Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Seriously March? Did You Have To?

Really? Winter is back? Ugh….

So yesterday’s rant was about rain. Today’s is about snow!

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. At least there’s less standing water than there was last night and the ground is a little more firm. Thankfully it’s not too cold, so the ground isn’t hard. Frozen hoofprint-laden mud is the worst thing. I’m sure I’ll twist an ankle and the horses prefer not to move.

I’m particularly sorry for Pretty. I told myself if it was at least 40*, I’d take the blanket off. Poor darling lost about half her hair to the clippers the other day, so I don’t like leaving her naked in any kind of March weather. Below freezing temps are even less favorable for her. However, it’s too cold at night for the blanket to come off even if she’s inside. It’s too cold and windy during the day, when it should be warmest, for it to come off then. It was even too cold for it to be off when she was inside during the day! 😦 I’m hoping it can come off for a while tomorrow afternoon. I’m not a fan of leaving anything, particularly blankets, on 24 hours a day.

Here’s hoping for more amenable weather on my free-evening-day (that’s tomorrow)!

Advertisements

Nopocalypse

My poor girls already survived a Snopocalypse once this year. This was taken December 11, 2010. We got just under 20″ of snow and had terrible winds followed by -20* weather (and the Metrodome collapse, but let’s focus on the important stuff).

Just for the record, Classy also survived, though I did fear he may impale himself in the night. “Why?” you ask. Take a look at these icicles hanging from his pudgy belly:

Yes. That sucker was almost 2″ thick and I could not get it off. Normally I scrape the snow and ice off my horses before I put them to bed if I’m bringing them inside. I know it will melt in there and there’s no need for extra moisture on their bodies. If they’re outside, the snow serves as a kind of shell, preventing them from getting wet and cold. A little melts (obviously! hence the icicles), but not enough to soak through to the skin (usually).

I may be the only one, but I’m kind of bummed that we’re not getting a Snowpocalypse this week. First of all I love all the good names for it. Second of all, that’s what winter’s all about! (sorry for the “mild language” below)

I love snow. I do. I hate wind, so I’m not digging that our problem tonight is wind, but, c’est la vie. (And yes, I do acknowledge the problems including loss of life that can occur from blizzards. For those who legitimately do suffer…not just complain…you do have my prayers.)

Time to stop procrastinating, finish this section of thesis revisions, and then put my ponies to bed and get them out of the wind!

Ponies in a Blanket

Today’s Tip: Only blanket if you have to. You only have to in extenuating circumstances. Simple as that.

As we drove along in the car today, my husband asked my opinion on a conversation he’d had the other day. He is very much a “horse husband” rather than a “horseman” (fellow listener of Horses in the Morning, my favorite internet radio show, developed a Horse Husband Rating List from which I derive my labels). He is kind of interested in learning about horses, but it will never be a passion for him. So the conversation…the other day someone asked him why she saw some horses with blankets on and some horses without blankets on. He provided several reasons and then asked me if he was kind of on track or just “blowing smoke” (his words). These are the reasons he gave:

  1. Some horse owners are just over-protective, just as some parents are over-protective of their children.
  2. Some of it depends on the type of horse. Some horses come from places like Iceland and Norway [Editorial Comment: He wants and Icelandic and I care for two Norwegian Fjords, hence where this comment comes from]. They survived in cold weather for 10,000 years so they’re better at it here.
  3. Some horses are show horses so they might have their hair clipped short. [I wish I could remember his wording better on this reason. His phrasing, to a horse person, was hilarious.]
  4. Sometimes it depends on the weather conditions. Like if it’s rainy or freezing rain they might have something on.

I was actually pretty impressed with his explanation. He did a pretty good job. I did tell him that the second one was a little silly. It might have some validity, but pretty minimal. I also added that there are some individual circumstances such as age (old horses don’t regulate body temperature well), illness, horses recovering from underfeeding, or any other causes for not maintaining body temperature well.

Evee is perfectly happy out in the snow.

Blanketing is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Generally I think horse people over-blanket. I’ve read in several reputable magazines that horses are comfortable down to the single digits, maybe even down to 0* F. I believe it. Mine seem perfectly happy as long a it’s not blizzard conditions and/or if they can get out of the wind. I do bring them in if the temp is below 0* or if the windchill gets below -5* to -10* (depending on conditions).

My short answer, if someone were to ask me when to blanket, is “when there are extenuating circumstances.” If the temperature drops significantly below what is normal for the horse (“normal” for our winter is 10-20*, so -20* is below normal; for some “normal” winter temps are 40* so a sudden 10* might warrant a blanket), that is “extenuating.” If it’s really windy, particularly combined with cold temperatures, that might be “extenuating” (I prefer my horses to have a wind block and then it’s not extenuating). If it’s raining and, IMO, below about 50*, that’s worth blanketing (or providing a roof to shelter them from the rain or even both if it’s a run-in shelter). If the horse is ill, etc., that is definitely “extenuating.” And finally, if the horse is body-clipped, that is “extenuating.” Otherwise, don’t put a blanket on that horse.

