If you own or manage a barn, over the years you’ve come up against some challenges in doing so in winter. Me, too. I’ve put together a list of some of the things I’ve discovered over the years that have made my job a bit easier.
Stall mats – My favorite multi-use tool. However, in the winter, in addition to keeping your horse off a cold concrete floor, these are great to as anti-slip walkways to the barn. They are also indispensable for helping to keep mud from forming around barn or stall door openings. Outdoor water troughs often become churned up and muddy -when the mud freezes, it becomes a landmine for your horse to walk over. This helps protect him from taking a bad step on frozen mud.
Water heaters – Horses need about 10 gallons of water daily. While the optimal temperature for adequate water consumption is between 45 and 650 F, most times it more of mater of just having water instead of ice! Heated water buckets can help with that. Classic Equine has automatic water options for both inside and outside use. Both come with a heater option.
For those of you without an automatic water system, there are heated water buckets that work great. Plug them in and the heated coils in the partitioned bottom of the bucket keep water ice-free. If your horses use a stock tank for water, a stock tank deicer is another great option to eliminate ice. While neither may bring the temperature up to “warm,” both are excellent at keeping ice from forming. For those bigger warm water jobs, there are portable hot water heaters.
Automatic Feeders – Unpredictable winter weather can sometimes make it difficult to get to the barn at exact times to feed. And you know what your horses can do to your stall doors if the grain isn’t delivered on time! If you aren't able (or don't want to) get out to the barn to grain your horse, this may be an option. The iFeed system is an automatic grain feeding system that allows you to set up one or several stalls on whatever schedule you want to deliver grain.
Wash Bay Heaters – this went from being a luxury to a necessity when the winters started getting colder and snowier over the last few years. Great for both clipped and unclipped horses. If you don’t clip, the heated lights can help dry out your sweaty horse before blanketing. If you clip, the heated lights can keep your horse warm during the time between grooming and putting on his blanket. Also great for riders, trainers or spectators who are frozen from too long in the arena.
Auto lights – Let’s face it: even though you know every inch of your barn, there’s still something scary about going into a totally dark barn before you hit the lights. I like the old-fashioned automatic lights that go on an off at set times and illuminate my way to the horses. Or you can go high tech with new smart products like Amazon’s Echo. With Echo, you plug your lights into a special socket and then you program your phone to not only tell it when to turn the lights on or off, but you can check to see if you actually remembered to turn them off.
Good winter clothes – no one knows cold like the people who live in Maine. There are a lot of good winter apparel companies, some specifically for horse people (though most of them are geared for riding), but by far L.L.Bean has the best assortment of warm weather clothes – from undergarments to hats rain/snow boots. And they are all guaranteed with easy return. Wear it all winter. Didn’t like how it performed? LL Bean will take it back for an exchange or refund. For any reason. During winter months, water should be kept between 45 to 65°F to maximize consumption.
Please note that, except for Classic Equine Equipment, we don't promote the listed brands of equipment. They are only the ones I have used with success.
With Christmas still more than a week away, there’s still time for you to ask Santa for one of these winter helpers. It can help you get the best present of all – more time riding!