Brrrr–It is Cold. Wrangling with the Horses in Cold Weather

It is cold. Finding a warm, preferably sunny, spot seems to be on the mind of both man and beast in weather like this.
Our cat has her nose tucked under her furry paws, and our dog goes outside only when he MUST! As for the horses, they find a spot out of the wind, and rest with their backs to the sharp breeze.

What? you may be asking me, those horses are not in the barn to stay warm? The answer is no. This must sound odd coming from a Virginia horsewoman. Wherever one goes, it seems, every horse in Virginia is blanketed and pity those poor animals that are not.

A little history and background information might be helpful. I grew up on a 1,300 acre farm/tourist attraction. We had over 26 head of horses for service to our tourists. Keeping track of just halters was a big job for my twin sister and me! We had a beautiful, big bank barn with standing stalls on one side and a run-in on the other. Because horses are herd animals and definitely have a pecking order, it is not a great idea to leave that many in a run-in area. Those at the bottom of the pecking order would never be “allowed” into the shelter. So, we would tie the horses in their standing stalls. This will only be tolerated by a big, healthy animal so long before they are suffering “cabin fever.”

This wasn’t the only reason though. Horses are very adaptable to cold weather. They know where to get out of it, given the chance. In other words cedar tree groves make excellent protection from wind and weather. Also, natural dips in the land is a place where horses can be found resting and soaking up the sun. One final thought, horses’ winter coats are said to be able to grow 1/4″ overnight in cold, bad weather.

For us, wet, rainy, icy weather was what we saved the barn for. When your horses come into the barn for evening feedings and they have ice on their backs and whiskers, it IS a great time to warm them up with plenty of hay (very little extra grain, please), a quick rubdown with a fluffy towel, and handfuls of fresh, crunchy carrots!

Do not forget the water and mineral salt! My mother always had us put our mineral salt blocks beside the water trough. So this is where they are. Keep the water fresh and heated. Cold, broken-up frozen water is hard on horses and can cause colic. I have seen horses not even drink water that is too cold! Check it daily.

Then after you have enjoyed and fed your warm, fuzzy and very grateful horses the next best place to be is in your favorite chair with a cup of hot coffee. Not to forget your dog warming your toes, and the cat warming your lap!

By the way, the blanketed horses in Virginia are mostly show horses that are in the show ring all year. Forgive the pun, but they are a “horse of a different color” and have altogether different requirements.

For those of us who wrangle with their horses in cold weather for the simple joy of them, may this be of some insight to you.

Horses and Snow

On wet, snowy days, our horses get their hay inside the open barn.

One thought on “Brrrr–It is Cold. Wrangling with the Horses in Cold Weather

  1. You are so right twinstur – they seem to really enjoy being able to come in and out of the barn on their own free will. After all, who can keep an eye on the premises when one is all locked up?

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