Whether we like it or not Old Man Winter is on the way, if he hasn’t already settled in for the season.
A good way to keep him at bay is to put a little thought into preparing for winter’s weather. To do that let’s borrow from the field of neuroscience and use music to help remember what we need to accomplish. We’ve all had an “earworm” a catchy piece of music that continually repeats in our mind long after its echoes have faded. Let’s put that earworm to work and sing along as we get a jump on the season and our winterization chores.
Food, Glorious Food – Sound track from Oliver!
Horses and mules are sturdy animals that have tolerated seasonal changes for millennia. To survive during colder weather horses, like humans, need to take in extra calories to maintain their body temperature. Make sure that plenty of food is on hand by arranging early for hay and feed deliveries. Unexpected winter weather can make if difficult if not impossible to have hay delivered over ice and snow covered roads. The award winning musical Oliver! had it right when they used Food, Glorious Food as the opening song.
Water – Brad Paisley
Believe it or not most equines will drink more water during the winter months than in the summer. If they can get to it that is. Chipping ice from buckets and troughs isn’t much fun but it needs to be done; unless you’ve got a water tank heater. I invested in a tank heater (and a spare) as soon as I had a barn with electrical connections and I’ve never looked back. If a tank heater isn’t an option go for rubber buckets and tubs. Where plastic will shatter in the cold, rubber buckets are almost indestructible. Brad Paisley’s song Water from his 5th Gear Album will help you remember this important need.
Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones had it right with this song back in 1969. Despite our animal’s thick wooly coat they’ll still need some type of shelter from the elements during the upcoming winter. Wind, sleet, and storms will have your horses looking for a place to get out of the worst of it. Open sided sheds, or even thick trees, are often enough to break the wind that causes the worst of their problems.
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer
Let’s take heed from Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer with this Christmas classic and consider the topic of blankets. Although I don’t usually blanket my animals I always have a blanket or two around and ready just in case. Now, before you need it, is the time to clean and repair any damage from last winter.
Now that you’ve handled your animal’s core concerns of Food, Water, and Shelter let’s continue the checklist with those items that will make life easier during the short days and cold temperatures that are the hallmarks of the winter season.
Christmas in the Sand – Colbie Caillat
Areas that are heavily trafficked can become icy in a hurry. A few bags of sand will make quick work of any icy spots that you may find. A layer of sand will provide much needed traction for your horses, you, and even your truck. Think warm thoughts and sing along with Colbie Caillat in this piece from her 2012 Christmas Album.
Mud Slide Slim – James Taylor
A mudslide inspired James Taylor to write this piece that we can all relate to. Between the freezes of winter, mud is generally in the menu. Heavily trafficked areas such as paddocks, gates, and walkways will be the worst. It’s much easier to have gravel delivered and spread on problem areas now before they become a slick and sticky mess.
Moon River – Audrey Hepburn
Runoff for driveways, hillsides, and roofs, can add to your mud and ice problem. Ditches, swales, and gutters can help and are easier to plan and install now than during the next downpour. Now is also a good time to fill in those low points in front of gates and doors where running water will quickly turn to ice. After the work is done listen to Audrey Hepburn sing this classic song in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day
Green Day has it right in this song. Once September ends it’s time to wrap up all those little tasks that are so easy to put off till tomorrow. Replacing light bulbs, cleaning gutters, and moving stall mats will be much easier now than when it’s 10 degrees with snow whipping on the wind. Those “iffy” fence posts and gates that just made it through the year may not last another winter. After the ground freezes replacing that leaning fence post won’t be fun.
Pastures of Plenty – Woody Guthrie
If you’re lucky enough to have a pasture now is the time to baby it. The better your pastures look at the end of the year the better they will perform next year. Don’t let your animals graze too closely before winter. 4 or 5 inches of growth left on the fields before winter will protect your pasture grasses from winter damage and will give them a jump-start in the spring. Woody Guthrie described well the benefits of well-maintained fields in this song from 1941. Now is a great to time to have your pasture soil analyzed. Your local extension office can help you with advice on adding lime, fertilizer, and over seeding while the pasture is resting.