NC Climate and Caring for Horses in Extreme Weather

NC Climate and Caring for Horses in Extreme Weather 

Horse Care in North CarolinaThe climate in Central North Carolina is ideal for horses and humans alike. We are far enough inland that we seldom get the full impact of tropical storms and hurricanes and far enough east of the mountains that we miss most of the snow. The average annual high temperature for Raleigh is 70 degrees and the average low is 50 degrees. This gives us a long riding season, with horse activities scheduled all year around. It is also an ideal climate for growing hay which translate into a good supply of quality hay at reasonable prices. That is not to say we do not have short periods of severe weather from time to time. In those rare times special horse care is needed.

Spring Horse Care

Spring is one of the equestrian’s favorite seasons. Franklin, Wake, Chatham and Granville Counties have open woodlands and fields that are especially beautiful in spring. The dogwood and redbud are in bloom, the temperatures are mild, and we are ready to ride.

This season of transition sometimes spurs stormy weather: thunder storms, high winds and even occasionally a tornado. The big question that comes up often is do we leave out horses in or out? According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners if the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave horses outside. NC State Extension has a good fact sheet on hurricane preparedness that can be applied to any severe weather with high winds. You can find it at

So, keep an eye on the weather, with is usually beautiful in the spring, and enjoy riding except when there is a storm warning in your area.

Summer Horse Care

In the South it gets hot and humid in the summer. When the temperature rises your horse can become over heated and dehydrated. The first line of defense is to make sure your horse has palatable water to drink. Horses drink at least 10-12 gallons a day. They will not drink water that is dirty or hot. Clean automatic waters daily and check to make sure they are in good working order. Empty and clean and refill buckets every day. Check them several times, refilling as needed. Do the same with your outdoor water troughs – empty and clean daily. This prevents algae growing in the trough and provides your horses with fresh, cool water. Place the trough in a shady area in the summer. Water is most palatable at 45° to 65ºF. Horses will not drink hot, scummy water. When they are not drinking enough water, their system can’t regulate their body temperature. This can cause colic and other health problems.

If horses are outside they need well ventilated shade – trees or a run-in shed. If it is humid and 90º or over it is too hot to ride. Ride early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid him getting over-heated and dehydrated. After riding give your horse a good hosing off and walk him in the shade until he is breathing normally which is 8-10 breaths per minute. If your horses are kept inside the barn a fan will help with ventilation and cooling your horse during extreme temperatures.

Autumn Horse Care

Autumn brings with it relief from the summer heat. We look forward to the fall color and long, leisurely rides with the nutty aroma of the woods and cooler breezes.

Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November in North Carolina. The good news is they seldom reach central North Carolina. But, once in a long while we will have one track inland and reach our area. Again, refer to the fact sheet by NC State Extension. Read their recommendations before hurricane season starts.

Winter Horse Care

NC Climate and Caring for Horses in Extreme WeatherFranklin, Wake, Chatham and Granville Counties have relatively mild winters. While we sometimes have a “cold snap” of temperatures in the teens or more rarely signal digits, the average low temperature is in the mid-thirties. Central North Carolina usually has only a couple of snows. The snow doesn’t stay on the ground long, so if you want to take a ride act quickly before its all gone. A good tip to make riding in snow safe is to “grease” the bottom of your mount’s hooves to prevent snow from packing in and causing the foot to lose traction. A hoof conditioner or even lard or butter will work.

Water is as important to consider in your horses’ winter care as it was in summer. If the water is too cold the horses will not drink which can cause colic. It is not enough to just break the ice off the water trough and buckets. You should empty and refill – sometimes more than once on those rare sub-freezing days – to insure your horse has access to clean water at a palatable temperature.

To blanket or not to blanket is a question many horse owners ask. The truth is, unless you have body clipped your horse, or it is sick or very old, your horse does not need a blanket. Nature has provided him with a nice fur coat.

You may not be riding as much in the winter but that doesn’t mean you can ignore your horse. Stalls still must be cleaned and your horse needs exercise and turnout. You should groom your horse and clean its hooves daily. While you groom look for any injuries that may be hiding under that thick winter coat. In addition, daily contact will enable you to know how your horse is feeling and catch any illness before it advances.

