Getting your barn ready for winter doesn’t have to be a Herculean task if you plan ahead. That said, the devil’s in the details; what you might think isn’t worth the bother, like checking the electrical outlets before it’s time to plug in your heated buckets, can become a real problem when you’re faced with gallons of solid ice and a horse that hasn’t had enough to drink.
Alan Griffin, General Manager and Head Trainer at Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, Connecticut, weighs in with some tips on how to get organized for winter so you won’t miss a beat.
- Clean out your hay storage area to make room for the winter’s supply. If you use different types or cuts of hay, allow enough space to stack them separately.
- Canvas your paddocks or pasture for faulty fencing or wobbly gates. You don’t want to be pounding down posts or hammering nails into frozen boards while standing in three feet of snow.
- Check electric fencing for loose or broken wires or tapes, and while you’re at it, make sure your fencer is hot, hot, hot1
- For pastured horses, a run-in shelter is mandatory. If you’re building one, it should be large, deep, well-ventilated and with the open side positioned on the leeward side the prevailing wind. For those already in use, check for loose boards, and get those nails fitted in tightly.
- Having a hot and cold water hookup is ideal, but it’s also a good idea to have an insulated hand pump as back-up (frost-free pumps are best), and make sure there’s a heated area for hoses, which should be unhooked and drained after each use.
- Heating devices for water tanks need to be tested--they sometimes short out, causing nasty shocks and a well-deserved hesitation to drink--before they quit for good. If you don’t have access to electricity, be sure to replenish warm water throughout the day.
- Is your barn too warm? Too drafty? An air-tight barn without enough ventilation can cause respiratory problems, while barns that are prone to wind tunnels can cause chilled, tense and generally uncomfortable horses.
- This also is the time to begin making feed adjustments, especially for seniors and hard keepers who might need to pack on a few more pounds to get through the worst of winter. Adding fat to the diet is a good way to ramp up the calorie count, and you also may want to wet the feed, which will help keep your horses hydrated; however, as with all feed transitions, start slowly to allow their systems to acclimate.
The sun might still be out bright, but the days are getting shorter and fall isn't far behind. Don't wait until the last minute to get your barn and farm ready for winter.