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Prepare Your Facility and Order Supplies

  • Consider installing indoor and/or outdoor thermometers if you don’t have them already. Being able to monitor the temperatures inside and outside is helpful as you regulate the blanketing needs of the horses in your care.

  • Plan how to best handle the storage challenges resulting from blanketing. Install hooks or racks for drying damp horse clothing and blanket bars to make clothing changes timely and convenient.

  • Remove cobwebs, especially those near light fixtures. Cobwebs act just like fabric—they’ll easily catch fire from a spark or extreme heat. In winter, electric lights are used more often and for longer periods of time than in the summer.

  • Medications and topical wound care solutions —even shampoos and fly sprays— can freeze or loose efficacy in frigid temperatures. Relocate these solutions into a temperature-controlled area where they’ll be ready to use when needed.

  • Check the functionality of gates, latches and exterior barn door hardware. Ice can make a weak or damaged piece of hardware break easily.

  • Remember that horses can withstand colder temperatures than humans, though drafts aimed at their bodies can be unhealthy. Check that stall boards are not allowing cold air to be directed at a horse’s barrel.

  • Tighten electric fencing, and check its hardware and connections. Horses searching for grass to nibble on may be more likely to test fences during winter months.

  • Locate your snow shovels in an easily accessible area. Tune up your snow blower and tractor if you have this machinery. Remember to contract a professional snow plower if you need one.

  • Fill tires for wheelbarrows to allow maximum steering control over treacherous winter footing.

  • Set up supplies of sand (with scoops for spreading) near barn and pasture walk ways to give your feet and the horses’ hooves some grip in icy conditions.

  • Consider purchasing a pitchfork with metal tines. Stronger against ice than most plastic varieties, it will come in handy for picking up frozen manure from turnout areas.

  • Order a supply of hay and shavings to carry you through your stormy season.

  • Add a horse vacuum to your wish list if you don't already have access to one. Vacuuming makes grooming easier in cold weather by removing hair, dust and dried mud that sticks to your horse during winter thaws and in the spring mud season.


Ventilation is a key issue in maintaining a healthy environment for stabled horses. Good barn design takes proper ventilation into account. It ensures that warm, stale barn air is pulled up and out the top while fresh air is pulled in at ground level. However, many barns have been built without thought for ventilation.

Whether your barn fits into this category or not, consider these checkpoints:

  • If you’ve removed the glass from your barn windows in the spring, it is time to put them back up. However, don’t seal barn windows with plastic as you might seal house windows to conserve heat. Both horses and humans working in the barn will benefit from the ability to open windows on the mildest of winter days.

  • Thoroughly clean debris from hay and shavings storage areas to rid them of dust, rodent droppings and nests that can contribute to stale air and unhealthy breathing conditions. This targeted cleaning also reduces the amount of brittle and flammable material buildup in your barn.

  • Consider obtaining a product to reduce unhealthy barn odors. Several are available on the market, including some that can help you stretch your bedding budget by absorbing moisture. Odor-No-More is a proprietary blend for odor and moisture control that you sprinkle in your stalls to help absorb urine. Bye Bye Odor is a natural microbial solution formulated to eliminate urine and manure odors. Stable Fresh is an all natural liquid formula containing bacteria that speeds the bio-degradation process while eliminating odors.

When Snow and Ice Arrive

All your planning and preparation will have made this time easier. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy winter as a time to hack your horse in snow or take photos of him playing in drifts.

Monitor local weather conditions closely for impending storms. When rough weather conditions are forecasted, fill your water containers and top off water buckets. Watch for storms that can affect hay, grain, and shavings deliveries and stock up beforehand.

Many horses are naturally reluctant to drink in cool weather, but your heated water sources will help encourage water consumption. Provide salt blocks just as you do in summer, and consider adding electrolytes to your horses’ diets.

On mild days, open barn windows to help with the exchange of stale and fresh air. Each day, leave your barn doors open at the ends of aisles. A stabled horse is better off with a blanket and fresh air than he is to be closed in entirely with dusty or stale air that can contribute to breathing issues.

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Related Articles:
Cold Weather Riding Tips
About Blanketing and Horse Clothing
Tack Cleaning and Leather Care
Maintaining an Equine Medical Kit