In Central Virginia, one of the attractions is that we have 4 distinct seasons. We’re lucky that our weather is rarely severe; however we might see an occasional snowfall and very cold temperatures. This kind of weather presents special challenges for Charlottesville horse farm owners.
For many years I had a Charlottesville horse farm, and these are some of my winter preparations.
IN THE BARN
We made sure that there were lights on the spigot in the wash stall and also turned on the lamp aimed at the pipes to the hot water heater in the feed room. Next an extra space heater was installed in the bath room and laundry room.
If you are lucky you will have heaters on the outside water troughs or better yet have frost free automatic waterers. Otherwise it is necessary to make sure to disconnect and drain the hoses, and you will be faced with breaking ice every morning and shoveling out the ice chunks so that the horses will have water to drink in the paddocks. In the winter time it is most important to make sure that the horses drink plenty of water or you run the risk of an impaction colic.
Another thing to note is…. some horses do not like to drink cold water, hence the importance of heated water troughs.
THE COMFORT OF YOUR HORSE
Horse owners spend a lot of time in the cold weather changing blankets, adding or subtracting layers depending on the temperature and how much coat the particular horse has. It is just as important that your horse does not get too hot as it is to protect from the cold. If your horse lives outdoors, you’ll want to make sure he has some sort of shelter to protect him from the wind and wet.
Then there is the problem of riding and frozen footing. Sometimes there is a small window of opportunity in the middle of the day when it has just warmed up enough and the sun has been on the ring for the footing to thaw for a couple of hours so that you can get in a quick ride before it refreezes.
In winter horses may expend more energy keeping warm. You will want to carefully monitor their weight. If your horse is unclipped and has grown a thick coat, you will do that by “feel” because they may appear fatter than they really are. You should adjust their feed accordingly and you’ll almost certainly need to feed additional amounts of hay. In the winter when the grass has little nutrition, you’ll also need to feed hay to the horses that live out in the fields.
Sunday was a special day in the winter for my horses. On Sunday night all of the horses were treated to a hot bran mash with carrots and oats.
VIRGINIA WINTER HORSE FARM
You may be comfortable if each horse has its personal stall and it is turned out for only a few hours a day; or you may prefer that your horse lives outdoors with access to a run-in shelter to get out of the worst weather. If you are coming to Charlottesville from the north, you may be surprised to find that very few farms have an indoor arena. In this area there really are not very many days when you are not able to ride outside.
In Charlottesville and Central Virginia we are lucky that the bitter cold weather is generally short lived. Usually after a few days or a week at the most, temperatures moderate and we get a break before another cold blast; by March the worst is over.