Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cold Weather and Frozen Troughs

A frequently asked question this time of year is how do horses stay warm in this bitterly cold weather?  Someone always wants to know if the horses stay in a heated barn, or at the very least do they wear an insulated blanket to keep them warm?  Well, the answer to both questions is no.  The Parasite Ranch horses spend all their time outside without blankets no matter the season or temperature.
Rose and Gen Ready for Dinner
Before you turn Dangerous in to the Humane Society, you need to hear me out.  Take a look at Rose, and you can see she is wearing her winter coat.  Starting around October, horses begin to grow their long, winter coats that insulates them during the cold winter months.  At the risk of offending the devoutly religious, you should understand that horses evolved on the open plains.  They didn't have warm stalls or quilted blankets to keep them warm during raging blizzards or below zero temperatures.  In fact, watch a herd of horses in an open pasture during bad weather, and the most you will usually see is the horses bunching together and turning their butts to the wind to stay warm.  Even Gen and Rose who have a three sided barn rarely use it except for shade in the summer or as a winter wind break.  On the coldest days, you will see them both lying and rolling in the snows.

Frozen Trough

What horses need most in winter is water.  Some lazy horse owners believe that their horses can survive on snow alone, but anyone who believes that is courting a bad case of colic.  We do have a trough heater at the pasture in back of the house, but at our other pasture, Dangerous and Utah Jack have to break a hole in the ice morning and night for Dottie and Scottie to drink.  Breaking the ice is a lot tougher on these old men than the two horses drinking from the trough.  Without clear, fresh water, horses can't process the roughage they eat which will result in an impacted bowel -- colic.  A horse with a serious stomach ache isn't something you want to treat this time of year or any other because it is almost always fatal.

Too Plump
To stay warm, horses need forage in their large stomachs.  Since most horses these days don't range free, we feed them hay morning and night.  During cold weather, the problem can be over feeding.  Gen especially acts like she is constantly starving, but as you can see from this picture she is plump. In fact, Dangerous has cut back their feed because both Gen and Rose are getting too plump from lack of regular exercise.  With Dangerous' foot healing nicely; I think we will soon be on the trail again in southwest Utah where the summer sun spends the winter.

Me Helping Out
Ole Dangerous always chuckles when talking with some dreamy eyed person who wants to talk about the romance of horse ownership.  Usually, these people have seen too many western movies or board their horses in a barn where someone else takes care of them.  Neither group usually has a clue about what it's really like to take care of horses on their own in open pastures where horses actually belong.  Spend a spring hauling 90 lb bales of hay to feed during winter, or trudging out in below freezing temperatures and the romance quickly ends.  Around here, you really have to love horses because they are a lot of responsibility and hard work.  Got any more questions?  Love to hear from you!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Always learn something from your posts!
It's so cold here, I can barely step out on the porch for more than a minute, and that's layered. So I commend all you Horse owners, caring for your rides, in all kinds of weather, and happily, of course.