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Winter Costs for us Horse Owners

Published: 1/18/2012
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

The Pros and Cons of winter have been weighing on me.
Ok, I’m cold. And truth be told, the Cons stick in my craw.

Winter’s expensive.

More hay to buy. More equipment to use. More wear and tear on the equipment. More time needed to accomplish the same tasks.

Lately, I’ve been weighing the costs and making 'executive decisions' on whether to stick it out or stomach the financial burden of an upgrade.
The decisions, based on seriously considered ways and means, are not unlike business and management measures of a higher level: invest or let the Bottom Line rule?
As I shovel poop, I channel Mitt Romney, or some other white collar executive, to make cool, calculated, corporate-esque decisions.


Some considerations and calculations:

-- The base of my 16-gallon heated bucket cracked. Do I buy a new one? (For about $90) The heating unit and cord remained undamaged, so I placed the whole dang thing in one of my 20-gallon muck buckets. Bingo. No upgrade necessary (for now).

--  I have two muck rakes with broken tines from trying to pry and poke frozen manure off the ground and stall mats. Do I order new Durafork heads ($17 a piece)?
Hmm...what’s the likelihood I'll be mucking hermetically-sealed manure off the frozen ground and break another tine?
Pretty high.
How much do the lost tines slow down my stall cleaning time? For four horses, it adds 10 minutes or so per day.
 I’m going to save that purchase for spring. No upgrade necessary (for now).

-- For the past 10 years, I’ve been wearing my son’s old pair of kids’ Carhartt coveralls. They’re great, but worn. I’m starting to get looks at Hannafords (yes, I admit it.  I do occasionally shop for groceries in my coveralls.) Do I spring for a new pair?
Vanity and a New Year’s resolution to clean up my appearance win out. I found a pair on sale at Tractor Supply. Upgrade approved (deemed necessary for worker morale).

-- Winter in Maine requires warm boots. My insulated Ariats and the back-up pair of Timberlands are showing their years. New pair for the sake of dry, toasty tootsies? In this case, a friend intervened. I have a great, new pair of Kenetrex cowboy pac boots. Yummy. Upgrade approved. (Outside contribution)

How am I doing, Mitt?

What do you spend on?
How do you weigh the costs and benefits of winter purchases?

View Reader Comments:

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1/19/2012 Judi M.
You can save the fork tines by using an ice scraper first to pop the poopsicles off the surface. I keep the ice scraper right next to the manure fork and grab both on the way to the sheds. (no barn here) Slow feed haynets are a godsend - they cut down on waste and extend the length of time they have something to eat. I am always looking for a better glove to keep my fingers warm and have yet to find the right one, suggestions anyone?
1/19/2012 Maddy B. Gray
Thanks, Judi. Great suggestions! Wish I could help with the glove search. When it's below zero, nothing works for me. Mittens would be better, but I need my fingers.
1/19/2012 Joy
Duck tape works well for your broken tines. Wrap the the tape around the two tines that are on either side of where the broken one is at...:). You can also get replacement heads at Big D's for $6.00....:).
1/19/2012 Ann W. Firestone
The little hot pockets that you shake and put in your gloves as well as ones for shoes are precious to me on the cold, cold days. I buy lots of them whenever I see them on sale. Often they are on sale toward the end of the season. Great for putting in your boots when riding in the winter as well.
1/19/2012 Kathy
I bought gloves at Ocean State Job Lots in Belfast. They are fleece and touted as waterproof and only $6. So far, so good. My hands have stayed dry except after some strenuous labor my hands get sweaty so the gloves are wet on the inside. I don't notice it till the next time i put them on so now I throw them on the heat register. The material also melted some when I was filling the wood furnace and got too close. For $6 bucks I don't even care if they make it through a whole winter. No heated buckets but a heater in my stock tank which is turn off if the temps go over 32. They get one bucket in their stall and have learned to drink up before it freezes. I use a shovel or pick axe to get the stubborn piles but have broken plenty of forks and usually keep a spare head around. I asked for and received a pair of Arctic Muck Boots for Christmas. They are awesome and very warm. I also got some of the ice walkers-the kind that strap on and I have been pleased with them.
1/20/2012 Debbie
I am using a small pulp hook on the frozen manure. You loosen the frozen pile with the hook and then scoop up. The greates pleasure, of course, comes when the whole pile comes up with the hook! (seriously!). Then, you just put the pulp hook through the rope handle and drag the muck bucket around! Multi use, certainly approved by economists everywhere.
1/20/2012 Harry Lewis
The hand warmers do help and last for hours,I'm not one to spend anymore time in the cold than necessary.The hand warmers get warm when they contact air so when not needed I put them in a zip lock bag (squeeze all the air out before sealing) and they're good to go for the next time!
1/24/2012 sonia
This is the BEST product we've purchased in years! Solar powered water tank, requires little cleaning, stays thawed to -20 F, this is our second Winter using it, FANTASTIC! No electricity required. Horse only dot com

"Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same." - President John Tyler's epitaph for his horse