A few years ago we had an ice storm that covered everything with a thick coat of the slippery stuff. I was glad I wasn’t out trying to drive anywhere and I even had trouble getting out to feed the horses. It wasn’t long before the roads and my sidewalks were sanded, salted and more easily navigated, but that wasn’t the case with the horses’ pasture. The worst was the "catch pen," a small area that can be gated off easily (making the horses easier to catch when needed) and includes the run-in shed and also the automatic waterer, which is our horses' only drinking supply.
Since it is a high traffic area, the snow we had received before the ice storm was packed down solid, slippery enough in its own right, but now quite treacherous with the additional layer of slick ice. The horses were very hesitant about coming into the catch pen since they had no traction at all. I could see that although they were thirsty, they would rather not traverse the ice and preferred trying to make do with eating snow. Even with ample snow on the ground to "eat," however, horses will quickly become dehydrated. It's very imporant to water your horses in the winter, instead of relying on them to eat enough snow.
It took a long time that morning to make a couple of paths through the catch pen to the waterer and into the shed for them. I used a flat-bladed ice pick to try and chop a criss-cross pattern across my intended paths and then I spread a layer of a mixture of dirt pulled out of the two stalls I have on the back of the barn and some sand I perloined from a pile my neighbor has.
It was fun to watch my horses’ reaction to my labors – as each section of "track" was laid, they would venture out onto it and wait for the next section until it was done and they could drink their fill at the water fountain.
The next time that I went out to the barn at Benvelle to ride my mare, I noticed that they had done quite a similar trick – Dean had made paths to all the paddocks with the sawdust and manure mixture that he had cleaned out of the stalls so the horses could walk safely in their paddocks.
Since that winter, I have made sure that if it ever happens again, I’m ready. I make sure there’s always a nice supply of sand in the pile my neighbor keeps, helping him with the cost and making sure I have permission to take some! The ice pick is kept in a handy spot and I’ve been told since then that the ashes from our fireplace also work well on the ice.