Winter care for veterinarians and farriers

Try these tips for keeping the professionals who care for your horse comfortable this season.
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Trapped in your cubicle on a sunny day, the idea of working outdoors with horses may seem idyllic. But in blustery weather, conditions around a farm can be anything but pleasant. Keep this in mind the next time your veterinarian or farrier comes calling this winter and take a few steps to make the visit a bit more comfortable.

Maintain pathways and parking area. Being able to reach your horse easily and safely is essential for a veterinarian or farrier. Deice slippery surfaces, minimize mud in walkways, and shovel snow in high-traffic areas.

Farrier trimming a horse's hooves in cold, wet conditions.

Farriers and veterinarians will appreciate any effort you can make to keep them warm and dry this winter as they help your horse. 

Provide well-lit shelter with electricity. A spacious barn offers the best protection from freezing wind, rain, snow and other winter elements. But if you don't have one or even a run-in shed, and the weather is particularly bad, consider clearing out a large garage or storage shed to provide a temporary shelter.

In addition, a source of light may be a necessity during the shorter, darker days of winter. If your shelter doesn't have built-in lighting, you'll need to get creative. Portable work lights, also called "trouble lights," that plug into outlets then clamp to or hang from rafters are a good choice, but in a pinch camping lanterns, flashlights and even the headlights of a truck can do.

Prepare your horse. At a minimum, you'll want to have your horse waiting in the appropriate area when the farrier or veterinarian arrives. If trimming, shoeing or a lameness exam is on the schedule, do your best to clean the mud off your horse's hooves and legs. Also make yourself available to help out and be prepared to remove blankets, if necessary, during the visit.

Click here for four winter-footing hacks.

Supply warm water. If your barn doesn't have hot water, have a bucket heater or electric kettle on hand in case your veterinarian or farrier needs warm water. Even if warm water isn't a necessity, most veterinarians and farriers will appreciate not having to wash their hands in freezing water during the depths of winter.

Set up a portable heater.
Your veterinarian and farrier will arrive dressed for the weather, but it's also nice to have a warm area available for extended consultations or paperwork. A portable heater set in a tack room or feed room can provide a warm respite from the chill. Of course, be sure to turn the heater off and unplug it when no one is in the immediate area.

Offer a warm beverage. Providing a hot chocolate, coffee or tea, perhaps in a "to go" cup at the end of the visit, is a nice gesture.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue December 2012, #423

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