It has been a long time since we have been faced with extreme cold temperatures for such a long period of time. It got me thinking, how do the horses handle it and does it have any effect on spring training that is just around the corner. I reached out to a couple CPCA Drivers to see what they had to say.

I first contacted Danny Ringuette who resides in Bonnyville, Alberta. The day we talked it was -34 and he had just gotten in from doing chores. He said the horses were bucking and kicking and rolling in the snow and playing so it sounds like they were doing pretty good. Danny noted that he gives them straw bedding, and has them in by some wind breaks so that really helps. He also said he feeds them lots (more than normal) because that is how they will build up energy to stay warm. He mentioned that checking their water source is one of the most important things.

Like many drivers Danny picked up some horses from a track in the United States, where it tends to be warmer all year round. I asked him how a horse from a track like Phoenix handles it and he said if you bring horses home in the fall they usually have time to adapt before our Canadian winter sets in. He did mention though, every horse is a bit different and some may require a blanket and a year to adapt to the climate.

I was also curious to know if this length of cold would affect the time it takes in the spring for conditioning. He replied, they don’t lose any condition or weight; if anything they get a little fatter because they eat more. Essentially it shouldn’t change anything as far as spring training goes providing the snow will go away.

I also spoke to Jamie Laboucane who happened to be in Phoenix looking at horses when I called. Similar to Danny he said the key is Feed. The Laboucane Barn chops their hay in a sheltered area so they have a place to hunker down if they want to. He also said that if they have horses with tender feet they put shoes on them so it’s easier for them to get around.

Jamie brought four horses from Phoenix in January and he said they get blanketed and put in the barn every night with plenty of hay, water and grain. On extreme cold days they spend most of their time in the barn. They should climatize by next winter.

As for conditioning, he said he doesn’t feel it sets them back for spring training. Jamie said his philosophy has always been to put plenty of weight on the horses in the winter to keep them healthy and happy. He quoted “It’s a lot easier to take weight off my horses then try to put weight on”

There’s a couple things I took away from talking to the guys. One is that the work for a Wagon Driver does not end when they cross the finish line for the last time in August at the CPCA Finals and secondly I think the Horses are adapting to our cold winter better than the Drivers.

I will leave you on this note. Spring will come, the Snow will go, and before we know it the horn will be blowing for Heat Number 1 in North Battleford. Until then you can look forward to some coverage from the Calgary Stampede Tarp Auction as well as the Denham Ram Tough Finals Tarp Auction. I also plan to get out and visit some farms this spring to give you a inside look. Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and our website for all the upcoming action.

On the Road with,
Wendy Phipps