While some equestrians are lucky enough to be able to escape to warmer climes in the winter months, some of us (and our horses) are stuck in the great white north with all of its wonderful snow and freezing temperatures. To help make your winter a little more bearable, we’ve compiled some simple life hacks to make those weeks till spring a bit more bearable.
Beating the dreaded in-hoof ice build up
While your farrier may have some shoeing options to prevent this problem, there are a few household items that can help in a pinch. Before turning your horse out, pick out his feet and dry them thoroughly. Then liberally spray some household cooking spray, or rub some Vaseline onto the hoof. While these products won’t completely beat ice and/or snow build-up, it will help minimize it. It will also help make it easier to remove those ice balls that stick to the hoof (especially on shod horses). Depending on the weather conditions, you may have to hoof pick and re-apply a few times throughout the day.
No more boot piles in the tack room
Are you getting sick of the pile of boots in your tack room (or even your house)? Whether they are a pile of riding boots or winter barn boots, they can make a massive mess when they refuse to stand up and fall over, cluttering up precious floor space. Well have no fear, pick up some pool noodles, cut them to size, and shove them in your boots. Instant, cheap, boot stands. Before you know it, the clutter will be gone.
Keep those toes toasty
Suffer from constant cold feet? Want an added bit of warmth, without having to shovel out money for new winter boots? Pick yourself up a set of wool or foil insoles (or if you are feeling particularly crafty, make them yourself). You can get insoles for only a few dollars from most department stores, and they will help cut down on the cold your feet feel. If you have to stand in one spot (ex. an arena) for a long period of time, toss down a piece of cardboard to stand on. It will cut down the cold your toes feel when standing on the dirt.
If you don’t have heated water buckets in your barn, you know what cold temperatures bring – frozen water buckets. We’ve got a few tricks for keeping yourself dry, your horse hydrated, and icy buckets at bay.
Easy Ice Chunk Removal
Kitty litter scoops are a great tool for removing ice from water buckets. It saves you having to dump the bucket entirely, or soak your hands trying to get the ice chunks out. For thin ice, the scoop handle can double as an ice breaker. For thicker ice build up, you may need to use the handle of a hammer to smash the ice up.
Go with Warm Water
Ice to thick to break, water feeling a bit cold? Add some warm water. Adding warm water to your horse’s bucket can help melt away ice build up and can also work to prevent it. If you are cleaning and refilling buckets in the morning, and horses won’t be turned in until later, fill the buckets with half cold, half warm/hot water to keep the buckets from freezing (especially if your barn is not well insulated). Alternatively, fill your buckets only half way, and top them up with warm water when the horses are turned in for the night.
Movement in the water will help keep it from freezing up as fast as a typically (standing water) bucket will. To achieve this effect indoors, toss a plastic ball in your horse’s bucket. When the horse pushes the ball around to get a drink, it will create ripples in the water that will help to prolong the inevitable ice build up. The ball should be large enough that your horse won’t eat it, but not so large that it can’t be pushed down and/or out of the way for your horse to get a drink. Some horses may decide that the ball makes a great toy, so you may need to periodically check to ensure it is still in the water bucket and hasn’t been pushed or pulled out.
DIY Bucket Insulation
Bubble wrap isn’t just good for protecting packagea, it works great as cheap and easy DIY insulation tool for water buckets. Found yourself in the middle of a surprise cold snap and need a quick fix? Just wrap the outside of your buckets with some bubble wrap and secure it with duct tape. It won’t stop ice build-up in its tracks, but it will slow it down, especially on the sides. Though when using this approach, make sure that the bubble wrap is properly secured with to the bucket with tape, and that there is no way for your horse to chew on it or pull it off (a thick layer of duct tape over the bubble wrap is a great solution). Alternatively, you can shove the bubble wrapped bucket into another slightly larger bucket to keep your horse from getting at the wrap, and also double your insulation power.
The cold bit dilemma
No horse wants to open their mouth to a cold bit (can you blame them?). But for those of us without a heated tack room, cold bits are a constant problem. There are a range of bit warming products you can buy to help you solve the problem, but one of the easiest (and cheapest) options is warm water. Run your bit(s) under warm water for a few minutes before bridling to warm the metal. Check to make sure the water isn’t too hot, as you want the bit(s) warm, but not so hot your horse’s mouth gets irritated.
Added bonus: Warm water also works wonders for getting stuck on grime off your bits after riding (or if they haven’t been cleaned in awhile). Soak your bits in warm water to loosen up gunk, then just wipe off with a clean towel.