Monday, January 27, 2014

Re-thinking riding in a polar vortex, or, old man winter returns

Planning a trip to the barn this time of year is a little like winter camping. Do I have the essentials to spend the day at the barn? Spare socks, spare pair mittens (or two), spare sweater, down parka, multiple layering options, toe warmers, spare hat, and some hot tea? Oh, and don't forget carrots, kept in an insulated bag so they don't freeze!

The weather seems to be moving up and down like a pogo stick. All the news about the polar vortex has sent people scurrying inside, hunkering down out of the bitter weather. I'm never one to complain about the cold, but Sunday's teen temps and 30 mile per hour winds kept me grounded. Yes, I could have saddled up Harley, but the blowing snow devils would have sent him spinning, no doubt. Plus, I hated the thought of having to cool out a sweaty horse with the cold temperatures. He's never one to stay patiently in the barn, chillin' when his buddies are outside.

When we turned our horses out Sunday morning, they didn't even stick around at the hilltop for their grain. All of them dashed down to the far corner of the field to dodge the gusts. And I didn't blame them one iota. Each trip with the wheelbarrow was a slog against the wind. I felt like the abominable snowman; and judging by the picture, I looked like one too!

I delivered some alfalfa-mix hay down on the sled and tried to disperse it into piles out of the wind. The horses spent most of the day hunkered in the sunny corner by the treeline, soaking up sun and munching on this delectable hay.

After I finished mucking the stalls, I doled out a bit of grain in hopes of getting the gang to come up and have a drink. I worry about them staying hydrated in this kind of weather. The heated tank is at the top of the hill, smack in the wind, but my ploy worked. Our three ate grain for a bit and took turns having a nice glug at the tank before heading back down the hill leaving Vance to clean up their leavings.

By this point, I'd decided to skip riding and go cross-country skiing instead. At least I would be warm, especially once I went into the woods. But first, I skied across the adjacent pasture to go visit the horses. Harley, Rolex, and Ruffy watched me gliding towards them, then wheeled and ran along the fence line while Vance ignored me entirely and kept grazing.  Once I came to a stop, our three had to come investigate. 

I glided down the hill, plowed through some drifts, clambered over the fence, and hiked down the road to Orris Falls. Heavy foot traffic and other skiers made for fast conditions--lovely! Then I came upon a one-eyed snowman which will surely give Harley a big fright sometime later this week.

This guy is about 6 feet tall, as of Sunday--still, if he melts even a foot, he will surely scare the bejeezus out of Harley, Ruffy, and maybe even give brave Rolex a start. Hang on, everyone!

Here I am on Friday, delivering hay on the sled, aka the hay luge, that you need to steer by leaning. Needless to say, I leaned too far and veered off in the wrong direction. By winter's end, we will have perfected luge steering.

And when the sun is shining, and the wind dies down, there's a nice spot under the trees. The gang seems to prefer pawing for tidbits of grass to eating hay.  Don't worry guys, spring will come bringing tender green grass.


  1. You are so positive and happy through it all! I admire your outlook. I don't like cold very much but am shocked at how much fun I am having with my boys this winter. Our cold isn't your cold, but it still is frigid. I too have done a lot of cross country skiing around the farm and it has been fabulous!

    Your horses look happy in the pasture in spite of the cold!

    I love the hay sled! And you are so right - going to the barn is like packing for winter camping! I am about to start that process now. It takes me longer to get ready than to actually do the chores, I think!

    Stay warm!

    1. I think you're right about the time it takes to get ready vs getting barn chores done. So many things to remember--first aid things (ie holy water) that can't freeze, corn oil dressing, as well as clothes, phone, camera etc.
      Glad to hear there's another xc skier out there! If it's too cold to ride, I ski. Still hoping to get in a skijoring session before winter ends. How would your boys feel about that?

  2. Thanks lmel for the vote of confidence on my blog. I think I ticked everyone off - finding the colors lovely. We did end up with the dangerous ice - it is horrid - ugh, but still pretty. I am going to try to ride on the driveway on Monday. I will also try to ride in the church driveway across the street. I'm sure they will not dig that, but oh, well, a girl and her ponies have to ride somewhere! The tundra isn't going to melt here anytime soon. You know it is bad when I have to put the horses inside at night. Keep warm - and stay ice free. No skiing on this ice - too thick.

  3. OMG that snowman would scare any self-respecting equine! Even Mr Sensible Flurrypants!


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