Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter Wondering

Why, pray tell, is a native southern Californian writing about winter. Well the answer is simply, we are actually getting a taste of it this year.

I know that readers on the east coast are probably thinking “pish posh” right now, especially after the recent blizzard Nemo, but for those of us who have never had to learn to be hearty and who are not acclimated to temps in the 20s and forecasts that include wind chill factors, the weather lately is wearing on our tolerance for the season.

Generally I joke with friends in other parts of the country by saying California has 4 seasons – fire, wind, earthquakes and mudslides. But this year we can add rain, hail, frigid temperatures and even a hint of snow. My ranch is in the foothills of inland San Diego County at the moderate altitude of about 1800 feet so we are used to more fluctuations in temperatures than coastal areas. It is normal for us to get down to the 30s at night for a few collective weeks throughout the winter, but this year has had us with one week with nights in the 20s and highs only in the 50s followed by a week with highs in the high 70s.

A horse show facilty at a slighty higher elevation.
Our horses were thinking "seriously, jump in that?"

My poor horses don’t know what season it is. That coupled with heavy rain, hail and wind and we are all wishing for spring. Now this is not to say that any horse on my property is exactly enduring the hardships of a harsh winter. Each of my horses has no fewer that 2 blankets each – one a rain sheet for wet days and the other a heavy, waterproof blanket with fill for warmth at night. And a few of them, like Uiver and Pete also have cotton and/or wool stable sheets. I know, I know, horses have survived for centuries without so much as even shelter, but the horses at my barn that compete are body shaved in the winter and frankly, I can’t sleep at night when the weather is bad if they are not blanketed.

Even my truck looks cold.

Earlier today I was talking with some colleagues in New England and was amazed to hear about the blizzard Nemo and the amazing amounts of snow that was dumped on that area. That got me wondering how horse owners in areas, that really do get real winters, deal with the weather and keep their horses fit, happy and healthy throughout the season. For us, we have to deal with mud mostly but we generally have periods of dry weather in between storms that allows corrals to dry out at least partially. But with the mud and the extremes in temperature fluctuations, we have to worry about hoof issues like Thrush, Seedy Toe and abscesses in addition to colic if they don’t drink enough when it is cold.

How about all of you? How are you weathering the winter.

My dog Morgan's version of hybernating. Very stressed by the wet weather.
(She has a t-shirt on because of a recent minor surgical procedure.)


jenj said...

Winter this year has been a joke for us. Not even a single decent freeze, and normally we have 3 weeks' worth of nighttime temps in the high 20s. It's been so warm that the flies are already out. Yuck!

Francesca Prescott said...

Terri: we're knee deep in snow here in Switzerland at the moment, even at lake level (I live on the shores of Lake Geneva) which is pretty rare. It won't last, and we'll be knee deep in mud within a couple of days (unless temperatures drop...and then we'll be slip sliding away). My yard is at a higher altutude (it's at 700 metres, no clue what that is in feet), so tends to get a little more lingering snow. Qrac is blanketed from about October to...May, of course the blankets vary from light to super warm. He was clipped in November and needs clipping again now, so I'll have to put his super warm blanket on when that happens. We have two winter paddocks, but they're not really winter paddocks per se (I consider winter paddocks to have floors made with non-porous materials), so from November onwards they go from being deep, hoof-pocked mud fields to hoof-pocked ice-fields, which in my opinion are not ideal for turnout as so many horses hurt themselves.

Right now I'm just desperate for spring to come and for the ground to dry out a little, so that the other paddocks will be reopened. I'm also desperate to be able to go and ride outside again, as even though our indoor is great, I prefer being outside...until it gets mega hot and the flies drive us all insane!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Dealing with the after effects of the blizzard has been relatively easy for us. We never lost power so the automatic waterers are working which is a big plus. The generators were ready to go but we didn't need them. We're plowed out and things are back to normal.

Since we don't show anymore, we don't clip our horses and they don't need blanketing. Of course, they are filthy and hairy right now.

We have four run-in-sheds to shelter them during the day from nasty weather and they take full advantage of the sheds. They are out all day and come in at night. During the day they eat hay all day from full hay nets attached to the catch pen fence and the hay trees in the middle of the paddock. I haven't heard any complaints yet, except for maybe more treats, but they are happy and healthy.

Alison said...

Terri -- so much for global warming. I foresee weather becoming a major factor in all our lives -- mainly because it will be so unpredictable. We have had no snow all winter and today it is 60 degrees! Go figure.

Laura Crum said...

Our weather here by the Monterey Bay is similar to yours overall, but we have not had a particularly cold winter. Temps went down to the high 20's a couple of times, but that is not really unusual for this area. I do not clip my horses and I don't blanket unless they are shivering. They have walk-in shelters. I understand that show horses must be clipped and blanketed, but I have friends who do not show and blanket all winter mostly for their own convenience--horse is clean and not as hairy, even if unclipped. I honestly do not think this sort of unnecessary blanketing is in a horse's long term best interest. I believe they stay healthier if they can live more naturally, and with their winter coats grown out, they can easily withstand much colder temps than we have here. A cold rain along with wind is the hardest on them.

Breanna said...

I'm about an hour south of Laura (Paso Robles area), and I'd say we've had a pretty average winter. It dropped into the low 20s a couple of times, but that's not unusual. I clipped one horse from between her front legs up under her neck just to keep her from sweating so much, but I still don't usually blanket. If it's cold I just give extra food at night, I've never seen anyone shivering. I will agree we are pretty spoiled here in California...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.