Question: The December rains and strange weather has turned my property into an ice skating rink. What can I do to make my paddocks safer for myself and my horses?
University of Minnesota Extension responds: Ice is a major safety concern for both horses and their owners. The first step to ice management is prevention. Before the ground freezes, try to provide channels for water to flow away from alleyways, turn out sheds, and areas that horses frequently gather. Gutters on barns and sheds are also recommended as long as they direct water away from high traffic areas. When the temperature is below freezing, avoid dumping or draining whole water tanks, larger buckets, or automatic waterers into paddocks. Finally, when plowing or blowing snow, it is best to move as much snow as possible into areas where the water will drain away from paddocks and alleyways. However, use caution with this approach as melting after snow removal can lead to slick surfaces.
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When there is a build-up of ice, poultry grit, sand, and fresh manure are options to help increase traction. Avoid using straw, hay, or fresh shavings as these tend to slide over the ice and will not provide consistent traction. When using grit or sand, make sure to feed horses away from the area, or provide hay and grain in feeders off the ground so that horses do not accidentally ingest the substrate. When temperatures are not too cold, pure salt can be used to speed melting, but should be used in moderation. The effect of salt on horse hooves has not been researched and prolonged exposure has unknown consequences. Additionally, avoid applying salt and sand at the same time as horses may accidentally ingest the sand while licking the salt. Finally, ensure that your horse has the best traction from their hooves. Regularly removing built-up snow and ice from hooves will help the hoof better grip ice and snow and will reduce slipping and falling.
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