HORSEPLAY: Ensure you’re prepared for the snow, ice

YIKES. ICE AND snow fell upon us a bit early this year, didn’t it?

Because I am not a fan of cold weather (my insides shudder just looking out my windows at the chilly white mass) I’m probably better prepared for it than most, so I thought I’d share some of my cold-weather aids.

First and foremost, from caring for my elderly mother I learned the caregiver’s mantra — take care of yourself first, because if you get hurt how can you take care of your loves ones, including your animals?

Have you ever slipped on ice?

My aching backside can attest it’s been a victim of slipping on the treacherous frozen liquid more than once.

Products that work

I use a pet- and environmentally-safe commercially made ice-melt product to keep our walkways and the horse paddock free of ice.

I don’t use anything in their feed areas.

The pet version is slightly more expensive but it’s worth it as your dogs and cats paw pads won’t get burned.

On my gravel driveway I spread water softener pellets.

It’s cheaper and the slow-to-dissolve pellets work great to melt a lot of snow.

Salt has long been used to melt ice.

I’m told rock salt works best.

And while salt is a natural ingredient we need to use it sparingly as it’s harmful to grass and plants.

Different techniques

In my search to find a way to stop my shoes from sliding on slick surfaces I’ve tried spreading sand (I still slipped), worn wool socks over my shoes (it does help) and laid down old carpet (to work it has to be dry).

Then I discovered a product called Tyre-Grip Black Ice Protection.

I started spraying it on the bottom of my shoes and boots and, voila: no slipping.

I still walk with caution, of course.

The stuff is actually made as a non-slip tire adhesive to help car tires grip icy roads.

It is a natural resin dissolved in isopropanol that comes in a spray can.

It can be used on any rubber product, including bicycle tires, rubber boots and rubber-soled shoes.

Icy surfaces also pose a hazard to our horses.

I’ve found borium applied to my horse’s shoes by my farrier a huge traction aid, but I’ve also found success by spraying Tyre-Grip on the shoes.

It works on the barefoot hoof, too, or when barefoot on the bottom rim of the hoof.

In the snow I pay particular attention to avoid spraying the sole of the hoof, because I want to avoid the collection of snow there.

Have you ever seen a horse walking with a ball of hard snow packed in his hoof?

The compacted snow can cause them to slip, strain a muscle and put such a severe pressure on their frog — the triangular part of a horse’s hoof that extends midway from the heel toward the toe — it becomes bruised and can lead to lameness.


A quick and easy way to prevent snow impaction is to clean and dry the hoof, and then apply a thick layer of grease such as Vaseline or Crisco.

You can spray cooking oil on it but it won’t last as long.

Avoid using motor oil, WD-40 or other potentially caustic or hazardous substances.

If you wouldn’t want it on your own skin, do not apply it to your horse’s hoof.

As a side note: Remember to feed a bit more hay when the temperature drops, as it takes more energy to stay warm.

Need more food

Winter grass won’t give your horse the calories or nutrients needed in its dormant state.

If that’s his only source of food he can starve to death.

To keep snow from sticking to my tools — shovels, muck rakes, etc. — I’ll apply a paraffin, auto or other hard wax to the surface.

It’s easier to apply in a warm building.

I’ve also used silicone, Teflon or oil sprays and automotive oil, but I’ve found the wax to hold up longer.

I’d love to know what works for you in the winter.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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