Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Caring for Horses in the 1800's Winter

Besides writing full-time, my husband and I also run a horse riding stable in the middle of a suburban/city area. We are surrounded by concrete and businesses and most people don't know about our seven acres nestled right off a major highway in Virginia. Right now, in modern times, taking care of the animals on a farm is a full time job, and they are our livelihood, not just a hobby, like they might be for others.

According to the American Horse Council, there are currently about 9 million horses in the US, but in 1869 the number was closer to 13 million. Horses were much more common, used for transportation and work. So their daily care was of great importance to farmers and ranchers.

In the winter time, the most important precaution that horse owners needed to take during the harsh winter months was to make sure that horses had fresh water available. This often meant heating buckets on their wood stoves and then carrying them out to pour into troughs that were iced over, unless they had a running stream on the property.

Most horsemen and farmers fed their horses oats and barley, as those two feeds were higher in nutrient value and safer for the horses than straight corn or bran. In the summer months, they had to collect and bale hay to store for the winter months, because in order to maintain their weight, horses need to eat 1.5-2% of their body weight daily (depending on their level of work). And horses are grazers, which means that they eat little amounts all day long. So when the grasses they normally ate were unavailable, ranchers would need to drop bales of hay out for the horses to eat

When it snows, things get a bit trickier for horse owners. Many owners, during the harshest parts of the winter, would pull their horses' shoes off, so that the horses didn't collect ice and snow balls in their shoes which would make it difficult for the horses to move about without possibly pulling a tendon or ligament.

Even when horses were not able to fulfill their duties for traveling or working the farm, their caretakers still had to provide food, water, and care for them daily. (Reference for this article: The Horse: Its Keep and Management by William Cook 1891)

P. Creeden is the Sweet Romance and mystery pen name for USA Today Bestselling author, Pauline Creeden. Animals are the supporting characters of many of her stories, because they occupy her daily life on the farm, too. From dogs, cats, and goldfish to horses, chickens, and geckos -- she believes life around pets is so much better, even if they are fictional. 

Get her latest historical romance set in 1880 Wyoming:

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