I normally post at 6:30am every Thursday morning and dropped the ball yesterday; but it leads to the question…what works better for my readers? Are there times/days that you are more likely to read? Let me know in the comments!
January has been quite brutal with weather. We have been lucky most of the winter so far but the deep freeze has officially hit us here in upstate New York.
On Saturday the 19th we were hit with a good sized snowstorm. I had just begun pet-sitting for a new family the day prior; a couple of wonderful horses and three sweet young goats. After the sky dropped 12-16″ on us we were hit with brutal temperatures. With the windchill we were down to -30°F! Only three days later (Thursday) we were soaked in a heavy rain with temperatures of nearly 50°F. The weather in upstate NY never fails to make one scratch their head.
The horses I was caring for have phenomenal coats, high quality hay, and adequate shelter. They are the perfect examples of good winter coats in action. The snow was completely unmelted from their backs while the horses were warm and cozy. They both had the option to come and go from their shelter as they pleased. Through the whole week they never showed any signs of discomfort from the weather.
Back home the amigos do not have such thick coats. They were blanketed and supplied with ample hay as always.
What about the water? Back at the beginning of December I wrote about my winter project The Green Horseman on Another Project: Winter Prep.
The photos below demonstrate what the water looks like at 20°F. When I refill the water I use the ATV and haul 10 gallons of hot water from my bathtub in old 5 gallon covered buckets. This brings the water temperature up just enough to prevent freezing. The tank holds 100 gallons and is often filled to 50-60 gallons; even bringing out only 10 gallons adds 20% and significantly improves the water temperature. The horses all appreciate it and drink well.
But the -30°F windchill? How did my trick fare during these days?
This morning I had to put a little muscle into sledgehammering the ice, but it still was no thicker than 1/2″ on top. I break the ice 2x/day and add at least 10 gallons hot water per day. Three horses drink more that this but we are expecting rain in less than a week that will fill the tank (our last rainy day the tank overflowed).
If I add all the hot water at once it will freeze over time. By adding 10 hot gallons every day I keep the temperature mostly above freezing for the long term. I am quite satisfied with how this trick is working out.
Despite having a decent shelter the amigos love to be outside. They enjoy running in the snow. December was cold and the ground froze in ruts which hurt their feet. With the snow they were able to run around and enjoy a little.
They also make their own decisions to seek shelter during storms. Fortunately they have grown decent coats (though not nearly as thick as some). They stayed warm and insulated while growing icicles along their necks.
Because of a friend who inspired me I have also decided to try out round bales. They are cheaper but generate a lot more wasted hay. The positive side is that they allow the horses to eat 24/7 at will without having to supply more every day.
I don’t have a tractor with adequate tools to move round bales, but after seeing what my friend was able to do I decided to give it a whirl. On Monday night my hay guy “Carl” dropped off 2 round bales. Tuesday morning after work I rolled one out to the paddock. These bales are 500 pounds. It was a little tough to roll up inclines but I managed to get it out there. We are supposed to have a relatively clear (but brutally cold) week free of precipitation so now is the best time to try it. Blade looked petrified when he saw the giant mass rolling to the paddock. He stopped eating breakfast and gawked. When I finally set it in it’s place (or gave up rolling it) he finished his meal and came to investigate. He quickly learned what a wonderful buffet he received.
Before long the other two boys joined Blade and began to dig in.
I am writing this post Thursday afternoon, only two days after rolling the giant bale to the amigos. I came home to see Vai Via enjoying it as a bed for an afternoon nap. Only two days in and the bale looks almost destroyed! I am still evaluating its longevity to see if it is a cost efficient option during winter months.