Friday, January 3, 2014

You know it's truly cold when...

1. There's frost on the double-paned insulated windows.
2. You don't want to move more than 5 feet from the wood stove and a cold layer hovers about 8 inches deep over the downstairs floor.
3. The only way your feet can stay warm is to encase them in down booties.
4. The cardinals are puffed up to the size of blue jays.
5. It sounds like you're hucking golf balls when you pick manure from the stalls.
6. You can't see your horse's head because he's wreathed in a vapor from his steaming bucket of mash and warm breath.
7. A thin sheet of ice edges the outer rim of the water tank, despite the submersed heater.
8. The barn faucet steams when you turn on the water (kept unfrozen by a heater coil). 
9. You need to warm up your hands by plunging them down the neck of your horse's blanket.
10. A hammer is needed at the barn--for relentless banging frozen water buckets.

And then you think about all those horsemen and women who flock to the south and then pat yourself on the back for sticking out another Maine winter. Heck, there's no skijoring in Georgia!

I couldn't get out of work fast enough on Thursday as the snowstorm developed into a blizzard by late afternoon. The bank's thermometer in downtown Rochester read 2 Fahrenheit. By 4:30, I was on the road, 4-wheeling through whiteout conditions, trying to get to the barn as swiftly and safely as possible. The snow covered side roads kept my speed down, especially when I encountered drifts reaching to the median. Swirling snow snaked across the roads in wispy tendrils, appearing almost like liquid. As I chugged up Thurrell Rd., I peered into the dim light, trying to make out the horses--were they in the shelter or hunkered along the fence by the trees?  I trotted into the barn, grabbed halters and began to whistle and call them up. Our three finally appeared over the rise, followed by Vance. Their manes and ears were covered in snow, but their blankets had kept them all warm and dry.

When I got up today, the thermometer had bounced back from negative numbers to 2 Fahrenheit. Brrr...I figured I'd let the ponies stay in a bit and eat their hay. By 8:30, though no warmer, we needed to let them out to burn off steam. Rolex, as usual, couldn't wait to kick up her heels, with Harley right behind her.

And then, the requisite snow bath! I think Harley would have preferred his bath sans blanket. Yesterday is the first time they've used them all winter. But with the snow, wind, and extreme temperatures, I wanted them to have the protection.

I warmed up mucking stalls, but really wasn't inclined to saddle up and ride. I figured the weather was more conducive to cross-country skiing. We talked about riding and skijoring, although I didn't want Harley to get all hot and sweaty late in the afternoon since the temperature was purported to head back down below zero tonight.

By the time we bought grain and beet pulp, started dinner in the slow cooker, finished plowing and shoveling out the house, it was 3 p.m. Just enough time to get in a late afternoon ski down the pasture to see the horses, and then partway into Orris Falls.

I pondered what wax to use from my plethora of choices. Hmm--how about Special Green, good for 5 to 14 degrees with a little Green added to the kicker zone.

Waxed up and waiting to go! Our daylight was fast fading.

John wanted to ski down and see the horses. We could only get so close before they would bolt away. I didn't want them coming in close anyway. Knowing Rolex, she'd walk all over the skis, looking for carrots!

We continued down into the lower field, busting through drifts, and then out the lower gate and along the road until we had to take off the skis and walk to the Orris Falls trail head.

By now, we really had limited light, but the snowy woods remained bright enough to snap off a few more photos.

 The horses watched us approach, wondering what was on our feet.

 Here I am, happy to be on my skis, even if I'm not behind my horse!

And there goes John, off into the winter wonderland.

As I sit by the fire, my feet once again in my down booties, I hope the ponies will be o.k. as the thermometer hovers around -13 below zero tonight. This brutal cold makes me worry and, believe me, I've thought about camping out in my winter bag, up in the hayloft, to be sure all is well.


  1. We have had quite the weather lately, haven't we!? Oy vey! I loved your list! It was GREAT and i really want some down booties. They sound too good to be true. I;d love to try skijoring and you have mentioned it so many times, I wonder if you have any pionters for getting the horses used to it. Did your horses freak out the first few times you tried it? As usual, your photos are beautiful and a delight to see.

  2. Harley was surprisingly fine with it. John rode him--so there was nothing new there. He just attached a grab loop to a rigged setup. I wondered how Harley would be when I skied past him on the downhills, and again, he was fine with that. Of course, he's used to me out front when he's scared--the big booby! It's probably best to start with some ground driving, just so the horse may be get used to lines and pressure from behind. We do it with cross-country skis rather than alpine--lighter and easier to maneuver in untracked terrain. You've got to try it--it's such a blast!
    Haven't had a chance to go yet this year, but John was driving Rolex today giving friends a ride in the hay sled! She's such a smart horse--a real thinker and not spooky.

  3. Thanks for the tips! Although, I had to chuckle about the idea of Lilly looking over and seeing my husband suddenly flying down alongside her on the downhills. I can just imagine her eye getting all white and buggy and then, guess whose off to the races!! It is such a funny image, however scary the real thing might be! But you are right--I MUST TRY IT!


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