Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Winter
Maybe I’m jinxing us all and we will get a foot of snow between now and the middle of May when Spring stops messing around in Chicago. Or maybe the universe wants me to share this information with the world and we will all be rewarded with unicorns and sunshine from here on out.
Sharing the info is a risk I’m willing to take, especially if there are unicorns involved.
I’m in no way claiming to be an expert here. I feel like bringing your horses home is a lot like having your first baby – you’re excited and you kind of overbuy. Then once you get the hang of keeping an innocent being alive you calm down a bit and then realize you didn’t need as much as you thought you did. That’s kind of what I’m getting at here in today’s post.
I’ll make a short list for simplicity’s sake. And if at the end of the list you find yourself wanting my justifications for why I made the list, by all means continue reading. If however you get to the end of my list and decide I’m unqualified to keep horses, guess what?! Joke’s on you because I already knew that.
So here is my shiny “what you need for winter list“.
- Waterproof clothes.
- However many gloves you needed when you are boarding, you now need 5x that amount. Congratulations.
- Heated buckets.
- Heated hose.
- Extra buckets (don’t need to be the heated kind).
- Water spigot cover.
- Poop chopper.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
You probably read that first item on my list and were like, “duh you idiot”. But before you judge me, hear me out. I can guarantee you that you’ll soak yourself watering your horses on one of those days when your hose or water spigot isn’t cooperating because it’s so cold out and the water doesn’t understand where it should go. It happened to me at least twice. I don’t have photos, I was too angry.
Side note: The problem with clothes that end in “proof” is that you’re going to sweat in them, A LOT. So get used to simultaneously freezing and sweating at the same time. I ended up putting my outerwear on the heat registers when I came inside to dry off the sweat after morning chores.
Get some gloves, and then get more gloves
I suffer (profusely – I’m pretty sure there’s voodoo involved) from contact dermatitis so gloves are a year-round thing for me. I found a pair from Home Depot that I really like for working that manage to fit and work for my hands pretty well. They lasted about halfway through the winter and then I had to get another pair. I bought in bulk the second time around. It’s nice to have a pair to wear while the other pair dries off on the heat register, and the other three pairs are lost somewhere in the house, car, truck, hay barn (you get the point). This brand washes well too, and it has a hidden pocket on the top part of the hand for hand warmers if that’s your thing.
They are supposed to be touch screen friendly, but we all know how those promises go. They held up great to lunging and ground work too. I didn’t ride all winter so I can’t say how they are as riding gloves and I’d prefer to stick to something with a little more grip on the fingers for that purpose.
I tried the rubber covered work gloves but all that happened is I sweat in them and then my hands froze. I also tried other name brand work gloves but none of them fit my hands right and so my fingers were always cold. Definitely sticking with these!
Heated water for the horses
You might be able to get away without heated buckets if your barn is fully enclosed and well-insulated. I went with shed row style so that the boys could have stall runs. It was also very budget friendly to build my barn that way 😉
BUT that meant I had to provide them with “heated” water. This coming winter it will have to be heated buckets inside their stalls because I’m moving the heated troughs I bought out to the winter paddocks. It got really old quickly to schlep water down to their turnouts just to have them refuse it because it wasn’t warm. And then they’d inevitably freeze because I forgot to dump it. What can I say? They are super spoiled.
I bought a heated hose which helped ease the pain of schlepping water from the house every single day. There were only a handful of days that it got so cold that the spigot froze to the point of being inoperable. I’m lucky I have a walkout basement with a slop sink because that’s what I used on those days to get the water out there.
The thing I’ll say about heated hoses is that you still have to drain them otherwise the water will still freeze and then you’ll be without a hose. I feel like the universe is laughing at me on this one. You’d think heated hose means carefree use but it’s just as awful as the regular variety.
In the end, we made our own heated hose because I had mega issues on the connector of my stupid expensive PIRIT hose. I have no qualms throwing them under the bus. They’ve really got the market cornered on subpar but overpriced hoses.
To make my own heated hose I wrapped heat tape around a heavy duty garden hose. Check around on pricing because it seems to vary wildly. I don’t know why they call it heat tape because it’s more like flat wire and you apply it to the hose with plumbers tape. All I know is that setup out-performed the actual heated hose by a landslide. The only time it froze is the day we lost power, and I had neglected to drain it.
Like I said previously, there were a few days when the actual spigot froze. Sometimes you can unfreeze it by using a bag of hot water, and sometimes you can’t. For the times you need to schlep water, you need extra buckets. It is also good for doomsday prepping which I did a few times to make sure there was water available for the horses when bad weather was rolling in.
I came across what I can only describe as an insulated sock for water spigots. You can always count on Amazon selling super weird stuff, and this is no exception I was wary to buy one until a fellow horse friend told me she had purchased one and they totally work. Obviously I jumped on that train.
I agree, they do work. In fact, if I leave mine uncovered, this is what it looks like all winter long.
There’s a slow drip and I have no idea if that’s good or bad. I suppose now it doesn’t matter because I have a few spares so I can replace them daily. The water freezes on the outside of the sock but the insulation kept the actual handle and pipe from freezing. I bet when it gets ultra cold nothing will stop that bad boy from freezing. It is nice to not have to chisel off the ice on the regular days though. Typically this is when I get the most soaked and the sock prevents that.
A major bonus is that this one in particular has a reflective Velcro closure so it stayed on securely in the crazy wind. I also like the reflective part because if I remove it at night to refill water, it’s easy to see in the dark.
I saved the best for last. Frozen poop on limestone is extremely difficult to remove, While I’m thankful that for the most part my horses prefer to do their business out in their stall runs, it makes the removal a lot harder than if it was done inside on their rubber mats and bedding. I found that a snow shovel wasn’t quite strong enough and a plastic shovel shattered after one of the first attempts. I lost a lot of pitchforks to frozen turds until I got one of these garden spades. It worked perfectly and faithfully all Winter.
And there you have it! These are the tools that kept me going all Winter long. This is by no means a finalized or universal list. But if you’re just getting started and you wonder what you might need for your first Winter, this budget friendly list should get you going.