Polar Vortex - Extreme Cold Farm Ops Tips

I have heated buckets in the stalls & a sinking de-icer in the 50gl barrel that serves as a trough outside the barn.
My frostfree hydrant is inside the barn, but I water bucket-brigade style so I don’t have to worry about a frozen hose or hydrant.

My stalls are open to the paddock & pastures year-round, including Polar Vortex weather.
I pick a couple piles from each stall every morning, that tells me they are not spending a lot of time stalled overnight - their choice.

I put out flakes of hay in both pastures & in front of the barn for them to “graze” as grass is under snow.

This morning is Day 1 of a weeklong deepfreeze & the barn was comfortable for me & horses. Bright sun helps a LOT!
I blanketed last week when we had heavy wet snow that soaked them through on their backs. Blankets came off when they were dry beneath them.

I may blanket tomorrow night as Sunday is supposed to be the worst - single-digit daytime temps & subzero at night. But I will let horses tell me if they need blankets.
I do a 4-Point Check for body warmth: flanks, belly, brisket & ear tips. If all check out warm & dry, no blankets no matter how cold it is. Unless heavy snowfall or wet, windy weather.
This works for 20yo pony, 18yo horse & 6yo mini.

For myself, layering works to keep me warm. Thermal longjohns under sweatpants, polarfleece top layered with t-neck, warm socks & waterproof boots, gloves & I am good to go for the 30-45min it takes me to hay, grain, pick stalls & refill waters.
If it’s not nosehair-freezing cold, I also spend some time sitting outside dispensing treats.

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Minnesota. I grew up here and spent many years when I was younger doing chores in suboptimal conditions. With my own place, I can set it up and buy the things I need to make life easier… You have to be ready around here! We’ve been spoiled all winter with pretty nice temps. But the cold Canadian air has arrived and the wind is blowing now. :frowning: At least the sun is shining today. I see the horses out in the pasture, but they are using the hill and tree line for wind breaks. The could go in their shelters.

The dogs went out to pee and it was a short trip before they started lifting paws and wanting to come back in…

Time for the insulated Carharts I think… as my Norwegian family members say… “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes” .


for 30 I’ll give it a try…

Right?! Here’s the last one I bought. Two year warranty! And $5 coupon right now!

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Day one of the Deep Freeze here in IA and I can’t help but be cheerful with this incredible blue sky we have. It’s been like 7 or 8 days straight of unrelenting gray skies–so dreary. So bring it on, Mother Nature, Thank you for this sunny gift even if it’s a bit nippy out there. :laughing:


Beautiful picture!

It’s gray and dreary here but 55 F so no complaints

An electric boot dryer!!! These things are awesome to dry my boots and gloves. Also good set under a blanket hanging to dry. Also, I keep two pairs of insulated work gloves in rotation because one does not quite make it through the 4+ months of cold weather here.

I try to get everything winter ready one month before the first hard frost to minimize surprises.

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Get everything winter ready in the fall. Then keep reminding yourself that your horses are happier outside with shelter and 24/7 hay.
Have a backup way to water.

The only time mine want in is in the summer when it’s humid and the bugs are out.

Being able to sleep in when it’s -30 is a wonderful thing!

40 and sunny here right now, but tomorrow starts over a week of below freezing temps and snow. Spent my day deeply bedding the stalls, making sure heated troughs and buckets were full and working. Drug the arena and any muddy areas in the pasture so when they freeze they are a nice smooth surface, I hate when everything freezes into a choppy, divot-filled surface. Scheduled a delivery with the feed store to make sure I’m stocked up on feed and shavings in case I can’t get out (long, steep driveway that loves to turn to an ice rink) and have a new round bale coming as well. Need to fill up the tractor and cars with gas and then I think I’ll be set.

My barn tends to stay 20 degrees above the outside temps, so this will be the first time this winter the horses will actually need blankets at night! We’ve had a pretty mild winter, so far. Bring on the cold :slight_smile:

@anon81364900 What a beautiful picture and your barn is so cheerful and fun! I think we keep this thread going with how everyone gets through this spell and your picture is inspirational. Hopefully we can all stay safe and healthy and the EQUIPMENT RUNNING!

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those hibiscus might come back from the roots. Give them a chance when spring comes before you toss them.

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Stunning picture. Love your red barn and the quilt on the front.

Well I haven’t thrown them out yet so they have a fighting chance. Next weekend lows predicted at 21F! Crazy cold for here!

