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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We live in New Hampshire, USA. This past spring we brought our horses home from a boarding facility. This will be our first winter at home and need some advice on winter management of paddocks and outdoor areas. There is so much information about dealing with snow and ice in paddock/drylot areas. The conflicting information leaves me with many questions.... Do you remove snow from paddocks? How to deal with ice? Any information is greatly appreciated!

Sky Snow Natural landscape Freezing Landscape
 

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@Acadianartist is a great resource for this topic. Hopefully she'll come with her treasure trove of advice as this is something she deals with every year.
 

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Indeed, I could write a book or two on the topic! I'll try to be brief, but if you have specific questions, I'll try my best to answer them. :)

It depends on how much snow you get, but I like to remove snow when it's more than 4 inches or so. But when I do, I don't scrape right down to the sand. Frozen sand is awful on hooves. A nice layer of snow, and it's perfect for riding. Not so much fluffy snow, but wet snow, packed snow (and even fluffy snow will eventually pack down).

Lucky for me, we have a big farm tractor with a 6 ft snowblower attachment and I have a hubby who indulges me. I also bought myself a hand push snowblower for making a path to the manure pile (the joys of having horses in a winter climate) and other small jobs.

Once it has been cleared with the snowblower, I like to run a drag over it behind my ATV. It's just a 4 ft drag I bought on Amazon. I do the same if we get freezing rain. If - as it's tended to happen more and more - we get snow, followed by freezing rain, followed by rain, then maybe a flash freeze, I will just leave the snow to absorb some of the rain, and clear it once it has frozen again or just run the drag over it to break up the ice.

Now solid ice, there's really very little you can do about. When I have fresh sand delivered to my ring in the summer, I shovel some into a big barrel, fill it right to the top. That will be my winter sand so I can spread it on ice as needed.

I do ride all winter, and when the snow is nice, it is lovely riding, just like sand. I also string lights around my ring so I can ride at night. Don't let anyone tell you you can't ride in snow! Oh, and my horses are all barefoot. No need for corks. This is my paddock - you can see the texture here.

Horse Working animal Halter Horse tack Tree


As for my horses, they all live outside 24/7 in the snow, and are fine. I blanket my senior who is more sensitive, but my other two, including the appy in the photo, are naked all winter. We don't clear snow in the pastures of course. After a while, they stop going out and just live in the paddock of their own accord (my paddock leads to the pasture via a gate). They like the fact that we keep it clear for them. My barn is open to the paddock on one side, so they come in and out as they please. I almost never shut them in, even when it's snowing hard. I did build an overhang on that side of the barn so snow mostly stays out of the run-in part of the barn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Indeed, I could write a book or two on the topic! I'll try to be brief, but if you have specific questions, I'll try my best to answer them. :)

It depends on how much snow you get, but I like to remove snow when it's more than 4 inches or so. But when I do, I don't scrape right down to the sand. Frozen sand is awful on hooves. A nice layer of snow, and it's perfect for riding. Not so much fluffy snow, but wet snow, packed snow (and even fluffy snow will eventually pack down).

Lucky for me, we have a big farm tractor with a 6 ft snowblower attachment and I have a hubby who indulges me. I also bought myself a hand push snowblower for making a path to the manure pile (the joys of having horses in a winter climate) and other small jobs.

Once it has been cleared with the snowblower, I like to run a drag over it behind my ATV. It's just a 4 ft drag I bought on Amazon. I do the same if we get freezing rain. If - as it's tended to happen more and more - we get snow, followed by freezing rain, followed by rain, then maybe a flash freeze, I will just leave the snow to absorb some of the rain, and clear it once it has frozen again or just run the drag over it to break up the ice.

Now solid ice, there's really very little you can do about. When I have fresh sand delivered to my ring in the summer, I shovel some into a big barrel, fill it right to the top. That will be my winter sand so I can spread it on ice as needed.

I do ride all winter, and when the snow is nice, it is lovely riding, just like sand. I also string lights around my ring so I can ride at night. Don't let anyone tell you you can't ride in snow! Oh, and my horses are all barefoot. No need for corks. This is my paddock - you can see the texture here.

View attachment 1135825

As for my horses, they all live outside 24/7 in the snow, and are fine. I blanket my senior who is more sensitive, but my other two, including the appy in the photo, are naked all winter. We don't clear snow in the pastures of course. After a while, they stop going out and just live in the paddock of their own accord (my paddock leads to the pasture via a gate). They like the fact that we keep it clear for them. My barn is open to the paddock on one side, so they come in and out as they please. I almost never shut them in, even when it's snowing hard. I did build an overhang on that side of the barn so snow mostly stays out of the run-in part of the barn.
Thank you so much! This is very helpful! I never thought of a drag, what a great idea!
 

