bucket heater. I like bucket heaters like this:
The bucket heaters pictured above are not made to stay in the bucket while unattended…. but rather they heat up a bucket of water quickly. I like to get a big bucket of water heating while I am doing chores and then fill the horse’s water buckets up with warm water. Before I leave the barn, I dump the icy water and fill with the warm water heated from the bucket warmer which I then unplug, hang it up. The horse’s water stays drinkable longer and I have no worries of a barn fire.
I like to get my barn all cleaned and organized before winter comes. I use a large locked tack locker for my grain storage so I get that all cleaned and check that my grain containers (I use metal garbage cans) have good seals to keep rodents out. The mice start to find nice, comfy places in your barn when the temperature drops so make sure they can’t get in your feed and contaminate it with droppings.
I use a heat tape on my water pump in the barn to help keep it from freezing. There is nothing worse than hauling water to your barn in the winter so take good care to make sure you insulate your water pump well. I found this photo below and although it’s not my barn, it looks like a handy arrangement.
In addition to the heat tape on my well pump, I add insulation to any exposed pipe. I also use thermo cube outlets in the barn so the heat tape and stock tank heater shut off when not needed. I take care to place my stock tank so it is close enough to fill for water when the horses are out, but not directly up against my barn or fence. One year we had an outside stock tank heater start a fire and came home as the wood board fence that the stock tank rested against was in flames! Thankfully that is as far as it went but it could have easily caught my barn on fire given more time to burn.
Worm your horses for bots in late fall. Keeping your horse teeth in good shape and parasites under control means your horse can utilize the food you feed well. Your horse’s energy demands will go up as the winter progresses to keep warm. I make it a point to feed free choice hay and plenty of clear, unfrozen water in a big stock tank during the coldest months so the horses eat and drink all that they need to keep warm. If water is limited, horses will stop eating hay….or worse yet, colic. You can add a piece of a log or wood to float in your stock tank to keep the top broken open during the coldest part of winter. In my neck of the woods, Jan. and Feb. often have temps below zero, not counting wind chill. My horses like to be out in the cold and I like them to be out as much as possible and can feel at ease in doing so by providing plenty of hay and water like I mentioned above, and a windbreak and shelter. Often the horses don’t choose to be in the run in but it is there if they need it. You can help them out also by not putting their ‘free choice’ hay all in one spot, but spread it out in many small piles that will encourage them to walk and also the most dominant horse won’t keep the lowest in the pecking order from eating what they need. If you do use round bales if possible, don’t always put in the same spot. The round bales and horses can really muck up your pasture and often what happens then is the horses stand for the majority of their day in the muck which is not great for their hooves. I wrote a blog here with hay feeder options that you might find helpful.
Check your hoses…You will need a sturdy rubber, heavy duty hose. A vinyl garden hose will crack in the cold. I like hoses just long enough to reach my stock tank and water buckets so when I am done, I can completely drain the water out of the hose and roll it up. If you get in the habit of draining it after each use, you won’t have frozen hoses in winter but the trick is, ALL the water must be out of the hose. That sounds easy in theory but takes a bit of effort but the little extra work of draining the hose well makes your chores next feeding time MUCH easier!
To drain hose:
unscrew hose from the faucet
take the other end out of the bucket or stock tank
use gravity to drain all the water out by grabbing your faucet end of the hose several feet from the end and hang over a board, on a hook, over your tractor etc. so the end hangs straight down.
At the highest point of where the hose is hanging, now hold the hose but take care to not be above the highest point, and slide your hand down the length of the hose, keeping the hose elevated hose and move toward the water bucket end (which now is at the lowest point on the ground outside your barn) so all the water will run out the hose.
Draining a hose well becomes a science. 🙂 You learn this after a few times of a frozen hose and hauling water.
To roll hose neatly:
To roll an uncooperative hose neatly, put one end of hose down on the ground, with each rotation, give the hose a half turn and it should roll up neatly.
This arrangement would work fine for your rolled hose, but in order to have your hose drain completely, it has to be unscrewed from the faucet.
Get your sawdust or pine shavings supplier lined up. I like using the bales like the ones pictured below but sawdust or pine shavings can often be bought in bulk. Just always make sure that there is no black walnut wood shavings or sawdust included since all horses are allergic to it. My ideal bedding is in a stall with thick rubber mats, pine shavings or sawdust on the bottom layer and a light layer of straw on top. The shavings soak up urine and the straw, if your stalls are muck daily, keeps the manure from getting ground into the bedding and will stretch out your shavings.
Hopefully, you have been managing your manure all along and do not have a large manure pile. A manure compost system made from pallets like the one below is an inexpensive option :
A couple good resources for manure management for horse owners.
Consider a manure spreader if you have the land to spread it as another good option.
Before you head into winter, it is wise to make sure your horse is in good weight. A bit of extra weight is okay heading into winter, although take care during the fall flush since that is the time when cool weather grasses become very lush again. This web site is good to refer back to often for good pasture management for horses. http://www.safergrass.org/
If you need help on how to determine if your horse is in good weight check out these sites.
Horse Weight Calculator:
Downloadable Horse Body Condition Chart:
Horse Body Score Condition, Henneke System
Feel free to add in comments anything you do that I have missed.
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