JONES — The blizzard and the little red foal arrived in Oklahoma just about the same time. Just as the storm began to blow into the state, the mare lay down and foaled weeks early.
The pair and dozens of other horses rescued from unspeakable conditions faced another of life's challenges Tuesday — the blizzard.
But the mare, the new filly named Blizzard and the other horses were safe and relatively warm, said Natalee Cross, co-owner of Blaze's Tribute Horse Rescue.
The mare and Blizzard are in the barn, along with llamas and other horses requiring extra care. Cross said she'd bring them all in the house if she could.
Shawn Cross checked the nearly 100 horses before he headed out for his 12-hour shift clearing Edmond roads. Adding to the difficulties of caring for rescued horses in frigid weather, Natalee Cross and their two daughters have the flu.
“It's pretty miserable,” Cross said between coughs. “There's not a whole lot you can do when you have 100 head of horses. All the old guys or skinny ones were blanketed, and the ones that couldn't stay out, they're in the barn.”
Outside, horses buried their heads in big bales of hay — a necessity that runs $1,290 per week. One of the horses the family blanketed was 24-year-old Bandit, the horse of most concern in this weather.
“I worry about him the most. When I got him, he had a lot of issues,” Natalee Cross said. “Oh, he just shot across the pasture with his blanket on. So he's enjoying himself.”
She did a midafternoon check on the horses she couldn't see from the house. Along with checking and feeding, she had to chop ice in the water tanks that aren't heated. The nonprofit is accepting donations through www.
About 25 miles south of Jones, Bob Steveson chopped ice from the water tanks used by the horses at his family's Thunderbird Riding Stables. He also climbs on his tractor, with a spear attached, during the frigid days to repeatedly break up the ice on the pond.
“I've got 27 kids,” Steveson said, referring to his horses.
“They're always fussing and fighting just like kids. Now they're out running and kicking, having a good time.”
He said they've pushed extra big round bales of good Bermuda hay out for the horses.
“God and Mother Nature put a lot of hair on them,” Steveson said. “We let their hair protect them. You get into trouble if you put them in the barn and take them out again. They get hot, then cold. That's not good for them.”
Advice is offered
for animal owners
Livestock are often somewhat acclimated to the cold, but owners still need to increase their ration of hay and supplemental feed during bitterly cold weather, said Becky Brewer, state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry veterinarian.
Brewer suggests adding a warm, sloppy bran mash or soaking pelleted feed in warm water to increase water intake for horses.
“Pay special attention to younger and older animals right now because they are less tolerant of any kind of stress and usually have a weaker immune system,” she said.
Hypothermia and dehydration are two of the most common life-threatening conditions outdoor animals face during this type of weather, she said.
“It's critical that animals be brought inside or at least are in a protected area with cover,” Brewer said.
Adequate bedding material is critical, she said
Brewer said owners need to provide fresh water more frequently while temperatures are critically low as water will freeze unless it is in a heated water dish or trough. Even then, animals should be checked frequently.
“Pets tend to drink less water in this type of cold weather, and that makes the risk of hypothermia greater,” she said.
“If they begin showing signs of severe discomfort such as extensive shivering, weakness or lethargy, you may need to contact your veterinarian for help.”