Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Deep Freeze

Colorado has a fantastic climate. Not too hot, not too cold. But we are subject to the occasional winter storm that can just halt everything. We had our first roll in this week, which, well, halted most everything.

Here's Ginger's perspective:

There are some days on the Ranch where we have fleeting thoughts about the benefits of a desk job. These are the days when weather challenges make it seem like we are losing the uphill battle. Lately, we have had quite a few high wind days, where the wind will blow the entire day at high speeds like 30 to 40 mph, with some gusts much higher. This makes everything we do much more difficult and time-consuming. For example, we have to bring the horses into the barn during the high-wind times because the wind blows all their hay away before they can eat it. Then, we have hours of stall cleaning to do for that many horses. We plan to mitigate this problem with some sort of hay holding containers in the pasture, but it is not near the top of our ever-expanding high-priority list right now.

Our latest challenge is now occurring with a deep freeze where temperatures have gone down to the minus teens and wind chills down to 30 below. Monica went out of town on Tuesday morning when the freeze began to set in. The wind was blowing hard along with the frigid cold, so I brought the horses in for morning feeding. That, of course, set into motion the cycle of more work generating ever more work. They made messes of their stalls (they don’t like being inside) which had to be cleaned up because the forecast was for overnight minus teen temps. Dave & I brought the horses into the barn for the night on Tuesday and tucked them into freshly cleaned stalls with plenty of hay.

Wednesday, the high for the day was 6 degrees, but I turned the horses back out after their breakfast because the wind had died down and it was sunny out. They were so happy to be out they all went straight away into making “horse snow angels” (rolling in the snow). The stalls were a terrible mess, since the horses had been in them over 18 hours and were stir crazy. They had to be basically stripped and cleaned for tonight. Then we discovered that some of the pipes were frozen, including the faucet into the wash stall and the automatic waterer in the stall of one of our boarder horses. Dave tried to get those fixed to no avail, so there was more water hauling to compensate. The heaters were on for the waterers, but apparently there is a design flaw and it can freeze down below the heater. And the wash stall spigot was never right because the valve is too high and the water doesn’t drain back down to below the freeze depth, so the upper pipe freezes. Monica arrived home from her short trip to find us still working in the barn after dark.

Now, today (Thursday) brings more challenges. Nine horses stayed in the barn last night because the temps were again forecast for minus degrees. However, with no wind, I decided to leave Harley out, because he hates being in a stall so much he gets very distressed. I left Shoshoni out to keep him company because she is also very tough. This morning I went down to feed, and sure enough they were fine. They had frost on their coats and “icicle whiskers”

But they were not shivering at all. They were perfectly content, except for the fact they could barely walk! This was due to 5” snowballs packed into each hoof.

First, I took a hoof pick down and tried to pick them out. I couldn’t make a dent, they were so frozen and hard packed. Then, I carefully walked Harley up to the barn and put the space heater near him, hoping to loosen the snowballs up enough. (“space heater” photo) That didn’t work, or at least would have taken way too long to work (the temperature in the closed up barn was still only 16 degrees). So, I got the big leather hole punch and bashed away at the snowballs like a hammer, and finally got the hooves at least level to the ground. Harley seemed grateful for this, but still wanted to go back outside (head tossing and pulling toward the barn door). No sooner had I walked him back down the 30 feet or so to the pasture and the snowballs were back in his feet! Mind you, he doesn’t even wear horseshoes—these snowballs were packing into his bare hooves. I thought, at least these would be easy to pick out since they just got there and the snow is light powder. Nope, they were hard-packed already. I struggled and picked and hammered them all level again just to see if they could stay that way. After all, in this extreme cold, the snow is light and powdery; you can’t make a snowball by hand if you tried. So, why is it packing up in their hooves like that? I don’t know, but it is. I tried picking out Shoshoni, to see if she was any different. No. After an hour of working on their hooves I gave up. They are out there walking on stilts. But, this experience made me decide I had to leave all the horses in the barn for morning feeding. Because, if I turned them out, and they all had these high icy snowballs packing into their hooves, they could seriously hurt themselves with just their normal hi-jinks and parrying for position over the hay piles. So, I fed them all inside.

Then I went to dump some manure and bad hay we had just found. There at the manure pile was one of Tom’s cows making a mess of some hay bales we’d left there. I chased her home and threw Tom’s cows some of our hay, just to keep them down on his property and off of ours. I followed cow tracks around to the front of our barn where we keep our good, big hay stash. Fortunately, the cow had stopped at the first hay she found, which was before our big stack. It’s only a matter of time before they all come and decimate our big stack. We’ve got to get that fence built between our properties to keep Tom’s cows off of ours!!! But, our dog kennel projects have been taking the highest priorities lately.

Then, I went to carry water for Sirah, the horse whose waterer had frozen and wasn’t working. Upon inspection, I found another that also wasn’t working, presumably because it had frozen also. Thoroughly discouraged, I came back up to the house for my own breakfast, 2 hours later than I had planned to. Now, it’s back down to turn out the horses and hope they don’t hurt themselves walking on snowball stilts. Then, hours of stall cleaning. Dave is going down to see what he can do with the waterers and frozen pipes. It’s another full day of just playing “catch-up.”

Also, there hasn’t been much work done in the dog barn. I don’t know if it is due to the weather or not, but the electricians only stayed long enough on Tuesday to take out the old electrical and they weren’t here working at all on Wednesday.

The good news is the cold snap will be over today with a high of 25 degrees, sun, and no wind forecast for our area. It’s supposed to get up to 50 degrees this weekend – YAY !!!!


Just as in the song from "Annie," "The sun will come out tomorrow," it did come out and make things better. While the outside temperature is still only 20 degrees, the intense Colorado sun is melting the snow from the roofs and softening it everywhere else. The snowball stilts came off the horses hooves on their own, the cows are all back home, the temperature in the horse barn is above freezing, and the electricians are at work in the dog barn. Outside in the sun, we are peeling off layers and it feels downright balmy with no wind. It's been a rough two days, but we're nearly back to normal.



Blogger Phyllis Swenson said...

Liked the photo of the icicles on the horse coat.. Our horses are permanently that way these days. Last Sunday i worked in the corral for a couple hours, it felt warm (with no wind and a bit of sun) but hen I noticed the horses stil had frozen fur, which I thought was odd until i saw that my own hair looked he same!

One other thing you reminded me of: Jane, where she has her "leaking" problem, now has a huge icecycle in her tail. During those two hours on Sunday I tried to get a hairdryer to it, which, no big suprise, she would not have anything to do with., Finally resorted to a hammer and screwdiver. Broke it up a bit, but still not gone.

12/16/05, 7:17 AM  

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