Winter Survival and the Art of Not Caring

I was freezing in this photo. Photo by Holly Covey.

Stay sane, my friends, and don’t get jealous when everyone evacuates to the south to ride in warm weather with only one layer on. Don’t go stark raving mad when the faucet in the barn is frozen AGAIN. Keep calm and carry on when the only heavy blanket your Master Shredder has is pretty much in pieces, blowing across the paddock, when you arrive at the barn after work.

Yes, my friends, there is an important mental task to practice in the winter. The Art of Not Caring. Water off a duck’s back. The “so what” attitude. Que sera, sera … uhm, yeah. Sometimes, in the muffly folds of my scarf pulled over my nose and mouth, I scream away all my frustration with the weather — and no one can hear. And the fuzzy bits taste like hay and horse snot so there is a double reason to not let it bother me.

Winter for us in the north means “let’s ride bareback” instead of “gymnastic jump school” today. It sort of takes your gumption (and your breath) away when the wind blows about 25mph in 29 degrees Fahrenheit, so more often than not, riding time turns into Fix the Faucet time, chip the ice from the barn door time, load extra hay into stalls time, and block the wind from the broken window in the tack room time.

Even the little animals find nice little spots to stay warm, like the feral cat that jumped on my head in the dark hay room last night and caused me to fall over the wheelbarrow, with an armful of hay spilling all over. And the mouse in the feed can that ran up my arm when I lifted the scoop of grain. And some happy little birdie staying warm obviously by perching on Hamish’s broad warm back (the poop spots on his new blanket gives you away, Little Birdie).

So … instead of trying to ride just go inside and shop that tack sale online! Sure, why not. Take a look at the 2018 eventing calendar. Look up clinics on social media and see who is galloping down over the four-foot oxers making them look like nothing. Watch videos ’til your data runs out. Get in political arguments with friends on Facebook. Yes, passing the time keeps you from caring about riding and keeping the training up. For a short while.

If you don’t have an indoor, you’re really going to have to take pills to stay calm about the training … you look out the window and watch the wind blow the bare tree branches sideways. The snow is blowing up your nose. You check the forecast and it says there might be a 30-degree day the middle of next week and you start making plans. If I can squeeze those double layer Carhartts over my windpros and cuddle duds and find my silk glove liners, maybe I can ride for 15 minutes.

In years past I have trained throughout most of our winters especially when they were mild. It is a struggle to find daylight this time of year to ride, and it’s difficult when it’s cold and windy like it is today. I dream about having a job that allows me a real vacation to go to Aiken, or be able to afford to ride in an indoor all winter. The thing is, it’s still cold in the south, and it’s still cold if you have an indoor — and there are other drawbacks all the time to keeping on a riding schedule and working toward a goal, some warmer/drier than others. I have to calm down about missing training days. Nobody will die if I don’t ride.

How about you? Do you laugh it off, or struggle to keep from worrying to death over breaks in your schedule? I am trying very hard not to panic. I’ll get that arena out there thawed some day. That topline will return … someday. Those trot extensions will just have to look good in pasture when the plastic bag blows under his belly, rather than feel great under saddle. Yes, I can master the Not Caring attitude. Sure. (Stuffs glove in mouth to keep from screaming.)