Working with horses in extreme temperatures is not for the faint of heart. With temperatures dipping as low as -9, I’ve had a few lessons to learn the hard way.
1) There are no gloves that can adequately provide both warmth and dexterity. My compromise is to buy the $10.99 insulated work gloves from Tractor Supply. Buy 2-3 pairs because they are fairly water resistant and tough, but occasionally and inexplicably they become damp inside and need to spend some quality time by the radiator.
2) Insulated Bib Overalls. Buy two pairs because they take a while to dry out and there will be a water/mud/manure related mishap at some point. Also, if you live in the Midwest and wear them five months out of the year, there will be an occasion where you will need a clean/non-ripe pair to wear in public.
3) Forget hoses. The most popular Facebook conversation for the last three weeks has been the frozen water hose, how to drain it, where to keep it, what kind to buy. Face it, unless you absolutely HAVE to use hoses, it is 10 times the aggravation, time and bad language than just refilling and carrying six or eight buckets of water twice a day.
4) Frost free hydrants do in fact freeze. Fingers crossed, I have made it so far this winter with mine still marginally functional. Basically, I think that using it three times a day to fill buckets, etc. is the only reason it is still working. It is a bit difficult to get the handle up and the first bucket is a bit slow to fill but it gets easier. My advice is to buy the really good quality Woodford ones. They tend to hold up better and ain’t nobody got time to replace those things.
5) Your nose hair appears to grow almost all the way up to your brain. In this kind of cold weather, they just freeze in a way that you can feel them in a porcupine up the nostril kind of way.
6) Water freezes on contact. If you somehow manage to splash water on your gloves, for the love of god do NOT touch anything metal. If your bucket splashes onto the ground it will become an icy patch in seconds. Your wash stall drain will freeze into a solid block of ice. Solid blocks of ice are heavy as all get out. Be careful where you pile those things because they can quickly become a trip hazard. Oh, and they don’t unfreeze enough to come OUT of the bucket unless you carry them to a heated space for a few hours.
7) Heater water troughs and buckets are a necessity. It is simply not feasible/practical/possible to maintain a supply of fresh non-frozen water in these temperatures. I have them, I run the cords through PVC pipes and have them duct taped to hopefully keep the horses from getting to them. I also have them on GFI plugs. I keep the buckets as full as possible at all times. I am paranoid about fire. I don’t sleep much.
8) Every barn has that one jerk of a horse who has to mess with everything. I close my barn at night. The heat escaping from the bodies of the four equines can mostly keep his one water bucket from being completely frozen solid overnight. However, as soon as you open the doors to let the wild ones outside you had better dump that bucket and peel out the ice or it will freeze solid before you finish cleaning stalls. Refer to item six on this list before emptying and storing this bucket. Right now I am running an assembly lines of eight buckets that are empty (2), frozen solid (5), thawing (1—in the garage-ha!) so no, you can never have too many buckets people.
9) Walking on snow is torturously loud. Of course, it seems we have perma-snow here in hell. At this temperature, it just does not melt so the path to the barn is a packed snow topped with super dry loose snow that keeps drifting onto the path (because wind). Herein lies the problem. Every *&^)%)^* step makes this high pitches squeaky crunch that is akin to nails on a chalk board. To revisit, that is every step between the house and the barn, back and forth 3-4 times a day. Good times!
10) Buy the really good/expensive footwear. When we first relocated to the land of the frozen tundra, I bought myself an expensive ass pair of fleece lined waterproof Timberland boots. I can do an hour of barn chores with no toe warmers. They slip on despite the laced fronts and are waterproof. They have also performed well in the traction department, which as you know is key!
11) Poopsicles are real. They accumulate everywhere and will break multiple tines on you manure fork if you persist in trying to remove them. They spawn frozen balls of ankle turning butt busters at an alarming rate and seem magnetically drawn to your moving feet. But don’t fret: when you get a heat wave and it reaches about 35 for 6- 7 hours (you know, March), you should be able to finally pry them up. Until then, you can skip the gym and use the poop dodging to liven up your routine. Just keepin’ it real y’all.