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Winterizing the Barn

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With Halloween behind us, fall is marching toward winter. With each passing day, the need to prepare barns and horses for winter becomes more imperative. Here are a few tips that can help make sure you are ready for winter.

  • Ensure structural integrity – Checking the structural integrity of your barn and paddocks is an important first step in getting ready for winter. Do a fence perimeter walk assessing for any sections that need repair. Address any areas of poor drainage that could become icy during cold weather. Check the barn for loose doors or stall boards, leaky or broken windows, and make sure door latches are in good working condition. Inspect the roof and gutters for leaks and blockages. Look for gaps to add insulation and caulk around windows, doors, and vents. Any visible wiring should be assessed for damage, cracked or broken insulation.
  • Check water system – As you inspect the structural integrity of the barn, check the water system for and evidence of rusted or leaky pipes. If temperatures consistently dip below freezing in your area, all exposed pipes should be insulated. Any external hoses should be drained.
  • Have plenty of fresh water available – Having an adequate amount of water for horses is important year round, but becomes especially so during the winter. Most average horses need 10-12 gallons of water per day; they tend to naturally drink less in the winter. During summer months, they can get a significant amount of moisture from pasture. In the winter, that won’t be the case. If horses do not get adequate hydration, they are predisposed to fecal impactions. Adequate fresh water should be provided, and ideally that water should be kept between 45°-65°F. Heaters for troughs and waterers may be necessary. If temperatures dip below freezing, water buckets and toughs should be checked for ice. To help encourage drinking, provide horses with a salt block. Soaking hay can also help with hydration.
  • Optimize ventilation – Good ventilation is important in helping horses maintain respiratory health, as well as helping to controlling temperatures and humidity in the barn. The use of ceiling fans can help air circulate. Controlling dust, and removing feces and wet bedding regularly can go a long way to improve air quality in the barn.
  • Exercise rodent control – Rodents will likely find your barn to a pleasant place to stay during the winter months. Not only can rodents damage your barn, potentially create fire hazards by damaging wiring, and raid your grain supply, rodents can potentially make your horse sick with the infectious diseases they carry. If you detect the presence of rodents, trapping is the preferred method of removal. Baits and poisons are toxic to dogs and cats, and those toxicities are often fatal. Storing grain and supplements in tightly sealed containers, removing access points to your barn, and eliminating any rodent nests are all good ways of reducing the presence of these pests.
  • Take care of barn cats – Barn cats often play important roles in a barn. Sometimes they are part of the welcoming committee, other times they are part of the rodent control plan. Either way, provisions should be made for them to have appropriate shelter from the elements during the winter. Ample food and water should be available in a location where they won’t freeze. A sunny location that warms during the day can be a great spot. Barn cats may need additional rations in the winter to keep warm and maintain appropriate body condition in the colder months. It is always wise to tap the hood of your car, truck or tractor and check between the tires during the winter months. Cats tend to seek warmth and shelter in those locations, and can get hurt when the vehicle moves.

Following these tips should help get you ready for winter and help the months pass a bit more smoothly!

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Winter barn