Getting Through the Winter
Hello everyone! When the winter season begins, I am often asked how the horses get water. The answer to that depends on the amount of snow we have on the ground. Sometimes the horses will have access to melting ice all over while at other times, the ground will be covered with several feet of snow. Below are a few examples of the horses getting water taken at various times during the winter season.
In the first image, Copper and his two girls, Esprit and Daisy stop at a small patch of ice. They were about to leave the area but stopped when they discover the ice had started to melt. Each horse in Copper’s band stopped here for a drink. They know to drink whenever possible no matter how small. The second image is another example of drinking the melted ice but also an example of knowing where to find the water. This spot next to the road is slightly lower on the north side. Puddles will often form here because of that. It also faces the sun for most of the day so it melts faster. If I know this, you know the horses do as well. In the photo, Cloud and his former band had walked from about a quarter-mile down the road to this spot. Cloud knows there will likely be water here. The third image is an example of how when we have a lot of snow cover the horses will pick up snow in their food with almost every bite. They use their hoof to move the snow in circles until the food is exposed. The snow does not always fall off so they eat it. In the example photo, I closely cropped a picture of Opal eating. You can see on the right side a small amount of snow on the food she is about to eat. The final image of Granite’s Boy, taken in the winter of 2018, shows how the horses will also eat the snow. There is usually an abundance of it around so why not eat it. Not shown here, but one more example would be when the weather warms up enough to make the ice breakable. The horses will use their hooves to break the ice and get to the water below.
The amount of water the horses get may look small in these examples but the horses of TRNP have survived like this for many, many years. The park does not supply the horses with any food or water. They rely solely on their knowledge of the park and what to do to survive in our extreme winter conditions. These horses are smart and tough!