Winter in Georgia usually means wearing an extra layer of clothing and riding continues as usual. We don’t really need indoor arenas because the ground seldom freezes. Our biggest concern is the wind on a cool day getting under the horses’ tails. We call those “Wahoo Days”.
This winter is different. After the wettest year on record in the south, the ground was exceptionally soft so the pastures were chewed up in certain areas from the horses’ hooves. This normally would not have been a problem but the wet fall was followed by the coldest temperatures in decades in the Atlanta area. The chewed up ground and clumps of clay have frozen as solid as a rock. Unlike up north, we do not have a good blanket of snow to cover and soften the hard ground.
Would you gallop your horse across a field of rocks? No. You would be afraid of a twisted leg, a tendon injury or worse, a broken coffin bone from hitting the bottom of the foot on a hard rock. Pastures that rutted and frozen are no different than a field of rocks and you should be careful about turning horses out while the ground is still frozen if it has uneven areas. A bruised foot can cause an abscess at the very least. Our vet said he has been busy treating foot injuries and colic this past week.
The horses at Bits & Bytes Farm have been blanketed and well fed inside the barn during the recent cold spell. Their feed has included extra fiber in the form of hay and beat pulp topped with salt to keep them drinking water. The fiber and the water help to prevent colic. The horses have been hand walked or lunged (in an ice free smooth area) daily to cut down on the “Wahoos” when they finally get to be turned out into their thawed pastures. Water buckets have been cleared of ice and refilled with warm water to encourage drinking.
Winter can be a wonderland but it is also a lot of extra work. But, with a little caution and some extra insulation on the water pipes it can be endured until the temperatures rise and the riders return.
See more photos of our Winter Wonderland at Bits & Bytes Farm.