Pretty is a woolly mammoth in the winter and it takes her forever to shed. She’ll be at the Midwest Horse Fair April 15-17. She’ll have to be body clipped. I’m not happy about having to do it or about having to blanket her, but even I, the anti-blanketing queen, will break down and do it!

How to Train a Bulldozer

Today’s Tip: Different horses – by individual and by breed – have different personalities and learn differently. The unfocused, oblivious ones are my downfall!

I finally did it. I got out and worked with horses for the first time all year! For the first time since November, in fact. I had promised myself that today I would get out and ride Pretty, and so I did. We only putzed around the driveway as we have to much snow to go anywhere else. I don’t trust the snow pack, so we didn’t even do much there. Just getting out made me feel better and got her mind focused on work again. We tried not to be afraid of the trees. We did a few dog walk to flat walk transitions. We did a bunch of turns on the haunches (she still needs lots of work understanding leg, it gave us something to start building some muscle in her back end, and it was something I could do in a small and potentially slippery space). And mostly we just re-connected. It wasn’t much but it was wonderful!

Then I moved on to these ladies:

These lovelies – Merit (“mer” like “mermaid” not like the word “merit”) on the left, Dee Dee on the right – are my winter pastureguests. They belong to RideAbility, the equine-assisted therapy program I work with. I’ve kind of neglected them this winter. They’ve been well fed, which keeps them happy, but have not been reminded that they sometimes have a job to do.

Tonight I fed them their hay and then haltered one at a time. I just led them around the paddock a little. The pile of hay and the other one left behind to munch on it served as distractions. Dee Dee went first and started out willing, but then started to resist. Merit resisted strongly and then gave in and learned she actually did have to keep moving.

I call these two my “bulldozers.” Last winter (fall?) they destroyed almost half of the wood part of my fence (there’s wire too, but part of the paddock has wood and wire). If you are between them and a destination, you had best move or you will be trampled. They have no “personal bubble.” They’re not truly disrespectful, just oblivious. To try and direct their attention and teach them to focus is like trying to train a bulldozer to read your mind. They do learn by repetition, so we’ll do this kind of simple task with minor distractions over and over and over and over again.

If you have any better ideas on training bulldozers, please let me know! These are not attitudes I’m accustomed to!

My Love-Hate Relationship with Winter

Today’s Tip: Winder has it’s problems, but learn to love its beauty!

I have a confession. I like, nay, LOVE winter. That’s not something one here’s often. Especially not in Minnesota. Most especially not from horse people in Minnesota. It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s icy. And it’s dark. But snow is one of the most magical substances in all of creation. It’s pristine and bright and fluffy. A bright, crisp-but-not-too-cold morning with hoar frost covering the trees and making the entire landscape shine with it’s white brilliance.

Despite my love for winter, though, winter screws up my plans. A week ago one of my automatic waterers froze. We’ve had problems with it for the last two years but thought it was finally fixed. Friday morning, 10 minutes after I was supposed to leave for work, I was trying in vain to thaw it and then dragging out the water tank, filling it, and setting up the tank heater. Monday night, after the temps went back up, I did get it thawed out, but not without winter throwing a big wrench in my life for four days first.

Since we went back to “standard time” in November, winter has also been wreaking havoc on my evening plans. As winter progressed, it also effected my mornings. I get up in the dark. Feed the horses in the dark. Come home after dark. Try to check on the horses and do evening chores in the dark. I don’t have outdoor lights, so there’s very little I can do, including ride, most weeknights. I also can’t check on the horses as thoroughly as I’d like to. I can’t drag myself out of bed in the dark morning hours. I get depressed from lack of sunshine. Boo to dark winters…

Tonight’s problem was manure management. The horses “wander” less in the paddock, so they poop in the same small areas, which is usually right by the barn because it’s out of the wind. Tonight was warm (23* or so) and humid, so it actually smells like manure now. I tried to clean some up, but it’s still frozen into a field of tiny poopcicles. There they will stay until spring when it turns into a muddy quagmire for the duration of spring.

Oh farm life…

REturned, REnewed, REsolved, REcommitted!

Today’s Tip: Just do it! Ok, I think this is kind of a repeat, but I’m trying to RE-“just do it”!

Over the last few weeks I’ve been catching up with many un-caught-up-with tasks – cleaning my house (including tacking things like a closet I’ve hardly touched sine moving in almost 3 years ago), clearing out my email inbox, getting back to reading for fun, exercising again, getting more sleep, etc. Today I decide the blogosphere was a goal! I’ve caught up (well…sort of) on a few blogs and hope to get a few more done. Reading them I was seeing a common thread – “Sorry I’ve been kind of absent for a while!” Let me add my voice to the chorus!

Tango Dressage’s post titled, “Moving past Perfect…” specifically addressed some of my feelings. I didn’t really have something earth-shattering to say and just got away from it! She inspired me to get back on track and so that’s the plan!

So my question for you as I get busy not only with blogging, but also with getting back on the ponies is what creative tricks have you used to get riding in the winter? We have a lot of snow, a lot of darkness at night, a lot of cold temperatures and no indoor arena to hide in!