It is January 8, about The temperature is minus 11 degrees and dropping. It’s dark. But…as a horse owner, I need to do a few barn chores, and with the unusually cold temperatures, I need to do an extra check on my horses. I live in
I suit up. This is not the night for a trip to the barn with my coat over my pajama pants and bare feet in my boots. I go for all the layers: long underwear, fleece pants, turtleneck, wool sweater, wool socks, coat, hat over the ears, gloves & liners, and a neck gaiter to keep my face warm and limit cold air intake. I am still getting over the holiday cold.
After greeting “the kids” all wearing their winter blankets with their cute frosty faces peaking out, I toss them a little hay out in the snow to get them out of the stalls and out of the way so I can see what needs to be done.
Yiikes…the water tank needs filling. This is a priority. There is n
o temperature relief in sight for the next few days, and the water is so low, it won’t last another day. I am fortunate. I have a good set up for my water, which is critical for horses in both warm and cold weather. I have a 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank with an electric heater specifically designed to use with the tank. It is inserted through a hole in the side, near the bottom of the tank, and sealed with gaskets. The heater does not touch the bottom of the tank, and the horses can’t get to it and “play with it” unless the water is almost empty. I have found this arrangement very satisfactory.
The bad news is that heating all that water is expensive. Our electric bill rises at least $50/month during the winter. Fortunately, my husband doesn’t look too closely when he pays the bills.
I keep the 100 foot hose in the garage, neatly rolled and on a hook. Keeping things neat and organized saves time and aggravation. Once I start the watering process in the minus 11 degrees, I need to move quickly. I scoot out to the side of the house where the water spigot is and quickly screw the hose in. I unroll the hose systematically and place the end in the tank. I return to the spigot, double check the connection so it won’t leak and turn on the water. Everything flows smoothly. I busy myself with some stall cleaning while I wait for the tank to fill. As soon as the tank is close to full, I turn off the water, immediately disconnect the hose from the spigot, hook the hose over the hose rack, and start rolling the hose up. If I delay even a couple of minutes, the hose will become stiff and unwieldy. I have the hose rolled up in just a couple of minutes and carry the roll back into the garage and place on the hook.
Constant access to water at above freezing temperatures is very important to horse health in the winter months and in cold temperatures. Sometimes horses will quit drinking or reduce their water consumption in severe cold weather. Adding a little salt directly to their grain or hay can encourage drinking. My local feed store sells
Maintaining a heated water tank and a system to conveniently fill the tank is one method to keep water accessible to horses in cold weather. There are different types of tanks and heaters and various methods to help maintain the temperature and reduce the cost of electricity to heat the water. Some owners insulate the tank with blown insulation, others cover the water and provide only a small hole for access to the drinking water. We aren’t too handy at my house, so we just fill the tank and pay the electric bill. If you’re new to caring for horses in cold weather, be sure to talk with your neighboring horse owners to see what works well for them and in your particular geographic area.
As for me, I got the barn chores done in about 45 minutes without too much damage and retreated to my warm house with both a modern furnace and a cozy wood stove. I am counting the days until spring.