Spring comes early in our area, so it won’t be long before you’re in full swing enjoying your horse in pleasant weather again. We hope you have enjoyed this article on NC Climate and Caring for Horses in Extreme Weather.




Horse Farms and Ranches in the Piedmont

Sunrise Ridge Horse Farm Gentle hills dotted with clusters of densely packed trees roll down to a wide pasture. The grass is richly verdant and dotted with golden dandelions. Surrounding this is a 3-rail fence of indeterminate age faded to a stunning silvery-grey.

The grass is lush, the shades of foliage intensely green, throwing deep, cool pockets of shadow. The sun is warm, and two bay mares browse the tall grass along the fenceline followed by a strawberry roan foal.

You might think you are in horse country, and you are. However, this isn’t the Bluegrass State. It is North Carolina, specifically the Piedmont – a fertile, hilly plateau running between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the Coastal Plain. One hundred miles to the east, the Atlantic Ocean carves deep divots in the shore.

In addition to horses, horse barns, pole barns, sheds, dressage arenas (or riding rings), classic Victorian homes, and wineries, expect to see abundant wildlife. This includes bald eagles, swallowtail butterflies, azaleas and rhododendrons, the endangered smooth coneflower (Echinacea laevigata), and that rarest creature of all – the historic but now defunct Piedmont Wagon Company. Located in Catawba County, this is a part of the Piedmont’s equine history that cannot be ignored, even if it is obsolete.

Even the names ring of history: Fox Hollow Farm; Pleasant Garden; Shooting Star; the Landon Farm. Those looking for horse farm and ranch land could do no better thanBlack Horse Run Farm the Greensboro-Triad area. This, bounded by Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point, is distinct from the Research Triangle, or simply “the Triangle” – an area that takes its name from Research Triangle Park.

This latter, a “high-tech” haven located in or near North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a focal point of a younger, highly educated demographic with considerable disposable income. Both areas, and the entire Piedmont at large, offer numerous opportunities to buy existing horse farms/ranches, or to buy large tracts of land in a prime location and start such a venture.

Fortunately, there is more to equine culture than raising, showing, or selling horses – all of which represent seriously hard work. For those who love horses but have a day job, there are guest ranches. A classic example in Dobson offers Hunter and Jumper lessons, boarding, training, trail rides and even horse sales. Less structured, more casual opportunities to simply go horseback riding and enjoy the beautiful countryside also exist, and landowners with a career often choose to operate one of these tourist enterprises – with the help of trained staff, of course.

It isn’t mandatory that your future horse ranch/riding stable/guest ranch follow a format, however. Combine several genres. Raise (and sell?) your own Buckskins and Appaloosas, or Chestnuts, Bays and Palominos. Build a riding ring and a riding trail, curving down among clusters of trees to a stream or small pond. Add log cabins for a rustic touch, and offer them as rentals. Plant dogwood and redbuds around the front and rear.

Pleasant Garden Farm Hang horseshoes over the door? Absolutely. But don’t get too extravagant. You will find, as you go along, that raising horses or even offering them as vehicles to novice riders is harder work than you might expect. Even with help, there is always one last thing to do. Horses need regular exercise, clean stalls, and fresh oats and water daily. Barns, fences, and outbuildings require almost constant repair. There is nothing gentlemanly about sweat, but it mixes nicely with the smell of horseflesh and new hay.

Horses themselves are a big investment, not only of time and effort, but also of patience. In fact, one horse-farm owner compared his job to running a boarding school.

“There is the constant fear of a crippling accident coupled with the sometimes inexplicable likes and dislikes of horses. This can make caring for them like calming overactive, over-imaginative children!”

Yes, horses can be just that temperamental, and if you don’t have solid coping skills you might want to consider raising Golden Retrievers instead. Horse barns in NC

In addition to a non-gentlemanly addiction to hard work, and a considerable bankroll, you should also practice your diplomatic skills. You will need to hire workers at affordable rates. This means that they will not always be knowledgeable – not only about horses, but about ordinary skills, so you will have to double as a carpenter, union negotiator, farmer, and veterinarian.

Don’t let any of that dissuade you. There is nothing like waking to the sight of a summer meadow filled with peacefully grazing horses. In fact, it is so Zen you may want to go right back to bed.

But don’t. Work awaits.