I may be the only person in the entire state, but I really kind of enjoy Texas’ winter storms. I’m also amongst a very privileged minority who have been blessed with no power outages during winter storms in the nearly 16 years we have lived at our property. Yes, I count my blessings after each storm.
Why do I like these awful storms? People in western cultures are exceptionally terrible at stopping. Stopping to “smell the roses” or just take a break and Boot City and I are no exception to this “busy-ness”. Winter storms force us to stop and focus on the little things like food, shelter and water for ourselves and the lives we take care of on our little farm. We have to haul water (the barn pipes freeze when it gets below freezing for more than half a day), haul hay, feed, clean stalls, repeat for however long the cold snap remains.
As I type this my whole body is sore. My arms. My neck. My hands. My knees. All the parts, but there is a satisfaction that comes, at least for me, from the aches that come from real hard work. I absolutely love having my horses at home. I can’t imagine not being in control of every single facet of their lives and know all their idiosyncrasies, and ailments and their favorite scratches. etc. I also know how they react to winter weather. Coco gets cold when it’s below 40F. Jaguar gets cold a lot easier in his old age than he did 5 years ago. Simon is fine in the cold, but he’s always on the thin side so I blanket him to try to prevent him losing calories from keeping himself warm. Gene is a sturdy island pony, so he’s warm unless he’s wet or in the wind. Pablo is the lowest on the pecking order and won’t stand for wearing a blanket, so I have to be sure he’s somewhere he can get away from wind and weather.
Fortunately, everyone fared well in this storm. I opted to turn my horses out every day for at least a few hours. Only Simon has shoes and unshod horses tend to have better grip on slick footing (unless they have special shoes) and they all were fine. I find it is better or their mental and digestive health to get some time to move around even in bad weather. They ran and bucked and kicked and played, even Jaguar! But they were all ready to go back to their stalls when the sun started to climb behind the hill at sunset.
The winter storms always feel like a season reset on the farm and for that I’m grateful. The weather in Texas will warm up now and all chances for snow and ice appear to be gone until next winter. I’ve already started preparing the heavy blankets for summer storage and planning the spring cleaning in the barn. Coco and I are headed to a horse show this week (YAY!) and will hit the ground running for spring cleaning after our return.
What a weather week! We went from a nice 60’s temps on Monday to LOTS of rain on Tuesday which turned to ice on Wednesday and Thursday. The horses are so tired of being in the barn!
Murtagh likes to help me with hay chores. He especially likes to ride on the hay in the wheelbarrow. He’s the best tack room kitty!
I can’t get enough of these two. Dickens is so sweet and let’s Patches chew on his ear for as long as she wants. Who needs a super sweet chihuahua?!
Jaguar lives in his own paddock now. He will be 25 this year and the baby horse shenanigans can be too much for his old bones. He likes opening the barn door for some self serve hay. He’s always been a master at opening doors and gates.
The ice accumulation has been hard on the trees in our area. I’m hoping these crape myrtles don’t break from the weight of all that ice, but they sure are pretty!
Up until this week we have had pretty much zero precipitation since 2017. The grass is always pretty brown this time of year, but it was starting to get a bit alarming. Well never fear, Mother Nature is here! Since Monday we have gotten more than 4″ of rain in Azle. According to the rain gauge we have gotten close to 5″ at our house!
It was in the high 60s and raining when I left the house yesterday morning. When I got home after work it was in the 40s and the temps were going down quickly. I felt like a horrible horse Mom because 3 of the 4 horses were shivering. I quickly got them all bundled in their warmest blankets and filled their faces with hay. I keep them in their stalls with runs when it rains a lot so they don’t destroy the pasture or hurt themselves by playing in the mud.
We awoke this morning to ICE! Temps were around the high 20s, but thankfully the ice wasn’t really sticking. I opted for a delayed trip to work to avoid the crazy Texas drivers in the ice and rain so I snapped a few pics around the farm. Ice on the trees is almost as pretty as hoarfrost. It has been three years since we have had a good snow. Hopefully winter 2018-2019 will deliver.
Icy trees outside the backyard and in the goat pen.
