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Ice Storm and water management

Ice Storm and water management

We knew to be suspicious of the forecast of up to 12 inches of snow that was expected to fall this week. The weather in east Tennessee is apparently extremely difficult to predict. The forecast changed yesterday from snow to only rain and then hours before it hit, the forecast changed again – this time to ice. That’s the one we want the least, because it creates insane road conditions and threatens our electric service. Our horses are of course dry in the barn, munching on yummy square bales of hay. It’s tricky keeping their buckets full and unfrozen; we hope to be able to have heated buckets in the stalls in the coming weeks.

Ice buildup on trailer

We have a supposedly freeze-free faucet now and although it helps, it’s hasn’t been fool-proof. There have been several times where we haven’t been able to get it to work at 5 degrees below freezing. I eventually figure out it worked best when you close the faucet value but open the hose shut-off valves. This allows the water to drain inside the pipe so it doesn’t freeze. Still, I plan filling the trough carefully. Four equines can go through 100 gallons of water, the capacity of our trough, in about 4 days in the winter. On long cold stretches, like we’re accustomed to seeing in east Tennessee, we are in danger of running out of flowing water and having to carry buckets from our house. So in the AM when I let the horses out (if it isn’t precipitating), I take the ice from the buckets (if clean) and dump it back into the heated trough.

First, I put the buckets into the trough. I dip them below the water line and then slosh the buckets back and forth and side to side.

Iced bucket in heated trough

After a couple of minutes, I turn the buckets upside down and usually the solid chunk of ice slides out into the water.

Bucket ice in heated trough

Part of our routine in the winter. Can’t wait until spring!

Horses and the frozen tundra of the South

Horses and the frozen tundra of the South

Today was the coldest day yet in east Tennessee. Actually, there have been colder days since we’ve lived here but not since we’ve had horses. Lows at night are in the lower 20’s and we’ve had some wind. Although my Arizona butt hasn’t quite acclimated to winters that are actually cold, our horses seem to have adapted nicely. Both Moonshine and Valentine have thick fuzzy winter coats and despite our attempts to shelter them from the cold, they seem to prefer it to being stuck in the barn.

Iced bucket

One thing I’m not familiar with is frozen water buckets. Yesterday and today both I’ve gone out to discover all of our animal water buckets had almost an inch of ice on top. I was expecting this but I’m not yet sure what to do about it. Most of the buckets aren’t near any power source so a bucket heater or bucket de-icer doesn’t seem like it would work for us. We could use an extension cord but that increases the possibility of a barn fire. I’m also concerned with our horses nibbling on the wires, though it seems like the heated buckets use steel wire wrapped cords to prevent nibbling. I saw a product called Thermo Bucket that uses a simple insulated float but it looks too thin to drink from. Maybe it’s just a bad picture. So we’re looking for a solution, mostly for in the barn stalls. The ice in the outside bucket I can break up effectively and it sits in the sun most of the day.

Outside ice bucket

Because we baby our horses, the subject of horse blankets has come up, too. Mikki is interested in trying them but I’m skeptical. Besides yet another horse expense, I wonder if the blanket would stay on for very long. I can see Moonshine rolling in the dirt to get it off. Plus I wonder if it’s even needed. Here comes the old “horses in the wild don’t need that” argument. But it’s true. How many horse blankets do you see in those pictures of wild horses running in the Montana snow? None. Of course, horses in the wild probably don’t live as long as our pampered domesticated horses. But even when it was 26 degrees (F) outside, neither horse shivered or showed any signs of wanting to seek shelter. I did see Valentine galloping around more than usual. Maybe it was to warm up, maybe he just felt frisky. But no blankets for now.

In our barn, the outside stall windows are now closed for cold weather, though the ends of the barn remain open as we have no doors. We’re considering adding doors but it won’t be anytime soon.

Let me take a minute to say that I do realize 26 degrees isn’t that cold. Many, if not most of you live somewhere that has harsher winters than we experience in Tennessee. That whole “frozen tundra of the South” thing was a stretch, to be sure. It doesn’t get much colder than this except in the mountains.