Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter FREEZE & Snow

After a relatively mild December, January has really provided a very sharp reminder of just how cold and snowy it can get in New Hampshire!   And February is already looking to be just as wintery!

Back to back storms have resulted in large snowbanks around the property, at the end of the driveway, along the roads, at the supermarket, everywhere you look.   All in part due to the fact that the back to back storms have hit us without the benefit of the usual "January Thaws".   The snow has remained fluffy and just keeps accumulating.

And to top that, temperatures dropped to the lowest WE have ever seen in our 6 years here, bottoming out at -14.   FAHRENHEIT, not Celcius.   Brrrrrrrr!!!

Since we plow the pastures, the horses always have space to "graze" on their hay without stomping through deep snow.   But even providing that luxury may become a challenge as the storms keep rolling in.

As winter progresses, some of the horses are in light work....   But most are just resting, staying warm and well fed, and enjoying the season.

Without exception, all of our horses LOVE the snow.   Each of them rolls in it every day.   And they are all happy to soak up the winter rays, sometimes standing around, snoozing in their pastures.   Even when the winds blow, instead of seeking shelter, we often see them standing outside, haunches to the wind.

It's all very peaceful until one of them starts feeling playful and instigates a round of horseplay.

As long as the horses have water, food, shelter, and are blanketed according to their coats and condition, winter is NOT a problem.   As an added precaution, we put on fly masks to prevent damage to the eyes due to the bright sunlight.   I like to think it also protects their eyes from possible harm from icy cold winds.   I can say that, because I pulled a flymask over my own face the other day while leading a horse back to the barn, just to try to prevent my face from freezing in the wind.

It may have been a serious fashion faux pas, but it worked surprisingly well.   My eyes were sufficiently protected.   Watch.   Flymasks will be all the rage next winter, on horses AND their owners!   :-)

(Photo to left)   2009 USDF Region 8 3rd Level Dual Reserve Champion "Jeddien" is dieting as part of her 2011 new year's resolutions.   So, the afternoon hay delivery to the pasture via a snow sled is always greeted with enthusiasm.   As viewed from straight on, it's pretty obvious the 20 year old mare is not wasting away from winter cold.

With record breaking arctic temperatures and 100 gallon outdoor heated water troughs, we have been watching $$$ quickly evaporate into the cold air.   1500 watt heaters work great, but suck up the electricity.   Using timers helps...   Reducing the contents of the troughs to 50 gallons helps as well.   Still, we believe there has to be another way.

We are now experimenting with two new concepts to help reduce costs while continuing to provide outdoor water for horses in each pasture.

1)   500 watt aluminum de-icers from Farm Innovators

        and....   wait for it....

2)   Aeration systems.   Yes, aeration.   Georg's own custom design!

Even early into the aeration experiment, at 8 degrees Fahrenheit, Georg's aeration system is preventing his test water trough, which has about 50 gallons of water in it, from freezing.   Just by keeping the water moving with air bubbles.

Stay tuned for how THAT works out!   Meanwhile, stay warm and stock up on flymasks!

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