This winter seems to be neverending, what with the polar vortex(es), the ice storms all over the country and the unceasing sense you’ll never truly be warm again. I’m about ready for this to be over. I traveled south to Aiken, hoping to escape the worst of it and was followed by more snow and a completely absurd ice storm. Quite simply, there are parts of winter that the rest of the world doesn’t realize exist, mostly because they live and work inside for the majority of their days. As horse people, no matter what level of involvement we have, there is no excuse for “sleeping in” or “staying warm inside” when the weather is horrible. And so, as I hunker down for yet another giant ice/snow/sleet storm here in Virginia, I’m imagining myself sweating in the sun but realistically just listing the ways that I hate winter while I shiver in my cabin.
1. Blankets: I’m not even delving into the clip/don’t clip argument here, but my horses work during the winter, and so I can’t have them sweaty and wet with long hair. Thus, they are clipped and blanketed. However, blankets are a hassle for any number of reasons. You have to be constantly in touch with the weather changes throughout the day and the night to ensure that you are properly managing your horse’s temperature. Blankets are heavy to drag around and cumbersome to deal with in large quantities. Blankets are constantly filthy and require regular cleaning so that you don’t get dirt and bacteria all over your horse. Blankets get ripped and torn and shredded by naughty horses and need expensive repairs. Oh, how I long for the simple days of turning my horse out naked without a worry!
2. Numb fingers and toes: I’m good with layering; I can put on a tank top, two T-shirts, a sweater, a thermal long sleeve, a fuzzy jacket, a thin down jacket and a heavy outer coat in about five minutes flat in the dark mornings of the winter. Socks and gloves are an entirely different matter. It gets to a point in the winter where there actually isn’t any amount of clothing you could put on your feet and fingers to keep the blood flowing, and so you just embrace your fate and try to wiggle your toes in your shoes all day long. Related note: Jumping off a 17.2-hand horse in the winter makes you regret ever buying a horse over 15.2, as you feel your feet are about to shatter into a million little pieces.
3. Frozen water: Nothing like a little pick axe action to get you warmed up in the morning! The daily routine of trundling around the fields with your hammer/axe/giant stick every morning to break the ice on the various water troughs seems like a great workout at first, and then you realize that you actually hate everything about it, and you’re not even psyched about the shoulder muscles that come along with it. If you’re really unlucky, your pipes will actually freeze in the barn, and then you’ll be sitting there desperately hoping that your space heater will fix all your woes and restore the power of water to your life.
4. Power outages: Nobody likes power outages, but for horse people, it’s a whole ‘nother kit and caboodle. Most farms run off well water, and when the power goes out, we immediately scramble to provide water for animals that drink about five to 10 gallons per day. If you’ve got a generator, I’ll be coming over, buckets in hand.
5. Monotony: We do eventing because we like the spice in life, and we want variety on our menu. Winter doldrums positively suck that right out, and as you make your 10,000th 20-meter circle in a dark indoor, you wonder, “Why am I doing this again?” Worst of all, winter is about being bored, waiting for the ground to unfreeze so you can go outside and run and jump and practice real stuff for competitions. I’ve never been somebody who will choose riding in the arena over riding in a field, and during the winter, I start to think that if I never see an arena again, I’ll be a happy girl.
OK, so I’m a little bit whining about my first world horse girl problems, but seriously, where is my sunshine!? Where are the funny tan lines I get for my gloves and T-shirts? Maybe if I concentrate hard enough on a tropical setting, I’ll survive the next ice storm and live to tell the tale.