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Vermonter here (and former NH resident from the Keene area). You don't say what part of NH, but if you're on the Seacoast you might have a different set of priorities than someone in the north country- it definitely varies. My part of VT is more like Northern NH than Southern NH, with snow covering the ground from December through March, so that's my frame of reference for my comments below. When I was still in Keene, we actually were starting to get some parts of winter with the snow completely melted, leaving bare frozen ground. That was becoming the new normal when we moved up to Vermont in 2018.

Anyway, I will preface by saying I don't have an arena of any kind (indoor or outdoor) so I don't ride much in the winter aside from some easy hacks around the fields. Most of my riding is on roads and trails, and the snowbanks on the roads make them too narrow to ride safely to trails once winter is really here. I love how @Acadianartist manages her riding arena throughout the winter!

Like @Acadianartist, we have the large snowblower attachment on the front of the tractor and will plow paths through the paddocks back to the poop pile when we have a storm that brings ~1ft of snow at once. The horses do break their own paths, even with that much snow, but I do all my manure with a wheelbarrow so I need some help getting back to the pile.
Cloud Wheel Sky Snow Vehicle

Cloud Sky Snow Natural landscape Horse

Horse Sky Snow Working animal Tree

Ice has become a noticeably bigger problem here even in the past two years. It was never really something to worry about, but now as the climate is changing, we are seeing melting and refreezing at least a few times over a winter. That never happened here! My horses live outside with run-ins all the time, and don't come into a barn, so dealing with ice in their main activity areas has become a necessity. Sometimes just shoveling snow over the icy paths is enough to re-establish traction. I also keep some sand available and last year I bought a little grass-seed spreader, which I can fill with sand and then use to quickly spread it across the worst spots. That worked pretty well. I'm not sure I fully have ice management figured out, and am hoping it won't be as bad this year as it was last year. That might be wishful thinking though.

A few other random things that I had to figure out the hard way:
  • How will you get hay from wherever it's stored out to wherever the horses are turned out, even in blizzard weather?
  • Is your water situation ready for winter? A high-quality frost free hydrant installed properly below the frost line is a must, along with electric access for plug-in buckets.
  • After hay and water, probably the biggest question is what can you realistically do about manure during the stretches where it's consistently below freezing for days or weeks at a time? Will you clear it all by chipping out the frozen stuff, or leave it and do a bigger cleanup after a thaw? If you're clearing it, do you have a path to your manure pile? Is it with something motorized, a wheelbarrow, a sled?
  • If you are going to blanket (I do in storms), do you have a place to hang them to thaw and dry if they are soggy and so frozen they can stand up on their own? Do you have a "change of clothes" for each horse if the first set of blankets needs to come off to dry?
    Horse Vertebrate Snow Mammal Working animal
(Frozen-solid blanket after days of storms ^^ meant I was on my last "change of clothes" for the horses as we prepared for more snow and ice, and poor mare had to wear a miniskirt because it was all I had left! 🤣)
  • Also, if your horses are used to feed that is soaked, do you have warm water in the area where you prep feed, and is there heat there so that it won't freeze into a solid block before the horses eat it?
Winter can be long, and challenging, but it's definitely a time of year that has a lot of beauty and satisfaction to it. I actually love winters here. Being prepared is the key. Spring is a whole different story- I despise mud season!
Horse Snow Wheel Working animal Sky

Snow Tree Working animal Automotive tire Freezing
Snow Tree Freezing Automotive tire Building
Horse Snow Tree Working animal Sky
Snow Branch Grey Atmospheric phenomenon Freezing
 

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Great photos @egrogan! Spring is also my enemy. It is the only time of year when I can't ride for 3-4 weeks. Sooooo frustrating. It's just a sloppy, slushy, muddy mess.

I have also shoveled snow over ice to provide traction. Once the weather turns cold enough to freeze the ground, I look forward to getting snow down because the ground is so hard, the horses don't want to be ridden on it. Where there is grass, it's fine, but my sandy arena turns to concrete when frozen. Once we start to get a layer of snow, it's great riding. I dread rainy days in winter, because if I lose that layer of snow, I'm back to hard concrete.

egrogan raises other good points about hay storage and water, as well as feed prep. My hay is stored in the barn (I know, not ideal, but remember that my barn is always open so horses can leave should a fire break out and I am absolutely anal about checking hay for hot bales, even bought a temperature probe) so that's not a problem, but if you don't have hay storage in the barn, I recommend having at least a week's worth on hand. Of course you'll need heated water buckets or water trough, so that means running electricity to the barn. Make sure that is done correctly. Extension cords should never ben used in a barn. I paid an arm and a leg for my barn wiring, but everything is enclosed, so rodent-proof, lights are in cages, etc. I hang heated water buckets inside the run-in to reduce the amount of heat I am losing to the open air. Outlets are placed on the outside of the stall wall and I drilled a hole through to run the cord so buckets are placed just on the other side of the outlet and plugged in where horses can't reach.

