Even though I live in the high desert of southwestern Idaho, we are still part of the Pacific Northwest weather pattern. That means cold, wet, windy, and maybe even snowy winters—coupled with long, dark nights. Last winter we had record snow loads, measuring around 40 inches at Sweet Pepper Ranch; simply amazing (and annoying!) for a place accustomed to 7 to 12 inches of precipitation a year.
On a horse property, winter can mean different things for us horse owners: less riding, difficulty doing daily chores, perhaps more indoor time to clean tack or plan for special outdoor projects next summer. In a year like the last, it can also mean record mud to deal with during spring break-up (the time-period in between winter and early spring, when things begin to thaw).
With our indoor arena finished, and the drainage around the outside of it in place, we are looking forward to a greater ability to ride in the winter months than we’ve ever had. Still, at this precipice between late fall and early winter, Matt and I have been busily prepping for the winter months ahead.
Gravel to reinforce paddock footing and provide access areas was first on our list. Our clay/slit soil has little structure to it; show it a little rain and it transforms into a gooey, sticky mess, similar to quick sand in its consistency. To eliminate and reduce that problem, we began the process of putting gravel down in high traffic areas.
We started by covering our long driveway with a new layer of gravel; we did this first to be able to access the arenas and the back of our property by the compost and hay storage. This is important to the income-generating portion of our business plan so that we can get potential hay deliveries, clean stalls and get equipment to the compost area, and to allow everyone easy access to both the indoor and outdoor arenas.
Next, we set about reinforcing the equine high traffic areas with driveway gravel—around gates, in walkways, and in front of shelters. Over the winter this will keep horses’ feet dry and healthy, plus make the tasks of manure clean-up less arduous. We plan to top off the gravel in the smaller paddocks in the main barn with sand. Sand provides a “softer” footing that our horses are more comfortable sleeping on than gravel.
We also checked gutters and downspouts around the barns, shelters, and outbuildings and made necessary repairs. Several had torn away from the roof, a result of last winter’s heavy snow.
Not only will the techniques we're implementing this fall be good for chore efficiency, horse health, and business at Sweet Pepper Ranch, but they will reduce environmental impacts, such as ground water or surface water contamination from muddy runoff.
If you’d like to learn techniques (specific to your horse property) on how to keep livestock high and dry during the coming winter months, or about any other aspect of eco-friendly horse keeping, join me in January for our online class series, Horses and Land Management. This four-class series is informative, easy to follow along, interactive, and inspiring. I always enjoy teaching the online classes and meeting the folks involved.
Coming up next spring and summer at Sweet Pepper Ranch we have more fun planned! Our Cowgirl Retreat this past August was a total success and we have two more in the works for 2018. If yoga, meditation, and learning ranch riding skills are up your alley—along with incredible food, pool time, knowledgeable guest speakers, and FUN—then now’s your chance to add a retreat to your next year’s plans! Check out our education and event schedule for details and how to register.
We will also be offering one-day and weekend ranch riding and ranch versatility clinics and, as always, if you’re traveling with horses and need a place to stay overnight (for horses or humans) keep Sweet Pepper Ranch’s horse motel in mind!
Until next time, good horse keeping and happy holidays to you!