I know ya’ll up north are probably getting tired of us complaining about the “cold” weather, but you have to understand that we are desert people. We have only been in the Southeast for a little over a year, and it was not this cold here last year. It got pretty cold on a couple of nights, but we have had unrelenting below-freezing weather at night for weeks now. (In case you doubt our idea of cold, please note the photo to the right that shows the current time, date, inside temp of 56.3 and outside temp of 17.6. Ack!!) Yeah, yeah, we don’t have to shovel snow – yet – but the rest of it is getting to be a little old. Scraping ice off the windshield every morning, bundling up to go up to the barn (have you seen A Christmas Story? “I can’t put my arms down!” Ha ha ha!), leaving the water running at night so the pipes don’t freeze, picking ice from all the buckets…and poopsicles. When you pick up a shovelful of poo and drop it in the wheelbarrow and it goes CLUNK! and you’re afraid it’s going to knock a hole in the side of the wheelbarrow. That’s just plain weird. It is kind of pretty, though, with all those ice sparkles on it. (Okay, that’s even more weird.)
Anyway, suffice it to say that we are not used to this kind of weather, and still not equipped for it. Here are some tricks we’ve used to help us (and the horses) survive until spring:
- Get the stall cleaning done early. It’s so much more pleasant to muck out stalls at noon when it’s 40 degrees out than to wait until after dark when it’s 28 or so.
- Dress warm. Even if you feel silly wearing long underwear, two pairs of socks, three shirts and a dorky hat, this is one time when function should take precedence over style. Heck, we even have ski masks for when it’s really cold – you can’t get much goofier than that.
- Good gloves are a must. I personally hate to wear gloves, and my fingers are kind of short, so there’s a little extra glove past the end of my fingers that gets caught in gate latches, but warm fingers are happy fingers!
- If you don’t have bucket warmers, improvise. We often put the “barn buckets” out in the sun when we let the horses out, so the ice will be melted by the time we let them back in. Also, we sometimes fill the buckets with warm water from out bathtub right before we let them in, so they’ll have a few minutes, anyway, of water at a reasonable temp. Alternately, we’ll boil water on the stove and pour some into the cold water to warm it up a bit. It doesn’t keep it from freezing, of course, but it holds it off for a while. Bill discussed some other ideas in Horses and the Frozen Tundra of the South.
So those are some ideas. Just remember, no matter how tempting, do not set anything on fire near your barn or use any sort of radiant heat device in or near the barn. I know it’s cold, but it’s not worth the risk of burning your barn down. Oh, and one more suggestion: think back to what it was like in August when you were mucking out the stall, pouring with sweat and wishing for fall. Remember what that feeling was like and know that those days are coming again.
I can’t wait.