A New Year and New Pasture Problems.
The first half of January 2017 we got a bit of new snow and cold with night temperatures in the minus twenties and thirties. The horses continued to do remarkably well out on the pasture. Dry and cold aren’t really much problem for horses.
On the really cold days when the wind is blowing they are usually lined up along the windboards. The day this photo was taken it was cold and windy. In the photo they look warm and comfortable. And when you go stand where they are, it is much much warmer and no wind. They soak up the sun’s rays. Their coats even feel warm on the sunny side.
The first day we reached temperatures above freezing was January 14. Then it got really warm. Plus 14 C on the 17th. Rosie was laying in the snow to cool down.
Then it was up and down a little bit above and below freezing. About the worst case scenario you can get when you have horses on winter pasture that has quite a bit of snow cover. First the snow packs down. Hard. Dave had to fire up the bobcat and use it to break out a trail through the drift to the big barn doors for the farrier visit.
Not that handy for the horses either. Every time they paw they pack a hard lump of snow instead of clearing snow from the grass. Soon they move to the visible grass. Sounds good except the only visible grass available right now because of the deep snow is the tall swamp grass. It is not that nutritious. Especially when the weather is cold and stormy. They were reaching the limit of foraging for themselves.
They certainly aren’t down and out. But if you wait until they get too thin, they just require more feed and help through the rest of the winter. They need a little layer of fat reserve for warmth and for those days when it is just too miserable to do anything but stand by the windboards.
Of course not everybody is really needing help. The bosses tend to be “better keepers” if only because they get to pick the choicest feed sources. Also, some families are “good keepers”. Our mare Maggie certainly is and her 3 year old daughter is one of the fatter ones in the herd. I would like to put Maggie’s son, Marco (4) in with Hawk and Elvis but he really likes being out in the herd and he is holding his own. He is very good at communicating his wants. A very expressive horse. When I tried to bring him in with the other geldings, he wanted back out with the herd. It didn’t take him but a few seconds to tell me I was making a mistake and my trying to get him interested in the new pen and lovely hay was looked on by him as a complete waste of time. The other two love the “spa” pen. Doesn’t make much difference really. They are all on full feed.
Winter Pasture has become Winter Feeding.