Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Barn Owners Hate Winter Too

Finals are DONE! I can't even begin to describe the sense of relief and freedom that washes over me after I am finally finished. It always takes a few hours to settle in. Immediately after my last final, I went to spend some time with a good friend. When we sat down, I was still bummed because I knew I messed up a few problems on the final; by the time we finished our tea, I was having a hard time wiping the grin off my face as I kept remembering-- I'm FREE!

Meanwhile, my wonderful mother wrote a guest post for you guys while cold was still on the mind. We headed out to the barn last night to visit the girls, who are comfortable and happy as usual. They've been going out every day (no mud when it's this cold!) and seem to be thriving. We managed to pull an entire cylindrical shell of bucket-shaped ice out of one of the water tubs last night, which was actually pretty cool. I broke it after we set it down safely outside, because I was holding a hammer and really what else are you supposed to do when faced with a giant ring of ice?

Anyway, here is my mom, musing about barn owners dealing with the cold.



As I write this it’s 11 degrees F outside. Brrr…. We made our way out to the barn Tuesday evening intending to ride. It was somewhere in the 20s with a promise of lows into the single digits. We didn’t even make it all the way out before we’d decided to just check on the girls and say hi! We got there to find them tucked into their stalls, with the doors out to their paddocks closed, happily munching on huge piles of hay. The barn owner had broken the ice in their buckets. Love our barn owner…

I decided to fish the floating ice out of the water buckets just for good measure. Our horses are in a smaller barn a few yards from the main barn/arena and right now there’s just one other horse in there, a cute paint mare named Summer. I went in and fished ice out of her bucket too. As I tried to shut her stall door when I was done I noticed it wouldn’t close because there was a piece of plastic water pipe hanging down in the way. I moved it out of the way and shut the door, but realized the pipe was full of ice and had broken.

There was a note on the board in the main barn saying the water was off, but the horses had been watered and they’d fix the problem tomorrow. Bummer… Got me to thinking – including this one, we’ve boarded at four barns since owning horses. Every single one has had pipes break in the winter – every single one. Wait, I take that back – at the last one the pipes didn’t break, but they were frozen and they had to haul water from the house.

So each barn owner we’ve known has had to spend the coldest part of the winter hauling water to horses a couple of times a day, not to mention dealing with the broken pipes. Not my idea of a good time, so I’ve been trying to figure out what I would do differently if I had my own barn. Is there really anything you CAN do? Barns here are not heated so is there a way to keep pipes warm enough? And on a related note, does anyone use heated water buckets? I’ve often wondered about those. I guess you’d need an electrical outlet strategically placed in each stall. Seems like a bit of a hazard to me, but maybe not…

What do you guys or your barn owners do?

11 comments:

Heather said...

Frozen water is my biggest worry in the winter. I have boarded at a number of barns and everyone does it differently.
One barn was heated and had auto waterers. That was great!
Another barn used heated buckets and each stall had an outlet. The outlet was used for the box fan in the summer.
Another barn was self care paddocks and their outdoor faucets would freeze for days straight. There was no electricity, so I hauled four 5 gallon buckets hot HOT water from home and dumped it in the stock tank every night, then would break up the ice at least one other time in the daytime. Currently, my horse is in a pasture and the tanks have heaters. So far the faucets have not frozen and I think the pipes are under the pasture shed/feedroom.
Personally, I liked the auto waterers best, but I also love having my horse out in the pasture as much as possible. So, our current situation is a good one too!

Ambivalent Academic said...

We use a frost-free spigot attached to a heavy duty garden hose - the hose is run from the spigot up through the rafters (out of the way of curious horses) and down to the big tank just outside the barn. The tank has a heater (would NOT go without one of these), and since one end of the hose is "open" draining into the tank, it's very easy to just detach the other end from the spigot after filling the tank. All the water drains out of the hose since most of it is strung up overhead - no broken pipes! If someone forgets to drain the hose after filling though it's a nightmare. Climb up the rafters to bring down the hose, crack up all the ice inside so you can carry the whole thing indoors to thaw in the bathtub then drag it back out to string it up again.

Of course, we only have the one tank since all the horses are pastured together with free access to individual stalls. Not sure how well this set-up would work for lots of individual buckets, but if your hose was long enough, you could walk around filling individual buckets before draining.

Sydney said...

I have never had pipes burst here and I work at a lot of barns. I carry with me the knowledge that just like your garden hose you turn the water completely off, open all the lines and drain them. No freezing and no broken pipes. Heat tape works wonders and a floodlight works well at man taps from them freezing. Putting WD-40 in tap threads stop them from freezing so they won't strip.

The last two years our auto waterer has frozen. The perma frost has reached the pipes underground somehow and theres not a damn thing we can do about it other than digging up the whole thing, which isn't an option. I just gotta lug water to the trough three times a day to make sure they have water.

College Horse said...

At the two barns I boarded at, we had tanks in the pastures that were filled twice once in the morning when the horses were let out. They had de-icers in them, and insulated pvc pipes with a hose in it, carrying the water to the tank.

