Winter presents many unique challenges to horse people. Here are a few of my favorite how-to tips for getting through the frozen months.
Aren’t you glad these people don’t board at your barn?
How to… throw a holiday barn party that doesn’t suck: I used to dread holiday barn parties. It freaked me out to see my usually dirty, sweaty barn buds all showered and dressed like normal people. They walk in wearing a Christmas sweater with a casserole dish tucked under their arm and suddenly it’s like, “I don’t even know you anymore.”
Over the years, I’ve devised a few party activities to keep the focus on horses instead of how awkward we all are in real-life. Like having an equine awards ceremony, where you dole out superlatives like “Tightest Knees” and “Best Tail.” Or have everyone write down their riding goal(s) for the upcoming year, fold them up and drop them in the Goal Bowl for redistribution at next year’s holiday party. As a last resort, you can always play the Thrills and Spills drinking game: Every time someone falls off, everyone has to turn up their glass of, uh, hot cocoa.
That’s not chocolate milk, kids.
How to… not get kicked out of a Laundromat: Your horse blankets are filthy, but there’s no way you’re putting that stuff in your home washer. You need to take it to a Laundromat, but this option is not without its risks–leftover hairballs and mudblobs will send you straight to the top of any Laundromat owner’s “Most Wanted” list. One Laundromat actually hung a sign up after I’d been there that washing horse blankets was prohibited and violators would be prosecuted. Harsh!
So here’s what you need to do: Go at least one county over and find the most ghetto Laundromat you can. Visit during the off-hours–2 a.m. or so is ideal–and wear a ball-cap and sunglasses just to be sure. Act casual as you lean up against the machines, blocking the view of sloshing brown water the best you can from security cameras. As you leave, wave goodbye because you can never show your face here again.
Put a pony under this, Santa!
How to… trick out your barn for Christmas: I’m not gonna lie: When it comes to Christmas decorations, I’m a little more Chevy Chase than Martha Stewart. But I’ve learned over the years that some dÃ©cor is more barn friendly than others–my life-sized, light-up, mechanical reindeer at the barn entryway were NOT a hit with the horses. But others, like wreaths on doors and stockings on stalls, are both attractive and appropriate.
Even Martha would be proud of this crafty, red-and-green ribbon tree that sat in the corner of my tack room one year. It was classy, festive and the perfect solution for what to do with my least favorite ribbon colors.
If only I was in Ocala…
How to… break it to friends/family/employers that you’re heading south for the winter: You know that metaphor about boiled frogs? How if you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out, but if you heat the water slowly the frog will cook to death without even realizing it? Well, that’s how you’re going to need to go about this.
First, pick an event–Rocking Horse, Sporting Days, etc.–and tell everyone you’re going down for the weekend to get a jumpstart on your season. But on Sunday when you should be heading home, your truck “breaks down.” This is a totally believable story, as breaking down is pretty much what all trucks do, at least in my experience. Then, on Monday, the “mechanic” tells you he can’t get the part until “later in the week.” Still believable. After a few days he calls you back to profusely apologize that “it’s a very rare part” and “he’s going to have to special order it from the factory.” Then, “the delivery truck gets snowed in by a “blizzard,” and so on and so forth. You think I’m kidding, but a variation on this theme bought me almost two months in Ocala one year.
Go winter eventing.