I used to keep my food in the barn, in an old deep freeze to keep rodents out, but now I wet down the feed so I just have a food prep area in my basement year round. It's just much easier that way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Vermonter here (and former NH resident from the Keene area). You don't say what part of NH, but if you're on the Seacoast you might have a different set of priorities than someone in the north country- it definitely varies. My part of VT is more like Northern NH than Southern NH, with snow covering the ground from December through March, so that's my frame of reference for my comments below. When I was still in Keene, we actually were starting to get some parts of winter with the snow completely melted, leaving bare frozen ground. That was becoming the new normal when we moved up to Vermont in 2018.

Anyway, I will preface by saying I don't have an arena of any kind (indoor or outdoor) so I don't ride much in the winter aside from some easy hacks around the fields. Most of my riding is on roads and trails, and the snowbanks on the roads make them too narrow to ride safely to trails once winter is really here. I love how @Acadianartist manages her riding arena throughout the winter!

Like @Acadianartist, we have the large snowblower attachment on the front of the tractor and will plow paths through the paddocks back to the poop pile when we have a storm that brings ~1ft of snow at once. The horses do break their own paths, even with that much snow, but I do all my manure with a wheelbarrow so I need some help getting back to the pile.
View attachment 1135854
View attachment 1135855
View attachment 1135858
Ice has become a noticeably bigger problem here even in the past two years. It was never really something to worry about, but now as the climate is changing, we are seeing melting and refreezing at least a few times over a winter. That never happened here! My horses live outside with run-ins all the time, and don't come into a barn, so dealing with ice in their main activity areas has become a necessity. Sometimes just shoveling snow over the icy paths is enough to re-establish traction. I also keep some sand available and last year I bought a little grass-seed spreader, which I can fill with sand and then use to quickly spread it across the worst spots. That worked pretty well. I'm not sure I fully have ice management figured out, and am hoping it won't be as bad this year as it was last year. That might be wishful thinking though.

A few other random things that I had to figure out the hard way:
  • How will you get hay from wherever it's stored out to wherever the horses are turned out, even in blizzard weather?
  • Is your water situation ready for winter? A high-quality frost free hydrant installed properly below the frost line is a must, along with electric access for plug-in buckets.
  • After hay and water, probably the biggest question is what can you realistically do about manure during the stretches where it's consistently below freezing for days or weeks at a time? Will you clear it all by chipping out the frozen stuff, or leave it and do a bigger cleanup after a thaw? If you're clearing it, do you have a path to your manure pile? Is it with something motorized, a wheelbarrow, a sled?
  • If you are going to blanket (I do in storms), do you have a place to hang them to thaw and dry if they are soggy and so frozen they can stand up on their own? Do you have a "change of clothes" for each horse if the first set of blankets needs to come off to dry? View attachment 1135862
(Frozen-solid blanket after days of storms ^^ meant I was on my last "change of clothes" for the horses as we prepared for more snow and ice, and poor mare had to wear a miniskirt because it was all I had left! 🤣)
  • Also, if your horses are used to feed that is soaked, do you have warm water in the area where you prep feed, and is there heat there so that it won't freeze into a solid block before the horses eat it?
Winter can be long, and challenging, but it's definitely a time of year that has a lot of beauty and satisfaction to it. I actually love winters here. Being prepared is the key. Spring is a whole different story- I despise mud season!
View attachment 1135856
View attachment 1135857 View attachment 1135860 View attachment 1135859 View attachment 1135861
Amazing! Thank you! I am in Atkinson NH in the southeast corner of the state! Your weather description is on point, especially about the ice. Last year was horrible. All of this is helpful information and I LOVE the photos!
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Yes, ice is the absolute worst. I once had my entire riding ring covered in slick ice. It was horrible. We didn't ride for at least a week until we got a good snowfall. At first, the snow will only make it more slick, so be careful. But after a few days, especially if you pack it down and get a bit of sun to melt it into the ice, you are good to go. I will run around like an idiot and slam the brakes on in random places to see if I slip before I ride on it, lol.

We did put down sand, but really, the traction was awful. What saved us from having to keep the horses in is that the pastures had not been cleared so there was a thick blanket of snow with a thin layer of crust. The horses were able to beat down paths and be turned out in there. I have also made a riding area in the pasture if the ring becomes temporarily unusable. I put on snowshoes and break up the crust, then we ride in it until there is a big 20 M circle beat down. It's not very exciting, but I go crazy if I don't ride for long periods so it was worth it for me :)
 

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Move feeders and waterers closer to shelters to reduce the time horses walk on ice. Plowing paddocks can aid in breaking up ice and creating a rougher surface for better traction. Furthermore, removing snow from high-traffic areas will reduce water buildup once the paddocks thaw. Plowing paddocks can aid in breaking up ice and creating a rougher surface for better traction. Furthermore, removing large amounts of snow from high-traffic areas will reduce water buildup once the paddocks thaw. Sand, wood ash, shavings, and woodchips can also be applied to an icy surface to improve traction.
 
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