We have had a ridiculously warm winter here in the interior of BC so far this year. Like 20 C warmer than usual. So I guess we are due for a bit of a chill. That’s OK.
For humans, good long underwear, lots of layers, and insulated overalls, good gloves and a good hat. For horses, lots of hay, and turned out 24/7 together to play and run together to stay warm. No blankets needed on these guys. If I have someone who is infirm, must be stalled, and can’t be as mobile as necessary, they get blanketed, thick, many layers. I have a very thick woolen one, it’s old, and I picked it up at a tack sale many years ago, literally 1 1/2 inches thick with pure wool. Thought it looked like it could be useful at some point. I’ve used it a few times, lent it to a neighbour one year, whose old horse had gone through the ice on their pond and sustained injuries in mid winter, and pneumonia as a result. That blanket has saved lives… it’s the first layer of blankets, under the thick weather proof wind proof layer. Don’t need to use it this winter, yet.
Deep buried water lines are key for cold winters, and the heated auto waterers here also have heat tape wrapped around the vertical pipe coming up from the water line, to stop the line from freezing on the way up to the heated box. This was installed when we put the waterers in. Had to replace several, nasty job, but did it without digging everything up. Highly recommend if you are in an area where it is going to get cold. We were inexperienced with dealing with this level of cold when we moved here, and got looked after and coached by one of the locals in this respect. Coldest winter so far here -38C overnight. “Horse farts freeze onto tail hairs” cold. Usually get to -25C overnight most winters, not too difficult to deal with, with preparation for it.

-38C? Ouch! I think the coldest here over decades has been -11F, about -24C and it only lasted a week.
We had little 6’ galvanized tanks freeze solid that year and some old lines in the horse pens, ours are buried 36’, that time and erosion had made them now less deep, did freeze.
Once those thawed, the horse pens looked like someone turned a sprinkler system on in there.
There were so many broken pipes, we put in a whole new set after that.
It has not frozen that hard since, of course.

I hope all make it fine thru this arctic spell.

Our water lines are buried 6 feet deep. And that first year, after they were installed just that fall, the dirt was not compacted enough to protect them adequately. We had some issues with freezing lines, but fortunately, none of the lines split.

Amen to that!
We are facing up to 2wks of Polar Vortex temps - single digits to (hopefully) teens daytime, subzero nights :cold_face:
I fully intended to blanket horses this morning.
But they greeted me at 7A running & bucking.
Barn temp was 8F inside, but all tested warm.
So I put out hay, topped waters, left extra hay in stalls & left them to enjoy the sun.

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Make sure you have some back-up tank de-icers in case of failure.

Thanks! I painted that quilt this past summer. It was a challenging pattern to draw, had to keep really focused. But I like the 3D aspect of the design.


So with all the prep we did, tonight our power went out :frowning: We do have a generator, but it’s kind of a pain to set up and we only have 1, so it would be a choice to run barn or house… We’re all electric (well we do have propane auxiliary heat, but need electricity to run pumps). So I was running through the scenarios as we sat by the fire… Unhook water and shut-off in barn so pipes don’t burst… hope the waterers survive (fortunately, I had the foresight to put the insulated cover on the active waterer this afternoon. I have 2 of the pasture waterers covered anyway, but the third is the one they use outside. Since I kept them in tonight, I covered it). I can always draw water at the house and bring it down in the Mule (another reason to use generator at the house is keeping the well going) or just disconnect the barn water system and only use to fill buckets when needed. Of course, they’d freeze pretty quick without the heaters, but it could be done. The hydrant is in the bathroom and is freezeless, so if I disconnect I can protect it. The waterers outside are another story? Anyone have great ideas other than the insulated covers? Ground heat helps some as they are very deep, but they do freeze without the heaters running (had that happen on the unused ones).

So, I’m now thinking again of a backup system. Like I said, we have a generator that is capable of keeping the house going (minimally), but not one for the barn. So I might go shopping this week… Considering a bigger back-up for the house and move smaller one to barn. It would be enough to run the buckets and lights anyway. Of course, this isn’t a common occurrence, but it did just happen to choose the coldest day of the year…

But the good news is that they fixed the outage faster than predicted so only a few hours and no residual issues…

But I keep thinking of the times in Western WA where the power was out for days at a time. That would be a nightmare!

And we are looking at a record breaking stretch below 0 with no real relief until after Valentines Day. Current temp is 17 below. Yippee! at least the wind has died down so wind chill factor is not too bad… I guess we were just so spoiled… a pretty mild winter until now.