Dealing With Ice and Snow On Your Horse Property
The freshly fallen snow looks so pretty and the horses and animals enjoy it as much as children do, rolling in it, making "horse angels" and just playing around in it. Unfortunately, along with it's beauty, it can also present a danger, particularly when it begins to melt and turns into ice.
It can be a challenge dealing with snow and ice around the barn and in the turnout areas. There are many things that can be done to keep it safe for both animals and humans. Keep the following items, which are earth and animal friendly, on hand during the winter months.
- Sand and/or ashes - These would be good to have for traction.
- Sawdust or shavings, and/or cat litter (regular clay litter, NOT the clumping kind) - These will not only give traction, but also absorb the moisture.
- Hayloft dustings or alfalfa meal - This is a natural fertillizer that contains nitrogen. it will promote ice melting and it's texture will provide traction while it is working.
- Barn-Dri - This is a natural limestone product that contains coarse granules for traction and finer particles for absorption. This can also be used to dry stall floors as well as wet aisles in the barn. It gives traction to slippery surfaces.
- Safe Paw Ice Melter - This is a safe, non-toxic ice-melter that can be used around pets and animals. It will not cause chemical burns, harm paws, eyse or skin. It is also safe for the environment and will not cause damage to concrete, asphalt, lawns, or shoes.
- Salt will melt the ice, but it will take time. It should be limited, though, since it does damage plants and water sources.
- Use cinders or stone in areas that water collects.
- Remove snow with shoveling, or sweeping away the fluffly snow. Use an ice chopper to break up ice and shovel the shards away. Allow the sun to shine on the exposed surfaces.
When it comes to your vehicles:
- Use eco-friendly and pet safe anti-freeze.
- Check under the wheel wells and hoods before starting up the engine. Cats and other small wildlife may be found there seeking warmth and shelter.
For your horses:
- Put hoof boots with studs on when riding to help with traction on the icy roads and trails.
- If you use a bit, warm it up prior to placing it in the horse's mouth. Cold metal bits are disliked by horses and can cause damage to the mouth tissues. The bit can be warmed up in warm water, your hands, or use a bit warmer. Keep your hands warm with hand warmers, which can fit right into your glove.
- If shoes are kept on the horses during the winter, the snow will pack into the hooves, producing snowballs, which can cause problems to the tendons. The best thing to do is keep the horses barefoot. If that is not possible, use olive oil on the soles to reduce snowballing. Or, snowball pads can be used with the shoes. Hoof boots can be another option.
- The best and safer way to ride down slopes would be straight down instead of an angle. It is more difficult for the horse to keep his feet under him at an angle. Stay mounted if you can. If you must dismount, stay beside the horse as you go down.
- Make sure water is available to the horses by using heated water buckets, water heaters in stock tanks or the insulated automatic waterers.
- It is important to have shelter available to the horses so they are able to get out of the wind and severe weather.
A fun thing to do would be to build a snowman or some sort of snow sculpture as an obstacle for the horses and to give them something new to check out. After all, they do get bored in the winter standing around.
Use these tips to keep safe during the winter weather and enjoy the winter with your horses. Before you know it, spring will be here.