Winter barn prep… in September? Well, we might be in the dog days now, but autumn is just a few weeks away, and, depending on where you live, winter may be hard on its heels. So even though your thoughts may be on keeping cool, it’s time to consider how you, your horses, and your barn will fare at keeping warm this winter.
Blanket Inspection. It’s time to open up those scary contractor’s bags and tack trunks where you’ve been storing the winter rugs, brush away the dust and spiders (we’re sorry) and make sure that everything is in working order. If mice or bugs have been at your winter blankets, you’ll want to know now, before there isn’t a size 76 to be had for love or money. If you need to buy new blankets, now’s the time. Waterproofing also deteriorates over time, so this is a good opportunity to pull out a can of waterproofing and spray the blankets again.
Fence Walking. It’s annoying when your horse walks the fence, but you’re on a tour of inspection. If you live in an area that could experience heavy snowfall or violent winds from winter storms, you’ll want to check your fences for any weaknesses now. Take along a hammer and any tools you’ll need to fasten loose wires and boards, and mark wobbly fence posts with colored tape for future attention.
Invest in Your Pastures. If you’re looking for a bright new crop of grass next spring (your horse certainly is!), now is the time to analyze your soil for deficiencies. By late fall, depending on your region, you’ll want to have a fertilizer and seeding plan to put into action.
Look for Potential Ice Hazards. Is there always a puddle under your pasture gate? Does a water trough leak turn the depression around it into a small pond? Summer mud can translate to winter ice — a significantly more risky proposition. Look at your drainage trouble spots with a critical eye and consider how to solve each problem individually. Some drainage problems could be solved as easily as moving a trough, or adding gravel to a heavily trafficked gateway. And don’t forget to prep your outside pipes to prevent freezing and bursting!
Pack on the Pounds. Is anyone in the barn looking a bit ribby? If you have horses that are light in flesh with the summer heat, fall is the time to get them fat and happy for winter. (Well, not fat, but at least in solid condition!) Work with your vet to get the right calories into your skinny horse’s systems. Once the temperature dips, it will be much harder to encourage weight gain.
It’s hard to imagine winter on a hot summer day, but now is the time to prep our barns and horses for the cold months to come.