January 17, 2007
We start out the morning chores about 7:00 A.M. The sun is just starting to come up and it is very COLD! This morning when I went out, it was -18 degrees below zero. We have ponies that are all anxiously waiting for breakfast. This is the most welcoming part of my day because as soon as they see me coming out the door, the ponies all whinny their greetings which makes me feel so loved. Most of them will crowd around the gate when I enter so that they can get their pats and hugs before breakfast. I always want to yell “Okay guys, crowd control!!”, but I truly enjoy it. It’s a good thing I get all of those warms hugs from the start, because right after that the cold stuff begins.
It is so cold many days during these winter months that sometimes it’s just hard to get through the outside chores. Winter always adds a LOT to our work load. One of our major (repeat MAJOR) concerns during the cold season revolves around water. Of course horses need water to survive, but it is even more than that. They actually require more water in the winter than they do in the summer, but often they don’t drink as much because their water is too cold or even frozen. Statistically more horses get sick and die in the late fall and winter months than any other time, but not always from things like pneumonia. Instead it is more often simply that they don’t drink enough water to keep things moving through their system.
When we first started with the miniatures five years ago, the first thing that I used to have to do is break all of the ice off of the water troughs. Water heaters are expensive so we have tried to add at least one or two new ones each year until we could finally get one for each trough on the property. We now have heaters for all of the water containers – Yeah! Depending on how thick the ice was, it used to take me only moments to clear off the ice, or it may have taken me 20 minutes of hacking with an ax to clear the ice out of the troughs. Whether the ice was in thin sheets or solid through half the water trough, once I had broken through the ice, it was not enough just to give them access to be able to drink. I had to make sure that all of the ice is taken out of the water. How would you like to stick your whole nose and mouth in a cold bucket with sharp ice shards floating in it? We then brought out buckets of hot water from the house to add to the water that was still remaining in the troughs. This makes the cold water warmer to drink and also keeps it from freezing back up quite so fast. On an average, we would carry about 10-12 buckets of hot water out to the ponies. These are 3 and 5 gallon buckets. Can you do the math to guess how much water we were carrying? And we would have to repeat this whole process again during the evening chores. While we are hauling the buckets of water, we have to walk very slow and be really careful that we don’t spill any of the water out of the buckets. Not only would the spilled water freeze and become icy wherever it landed, but also sometimes the water sloshes on our pants and down into our boots which is REALLY cold when it freezes!
Now as I said, this is the first year we have heaters in all of the horse’s water troughs. Wow, that makes life soooooo much easier! Plus we have some wonderful neighbors 2 doors down who like to have some of the ponies live in the tiny little pasture in front of their house. Normally I would bring those ponies home for the winter because of freezing water issues and no way to haul hot water down to them. But this year my neighbors offered to buy the ponies a solar heated water tank, which would then allow the ponies to stay with them. Hmmmm……how long did I have to brood over that offer?!? So now those spoiled little ponies actually have warm water any time they want it! How sweet is that?
I ponder over the subject of water more often than I would like to, yet I am also go very grateful for modern conveniences like heaters and water running from a spigot. I can’t even begin to imagine how people used to care for their animals in the horrid Midwest winters just a century ago. I can’t imagine having to haul water from a creek or pump it out of a well and then carry it a long ways to the barn. And let me tell you, when water totally freezes in a bucket or trough, there is no getting it out until the thaw comes. Every time as we are here at Hope Springs are whining about our water issues in the winter, it is good to get a reality check and remind ourselves how much we appreciate the contemporary conveniences we have. I plan to post this message and then go think about how very much I value water as I soak in a nice bathtub full of the hottest water I can get!