Winter is a season of extremes – quiet beauty and harsh weather, and it can be tough on your horses and your gear. By preparing and being diligent, you can make winter easier to weather for your barn, your horse and yourself.
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By the time winter rolls around, it’s easy to find your barn in disarray. Blankets, tack, boots – all of these items tend to pile up or get thrown half-hazardly on hooks and in bins. Starting the winter off with an organized barn can help you and your horses ease into the season. Find a simple place to start: clean walkways, replace light bulbs, and throw away any junk that has built up. Next, organize your tack by hanging new tack hooks, bridle brackets and saddle racks. Sorting similar styles and sizes together while you have some down time can be a great way to make preparing for your next ride much easier. Small changes like cleaning stalls, tidying walkways, and organizing tack can make your barn a great place to be in the winter.
Ice – a common occurrence and a primary reason to always have extra buckets on hand during the winter. Having water always available during the winter is obvious as your horse is spending the majority of their time in the barn. But cold temperatures in the winter can cause all of that water to freeze. How many times have you broken a bucket trying to clear the ice? It’s a good idea to make sure those spares are available for one of the most inevitable winter weather occurrences. If you’ve never considered heated buckets and feeders, they can help take the chill off without significant impact on your electricity bill.
Winter is a great time to inspect all your tack for excessive wear caused by age and heavy use. Check your leads, girths and halters for signs of wear. Just like with your favorite pair of jeans, repeated washing of saddle pads can create loose seams. Having freshly laundered or new saddle pads ready for your next ride is another great indoor activity to keep busy and organized during this cold season.
When using blankets you can too easily find yourself with a ripped or torn blanket and nothing left to cover your horse. Some horses are hard on their horse clothing and you don’t want to be caught without some spares on hand. Extra blankets also help on laundry day – throw a spare on while you take the rest to clean the buildup inevitable from all the time spent indoors. While you organize your barn, hanging a blanket rack is an easy way to keep your extra blankets clean, organized and off the floor.
Keep it fun!
Winter usually equates to a lot of time indoor for your horses, especially during a deep freeze that can impact anywhere around the country. After awhile in the barn, a horse can get bored just like a toddler and will likely need some diversions to keep them occupied. Toys and treats are some basic ways to keep your horse stimulated during the long winter months. For cribbers it can be helpful to keep a supply of cribbing straps available to limit damage.
Don’t forget yourself!
Admittedly making your horse comfortable is always going to come first. Don’t forget that you need to prepare for winter for yourself too. Extreme temperatures mean your boots, gloves and outwear should be in good shape to protect you. Cracking and wearing happens to even the best leather, be sure to check your boots regularly and treat yourself to some new boot socks to keep your feet comfortable and warm. If you ride a lot (and throw your gear around), it is easy to be too tough on your boots, gloves and jackets. Check for holes, tears or loosening seams on all your winter gear.
Most important for the winter – enjoy the splendor and spend as much time as possible with your horses, whether it’s bundled up for a ride through a winter wonderland or cozied up in your newly-organized barn listening to them munch on hay.