The crape myrtles always look pretty when they have ice or frost. Ours are crazy tall!
None of the horses have stepped foot out of their stalls in about 24 hours. Here you can see Coco sneaking a peak of the rain, but definitely not going out into it!
The tall native grass got smushed by the ice.
I hope everyone in North Texas stays safe in this weather! I read about some tornadoes in Johnson county. Ugh. Just what I need while I’m getting ready to head to a horse show!
Most anyone who knows me very well knows that I love winter. When people ask me if I moved to Texas for the weather, I tell them I moved to Texas DESPITE the weather. I don’t love hot summers. What I love most about Texas is horses, but that is for another post. Having grown up in rural Montana I took for granted how much more prepared communities in the northern climates are for below freezing temperatures. I don’t ever remember being really truly concerned about pipes freezing or having to haul water to the horses during winters in Montana. And that is really saying something considering it wasn’t terribly unusual for temps to dip well below zero for days or weeks at a time.
Now that I’m a “grown up” living in Texas I still love winter, but those cold snaps bring with them a LOT of work! First and foremost our property sits on solid limestone. As in you can’t dig a hole much deeper than 6-9″ without hitting sold rock. That means none of our pipes aren’t much below 6-9″ underground and therefore are prone to breaking when they have water in them and freeze. FUN! We’ve always been pretty good about turning the water off to the barn when it freezes, but we had a lapse in judgement this year and now have the fantastic chore of fixing a broken pipe. Enter stage left the perfect husband who can fix it himself rather than have to wait on a plumber.
Another winter issue is food. A horse’s natural heater is hay. Eating hay all day long runs their internal heater and keeps them warm. This means they eat a LOT more hay than usual. A LOT. My three usually get about a full bale each day in moderate temps, a bit less than that when there is lots of green grass. During the recent cold snaps I was feeding 2 bales per day. That is with a fully insulated barn, 2 with full winter hair coats and 1 with a full collection of the latest Baker blankets and sheets to keep him warm.
Feed the beasts’ heaters.
I’m a big believer in not locking my horses in the barn when it gets icy/snowy as long as they can get out of the elements and away from the wind. Jaguar, having grown up in the tundra of Eastern Montana, generally thinks Texas winters are a joke and scoffs at his pasture mates for being wimps. This generally results in him keeping all the other horses and donkey out in the elements much longer than they ever would have without his leadership and Pablo inevitably loses and ends up a donkeycicle.
Pablo the donkeycicle. Brrrrrrrrr!
In addition to feeding the internal horse heaters, we have to be mindful of ice/snow buildup in their hooves. In their natural habitat as a “wild” horse, their feet acclimate to the geography where they live. This serves them in many ways, but in the winter especially their hooves have adapted to not letting snow/ice build up and cause them to slip. By living in an unnatural environment and often having shoes on, we owners need to be sure to pick out their hooves and even put something like Crisco in them to prevent the ice/snow from building up. Only one of my steeds has shoes on (Jaguar), but they all need their feet cleaned out at least once, generally twice a day to prevent a big ball of ice from forming and causing them to fall. The last thing I need is for one of them to slip on snow/ice and have a vet call on top of the amazing thundersleetnado conditions.
Coco being VERY careful walking on the snow. Notice how high she is picking up that hind foot?! #diva
Our other main concern/high maintenance creatures during cold weather are the goats. I may have mentioned this before, but goats are made of sugar. If they so much as get a rain drop or a snowflake on them they are likely to melt away into puddles of nothing. For this reason they require all food and water be brought directly to them during conditions of most anything other than sunny to partly sunny. During exceptionally cold weather it is preferable that the water be warm. Seriously. Do they have our number or what?! We are expecting goat babies soon so we gave in to their neediness in order to provide them and their unborn kids all the sustenance they require.
Do I still love winter? YES! Freezing weather means less bugs in the spring/summer and I tend to better appreciate the warmer days when I’ve had to suffer through some cold ones. If I lived in a climate where the weather was the same every day (ahem, California) I’m entirely confident I’d develop some sort of seasonal affective disorder. And now that the snow and ice have melted I can look forward to our wild daffodils and SPRING!