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...
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?