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!
Happy Friday y’all! It is COLD here in Texas! It was in the 20’s overnight, but thankfully should be getting in the 40’s today. Life is much easier when it gets above freezing during the day. Much time is being spent blanketing and unblanketing horses, hauling hay, turning heaters on and off. All things I never had to do in Montana! The irony! As I write this it is -2F in my hometown.
Pablo the nuzzler. He’s such a weirdo!
Pablo’s left front foot has been sore for the past few weeks and when his feet hurt he WILL NOT let me catch him. I guess he knows I want to mess with the hurt foot and he just isn’t into that. I feel like a bad donkey parent, but I also don’t want to wrangle a donkey. Now that the ground has dried up he seems sound again. And now that he’s sound he is super snuggly. He likes to stand behind me and rest his chin on my shoulder, then ever so slowly he starts nuzzling my coat, hat and ear before he tries to bite. This donkey. He should write a book about himself.
Murtagh the cat and Dickens the Whippet are best buds. Murtagh LOVES to play with the sighthounds and often can be heard terrorizing them in the middle of the night.
I was trying to snap a photo of Samson in the snowflakes that we had for about 45 minutes yesterday, but he was not into the photo op!
Super hairy ponies have to be the cutest thing ever! Samson is still difficult to catch in the field, but he loves to come in the barn to steal hay and is easy peasy to catch then. He desperately wants to be with the big horses, but the one time we tried that Sterling chased him endlessly to the point I was worried about Samson. We will try it again one of these weekends and let Samson out with a smaller group of the big horses. He has been out with Jaguar once and that went really well. Jaguar ignored him the whole time.
These two are non-stop wrestlers!
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!
The forecast in the next week or so in north Texas is COLD! Highs will be in the 40s and lows in the 20s, plus it feels colder because the air is humid. Mind you the temps in my hometown in Montana are MUCH colder with highs in the single digits and lows well below zero, but consistently freezing weather in north Texas is pretty cold. At times like this I try to remind myself how miserable it is to ride when it is in the 90s and humid in the summer so I can motivate myself to take advantage of not roasting. It can be difficult.
I wish I had photos from winter rides during my childhood. I can remember helping friends move cattle and 20 minutes into the ride I couldn’t feel my feet. By the time we were done moving the cattle or whatever task we were seeking to accomplish I likely couldn’t feel most of my face, my hands and below my knees! I didn’t ride regularly in the winter as a kid. Usually the winter was when I participated in some school sport like basketball or volleyball. My horses always got the winters off to get fat and hairy and have some down time.
We never had a horse colic in the wintertime, either. My parents had a very successful program for winter horse management. The horses had plenty of shelter and hay to keep warm and dry plus our stall runs and pastures had access to Ritchie horse waterers which NEVER froze. Horses don’t like to drink freezing cold water and if they don’t drink enough water they can get impactions in their gut which cause colic. It is vital that they have access to clean, not-freezing drinking water at all times.
Now that I live in Texas, winter is my favorite time to ride. It generally doesn’t get much below 40 for most of the season, so with enough clothing it is comfortable to be outside.
Sterling decked out in his winter riding attire.
When it really is “cold” I use some extra horse clothing to keep them warm while I ride. The quarter sheet covers their hind end, which is where some of their largest muscles are located. Quarter sheets are usually made from some type of fleece or wool fabric so when they do get hot it wicks away the moisture. I keep my horses under lights all year (this tricks their body into not knowing when the seasons change so they don’t grow thick winter coats) so they don’t get super woolly. Because of their lack of winter coat they need blankets when many fuzzy horses don’t. It seems cruel to take off their warm blanket to go ride and not cover them up at all, so I use a quarter sheet.
Bundled up rider, but less bundled up horse.
When we really get to working I will remove the quarter sheet so as to not overheat the horse, which can be worse than getting cold. It is much easier to get a horse warm than it is to cool them out in the winter time. At the horse show we went to a couple weeks ago many riders used a quarter sheet right up until they went into the show ring and put it on as soon as they came out. The older the horse is and the harder it is working, the more important it is to keep those muscles warm and prevent cramping and discomfort.
My tack room is heated so my horses also don’t have to deal with freezing cold bits in their mouths. When I go to fox hunts I often put my bridle in the floor board of the pickup under the heater so when we get to the hunt they get a nice warm bit in their mouth.
As far as keeping myself warm, I’m a big fan of layers. Especially in Texas where it often feels really cold when I first go outside, but as I start moving around I get warmer and warmer. Layers allow the removal of extra clothing so I don’t get too hot. And my favorite way to keep my ears warm under my helmet is with “hunter hair”. Hunter hair is accomplished by putting your (long) hair in a ponytail with hair covering your ears and a hairnet over your whole head to keep your hair in place. You flip the ponytail up and put the helmet over your hair. This makes your hair an ear warmer! Brilliant!
You can kind of see my hunter hair covering my ears. It works much better and is far less bulky than any type of headband to cover your ears under a helmet.winter r
If I still lived in Montana I’m pretty sure my horses would still get winters off and I would spend the season gaining the festive fifteen from eating too much and not getting enough exercise. I’m looking forward to lots more winter and spring rides before hot Texas summer returns.
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!