The water was turned on while the horses got their morning grain and while they were being turned out, and they were turned off when full or after the horses were all let out. Then the owners disconnected the hoses from the spigots and blew the water out till the line was clear.

As far as buckets, the horses were out during the day, so we dumped the buckets in the barn lot in the mornings after the horses were let out, and they sat empty all day. Then before the horses were brought in, the buckets were filled all the way. We put our water buckets near the aisleway (away from outside walls) and sometimes the bottoms would be frozen, or there'd be a very thin layer of ice on the top ( but the horses never seemed to have a problem breaking through them) and we had 10 gallon buckets, so it took long enough for the water to freeze.

We didn't deal with pipes really. We had spigots connected to the main waterline under ground, well below the frost barrier. We had heavy duty hoses coiled around the spigots and if you connected the hose (winter or summer), BARNS RULES were to clear the line and coil it back up. Kept them from freezing solid or to the spigots. As far as the tanks, the horses usually had them drunk down to a couple of inches by the time it started getting dark (when we let them in) so we just filled it up the next day.

All of our tanks were well below ground (for the far pasture at one boarding place) or connected to a main water line pipe.
The spigots are insulated and we've never had them freeze unless some dumb dumb gets water ON them. If that happens, we have hot water in the tack and feed room to pour over it to get the water going. After that, we just have to dry it off and hope it doesn't freeze before it dries.
Boarders could purchase and use heated buckets or de-icers for their horses if they purchased the de-icer. I only knew of one who did.

Beeg #2 8D said...

We use 3 heated water buckets for our minis, large horses and goats and have had no problems. as long as the cords are out of reach, there won't be any problems ;)

Beth said...

I've never had pipes burst, but I remember one year we had crazy snow and when the electricity went out, so did our water! We ended up melting pots of snow on the wood stove so our three horses could have water...I couldn't imagine having to do a whole barn that way!

slwtwist said...

The barn where I board (in Northern Indiana where we sometimes get into the minus double digits) does use heated buckets in the stalls. The current owners didn't build the barn but whoever did had the foresight to place outlets on the posts directly outside the stalls and put the bucket hooks nearby. The cords are housed in metal coils and they've never had a horse mess with them. They're plugged in outside the stall, at about 5 1/2 feet. Safe, convenient and the horses have warm water. All the pastures/dry lots have insulated tanks with tank heaters. It's a good arrangement.

jacksonsgrrl said...

I grew up in Ohio in winters with negative digits being the norm. On a farm. At 12 years of age I was the one doing ALL the chores twice daily. Including trekking up two hills to our garage where we had hot water for watering. Not only lugging MANY buckets twice daily with water slopping all over me, but getting the ice out of them too! My hands in winter were permanently cracked and bleeding. As an adult, I have moved to South Texas (and lived in South Florida for six years too) because I DO NOT DO THE COLD anymore! I am permanently scarred. It gets cold here--the 30's at night, 40's to 50's in the daytime. To me that is now almost more than I can take. Wimp? YEP! I have paid my dues, and I hear your winter woes.....
Merry Christmas from a place that gets NO snow, and I SO don't care! :O)
Mindy

manymisadventures said...

Wow you guys, this is a lot of good information! It seems like everyone has an array of methods to keep things running smoothly.

Sounds like insulation, always remembering to empty the hose, and maybe some bucket heaters are the way to go. Thanks everyone!

Reluctant Cowboy said...

Just stumbling through.........:)
We have all three afore mentioned heated watering styles. Stock tank heaters don't do that well when the temps get below -10 (we've been there several times already this year) and in a larger than 100 gal stock tank. Too much surface area so one trick is to cover part of the tank up. Plastic garden hoses tend to break or split in -20 degree wheather. (been there done that) During cold winters the stock tank heaters can cost $50/month a piece to run. I have 6 running now. The automatic water systems cost more to install but less to heat (If they are well insulated) have 2 but this summer I hope to replace the stock tanks.

Our best is the field tank. It is a covered concrete tank with dirt piled on it. the opening is about 1 foot by 6 feet. We have never had any problems with it.

Good luck to you.

Candy'sGirl said...

I've been at three different barns and we never had a freezing problem. Insulate the heck out of the pipes. In some places just duct taping foam (there's stuff in a tube shape just for this at Home Depot/Lowes) around pipes is sufficient. For others, there is this plastic coated hot tape stuff you wrap around the pipe and plug it in. No freezing pipes! We had a pump next to each trough on the first farm I was at. First we ran extension cords out to each one for the hot tape and a tank heater, but ultimately we buried real electrical wires and plugged stuff in that way. The outlets were tacked to the fence next to the trough where horses couldn't get to them.

Heated buckets work well, but you have to make sure they don't get completely empty. The ones I have don't actually *warm* the water, but they do keep it warm enough not to freeze. My very curious, plays with everything 4yo leaves the cord alone. Its got a wire coil around it making it uninviting to play with. That said, at one of the barns we drilled a plug sized hole in the stall wall and ran the cords on the outside of the stalls. The two barns where the cords were inside though, we never had any issues. The outlets were just at the top of the stalls. No one messed with them.

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