Monday, January 11, 2010

Snow Days from the Human Perspective

Since most of North America has been plunged into uncommonly cruel winter weather, I thought it would be a good subject to touch on. Grey has gotten over the novelty of going outside in the snow, and hangs in the indoor next to his haynet and heated water bucket, happily dipping and munching.

His human staff has been persevering despite the inconvenience of frozen buckets, frozen manure, deep snow, and general unpleasantness. Day in day out we head to the barn to battle the elements. The first battle is getting the sliding door open. No wait, the first battle is staying on your feet on the glare ice of the driveway. Still, we have not adopted too many of the modern conveniences that make winter horse care so much easier. We don't have hot running water, or a heated tack or feed room. The tractor and spreader are parked outside. There are no heated buckets in the stalls which seems just plain silly but would require some rewiring (in the summetime). I don't have an electric wall mounted bit warmer. If I decide to ride or long line, I have to spend 10 minutes trying to thaw out the bit. I do enjoy my chemical hand warmers though. Those are nice to have in my pockets when I start to lose feeling in my finger tips.

Owning horses in Western New York in the winter has never been easy, but I remember it being a whole lot more fun when I was younger. When I was a teenager, a fresh snowfall was irresitable, and I could be found charging bareback through snow drifts and hoping for at least a little bucking. One winter my sister and I spent so much time riding we literally wore the hair off them. Both of our horses had thigh shaped patches of fuzzy worn hair on their backs. When we got bored with riding, we found other winter activities like...



And sleigh riding

I even competed in the local Sleigh Rally a couple of years. I was so frozen in the photo below! I caught cold and missed three days of school. Actually, I saw that as a bonus.

A year or two later later, we found these note cards in a local gift shop... Ironic that Mom should have snapped the exact same photo.

Sleigh riding may be very picturesque and romantic, but it has been a long time since I had the gumption to put it all together. I'm still hoping someone out there will invent an automatic, push button remote control horse harnesser. There's not much I hate worse than frozen harness!

In fact, it has been a long time since I rode in the snow at all. Much less exercise outside or practice a winter sport. Heck, with the weather we've been having, it seems inconvenient to leave my warm office in the afternoon go to the gym to work out, sloshing through ankle deep snow and braving winter roads. And, woe unto she who forgets her gym bag in the car all morning and has to put on cold shoes, or worse, shower with frozen soap! But, despite the "inconvenience" I soldier on, every other day, in the comfort of the nearby YMCA, keeping in shape so when riding weather returns I will be fit and ready to go... and will be able to get into the same breeches.

Of course, not all my winter horse memories are of fun and frolicing. I also kept some cows at my grandparents farm half a mile away. Every evening after school, and before dinner I would ride half a mile to the farm to do chores and milk my cows. Then I would ride home with a gallon of warm milk wrapped in my coat. That was another bitter cold winter. I remember making the trek with the Jim Reeves song Just a hundred yards from Mary Ann where the cowboy freezes on his horse outside the door of his lover, running through my head . It seemed a distinct possibility. Nowadays, freezing before I get to the barn door also seems possible!
"Dan, get up you ornery cuss, or you'll be the death of us.I'm so weary, but I'll help you if I can. Alright Dan, perhaps it's best, if we stop a while and rest.For it's still a hundred yards to Mary Ann's. It's still a hundred yards to Mary Ann's."
And yes, my horses name was Dan. Well, Daniel to be precise.
But, hang in there. Every day is one day closer to spring. How is everyone else handling their winter weather?


Pony Girl said...

I love the old pictures! Especially of the sleigh rides. There does seem to be something so romantic to it! It looks like you really enjoyed all of that New York snow as a child. I agree, it gets more difficult to tolerate as we get older! :) I do hope you get a break in the weather soon. As much as I miss that we've had no snow this year, I am ready to warm weather and summer trail riding!

Bif said...

I am in love with the appaloosa. In love. He (she?) was too cute! Do you have more pics? =D Oh, sorry, WP, you're gorgeous, too, of course.

Here in Ohio, we've been below freezing for at least a week or two straight, but it's not that awful (especially not compared to NY!).

Something I use for making Bif's mush if needed, and also works great for warming bits, is one of those electric kettle/ water heater/ hot pot thing that is less than $20. Water heats really fast, unplug it and set on table or counter, plunk the bit in (with the rest of the bridle safely out of the water, on the table) and it's good to go in no time, or will keep it pretty warm for a few minutes while you finish tacking. If it's really cold, I not only set the lid over it, I may use a towel over it to hold in the warmth.

Since we have "human staff" on the line, I have a question, and I apologize if it was in a post and I missed it. WP refers to someone as Mom and also refers to Brita (I won't ask about Uncle Dad;-). Is Brita WP's translator, or is Mom, or are Mom and Brita one and the same? If they are not the same, what are their relationships to WP, exactly?

Mother of Bif (OK, yeah, I'm his translator)

Bif said...

"When in doubt, read the directions", or in this case, start from the beginning! I figured out the whole Brita, Mom, whose translating thing. Thanks, Grey!

SmartAlex said...

The Appaloosa's name was Dusty. He was bred in Oregon and moved here with his second family. He was huge at 1400 pounds with a size 3 shoe. His sire was a race horse, and his dam was a grade ranch mare. I rode him huntseat, western and even Saddleseat once. He jumped and drove, and was great in trail classes. I ended up selling him as a field hunter to a woman in Maryland. Yes, I have a bunch more pictures. Of all the horses I've had, WP reminds me the most of Dusty. But only how he feels when I ride him. Their personalities are as different as night and day.