Ice Capades

for the love of drainage

This week has not been super fun in terms of weather. We got a string of unseasonably warm days where it got above freezing leading to a great deal of melting. Of course It didn’t melt all of the snow, it just created a fun layer of ice on everything. This was followed by a day of rain and the only thing that can make ice worse is a layer of water on top of it and the the ground itself is still frozen so the water can’t really go anywhere. Combine that with the location of our shelters on the flattest ground we could get that unfortunately also happens to be near the lowest point on that side of our house. With the ground frozen and a wall of snow that had turned into ice all around the outside of the shelters this meant all that water ran into the shelters and then had no way to get out. The water was ankle deep in the two shelter bays that don’t have mats and was almost as deep in several areas of the bay with mats, though that one still had a few dry spots. In a fit of guilt at making the girls stand in that much water which I knew was going to shortly freeze and turn into an ice rink I opted to sacrifice two bales of our cheapest “forage” hay (one of which was actually kind of moldy so I wasn’t going to feed it to them anyway) to spread out and hopefully soak up some of the water and if nothing else provide traction once all that water froze.

Was it the best idea I ever had? No. Did it help? Maybe? I was not a good scientist and did not leave one shelter bay alone as a control to test my results. What I can say is that the next morning there wasn’t nearly as much water in any of the shelter bays which is a good thing. More importantly, when the flash freeze happened that day we wound up with lots of places that are sheer ice but the shelters with all their hay didn’t freeze solid and the footing in there is fine. Picking poop out of all that semi frozen hay has been awful however, so I’m hoping to find a better solution before we have to deal with this again.

I know the best solution would involve some decent drainage built into the footing of the shelter area, but they are in temporary locations (I will get my barn built!) and I didn’t want to waste money on putting in drainage materials that I would not be able to take back out and repurpose easily. So far everything that we have, from the fences to the shelters, can be moved to their permanent home once the barn is built. That being said, I will be trying to find a way to put some sort of drainage in the shelter area for now because I do not want to deal with this again.

This still leaves the ice rinks in front of the shelters, near one set of hay boxes, and near the water. The University of Minnesota Equine Program had a Facebook post about horse-safe ways to deal with ice and using poultry grit was one of the options. I had a customer come through my lane at Fleet Farm who said the same thing, so I bought a bag (and now two more) and I think it works pretty well. It worked amazingly for me and my boots; once I put a little bit down I have had zero issues with traction. It hasn’t been quite as amazing for Leeloo, Juniper, or Nate all of whom are still slipping here and there, but I think overall it is helping. And I don’t feel bad about spreading small pieces of granite on my lawn the way I would if I were spreading salt everywhere.

Hopefully we won’t have any more random rainstorms in the middle of winter to flash freeze into sheer ice. Snow I don’t mind so much, but ice sucks! (though still better than bugs!)