How Eventers Are Surviving the Boston Snowpocalypse

Photo by Abby Powell Photo by Abby Powell

There are no two ways about it — this winter is completely horrid if you live in the greater Boston area of Massachusetts. We’ve had a record-breaking amount of snow that has limited the function of public transit and tested the city’s capabilities. What’s worse, I haven’t ridden my horse in almost a month now, and I think we’re both going slowly insane.

I have spent an incredible amount of time during the past few weeks raking the roof of our barn and shoveling snow in my horse’s paddock just so she can get to her water trough. In addition, the local horse community is mourning the loss of the Gathering Farm indoor arena among several others in the area.

Plus, just this past Friday, a barn at Bobby’s Ranch, a trail-riding facility in Westford, collapsed. Seven horses were inside the structure at the time of collapse — five were rescued, but sadly two others did not survive.

My horse, Maggie, surveys her paddock during the first blizzard on January 27th

My horse, Maggie, surveys her paddock during the first blizzard on Jan. 27.

There’s nothing that can make up for the terrible loss of beloved horses or historic structures, but as tough as this winter has been on the residents of Massachusetts, I think that us equestrians (eventers especially — I like to think we are particularly hardy) are better prepared to cope with these extreme elements than the general public.

First off: Equestrians are a prepared bunch in general. You’d better believe we’ve got everything we would need in our tack rooms or our vehicles (AKA “mobile tack rooms”) to pack a hoof, pull a shoe or catch a loose horse. Something I personally tend to stockpile in my truck is extra clothing, the type of which changes seasonally, of course.

At the moment I have no less than two pairs of shoes/boots, an extra jacket, a fleece, a sweatshirt and a pair of breeches in my truck. There may be an extra pair of socks in there somewhere as well. If my truck were to die on the side of the road this winter (which it thankfully hasn’t yet) you’d better believe I’d be able to stay warm while I’m waiting for a tow! This is not being messy or being a pack rat, as my mother sometimes likes to tell me — this is being prepared.

My barn on February 15th (four snowstorms in.) That's a four foot high fence in front.

My barn on Feb. 15 (four snowstorms in.) That’s a four-foot high fence in front.

Speaking of our mobile tack rooms — I mean, our vehicles — many equestrians already own the ideal type of vehicle for getting around in this heinous snow: a truck. Now, if you own a truck and push a plow this time of the year, then you are all set (and probably significantly wealthier than you were four weeks ago — if there’s one type business that has been doing well in these conditions, it’s plowing), but there is nothing more handy than good old four-wheel drive this time of year.

It’s particularly helpful after it’s snowed so much that it takes days to see the pavement and the lines on the road again. And when you’re responsible for getting to the barn to feed the horses, there are no excuses such as “but my landlord didn’t plow our parking lot yet …” Nope. We just roll on out, truck on through and feed those horses.

Be sure to factor in extra time for your commute to clean your vehicle off.

There was one instance three weeks ago where I was caught unprepared, however. When I had gotten off my commuter rail train after work and headed to get into my truck, I realized that I had chosen a terrible spot to in which to park that day (the back corner of the lot) and my truck — my truck — had been plowed in.

It takes quite a bit of snow to plow in a truck. I usually keep a small snow shovel in the bed of my truck; of course, I didn’t have it that day. I remembered I had lent it to my husband the week before when the first blizzard hit. For a moment, I thought I was completely at a loss and was going to have to dig myself out with my hands when I remembered my muck fork — the little muck fork that I keep in the bed of my truck for when I’m trailering. Bingo.

And that is how I ended up shoveling snow with a muck fork. I must say, it worked quite well! See? Eventers: Always prepared.

My handiwork after digging my truck out with the muck fork.

My handiwork after digging my truck out with the muck fork.

The snow this winter has been so terrible to trek through that I’ve completely given up on wearing nice shoes on my way into the office. Similar to many equestrians, I have a healthy collection of boots and, personally, I have yet to find anything better for keeping my feet warm and dry than my trusty Original Muck Boots.

So, in the theme of being prepared, I have worn my trusty Muck Boots each time I ventured into the city after the snow hit. Good thing, too, because plowing the sidewalks in the city have not exactly been a priority.

Wearing barn gear to work does have its downsides. One day this past week, my boss walked into my office and was about to ask me something when she paused and said, “What’s that smell?” To which I replied, “Probably my boots …” pointing to the muck boots sitting next to my desk. “I usually only wear them to the barn, but with all the snow … ”

She just laughed and and ran retreated out of the office. 

Horse husbands have to be tough too...I had some help shoveling out the horse's water troughs.

Horse husbands have to be tough, too. I had some help shoveling out the horse’s water troughs.

Equestrians get used to adopting some pretty odd schedules as well. I got used to getting up before the crack of dawn in order to stop by the barn to give SMZs and hand walk my horse before work after my horse had surgery late last summer. Not that I’m a stranger to early mornings anyway thanks to trailering out for crack-of-dawn dressage ride times.

So when my only shot at getting to work in a relatively timely manner this week was to catch one of the earliest commuter trains possible, leaving the station at 6:02 a.m. — the snow has decimated the usual train schedules — I was pretty unfazed. Just another day in the life, really.

This is how my barn mates and I have spent the past four weekends.

This is how my barn mates and I have spent the past four weekends.

Equestrians aren’t the kind of people who sit inside and wait out the storm. We get out there and do something about it — or at least as much as we can do about it at the time. We’re all too familiar with going out to the barn in all kinds of conditions whether we want to or not.

There are no sick days or snow days away from taking care of our horses. So when the winter of our nightmares hits, at least the equestrians are used to carrying on.

Stay #bostonstrong as #snowmaggedon2015 continues, and Go Eventing.

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