Horses easier on the feed

By Terry Villeneuve

This year’s mild winter thus far has one rural family watching their animals a bit more closely than in the past.

Paul and Wanita Siklenka and their two teenage daughters, Marci Jo (18) and Emily (15), have a pen full of horses they care for on a daily basis at their home about 10 km north of Meadow Lake.

“We love horses,” said Wanita Sunday afternoon. “We love them so much we keep having more and more. This year we’re wintering 18. Seventeen of them are ours and we’ve got a neighbour’s young one who we’re looking after, too.”

Paul can’t remember a winter that’s had temperatures in the plus range for so many days in the month of January and so little snow on the ground.

“They’re lighter on the hay, that’s for sure,” he said. “But they’re still fat.”

In their yard the Siklenkas have 170 round bales available if needed, but if not they’ll keep them until next year.

“The horses aren’t like cattle,” Paul explained. “Cattle will eat ’til they’re full, then lay down and chew their cud but with horses, well they’ll just keep eating if the feed’s in front of them. These guys will just eat to stay warm and it doesn’t take much this winter.”

He also said the horses have been able to pick at the ground a bit longer than in other winters and that has also saved some bales from being eaten.

Emily Siklenka sets a halter on one of the family's 17 horses Sunday afternoon. Even though it's warm enough to go riding, Emily said it's just too slippery under foot.

As for watering, Paul noted some people feel they don’t have to water their horses when the snow flies, but rather opt to just let them eat deep snow.

“I feel they do better on water, so we keep them close by and we let them drink regularly,” he added.

The Siklenkas don’t do a lot of riding in the winter because it’s usually too cold and snowy.

“After the first snowfall I went down the road for just a pleasure ride and it wasn’t too slippery, but it is now,” Emily said, adding the worst part of winter is the waiting.

“I wish I could ride every day,” she said. “I’d rather be riding them than just looking out at them every day and feeding them. Once the snow goes, usually sometime in April, then we’ll start riding again.”

Near the corrals the Siklenkas have a round pen where they’ll begin their training in the spring on three two-year-olds.

“The winter’s half over, so it won’t be long now,” said Wanita. “We’ll just continue to come out here every day visiting everyone and making sure none of them have come up lame with surprising injuries. We also have two babies (yearlings) here that we put in the barn for the winter. They get special treatment.”

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