Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Tractor Factor and Our Snowy Staycation

How I spent my winter vacation...
More snow and blizzard winds; these snowbanks just get higher and higher. As of today, that snowbank behind me is now nearly at the corner of the milk room. We received another few inches yesterday afternoon following moderate temperatures (all the way up to the high 20's) and sunny skies. Will the snow ever stop?

We do get plowed out at the barn, sometimes after we've shoveled our way in, but without a working tractor, we're running out of places to put the damn stuff! Our canyon to the manure pile gets drifted in almost daily, so I have to re-shovel the trench and pack it out once again. With a tractor, we could move the manure and snow back, clear the top of the hills for the horses where the snow is still knee-deep, and move these encroaching snowbanks so we can keep the gates and barn entrance clear. One thing I've learned from this winter is you MUST have a working tractor on the farm! In lieu of a tractor, I could use a snowblower. But without either, we do have Bucky the Trucky (must have 4WD just to get to the barn), a big scooper, wheelbarrow, shovels, and above all, snowshoes. Without snowshoes, I'd be wallowing in hip-deep snow to deliver the hay, clear the water tank (which we had to raise 18 inches so the horses could reach it), and just for sheer mobility this winter. I feel like I've grown an extra appendage--one with a shovel blade on the end.

But the horses don't seem to mind all the snow . They feel fresh and ready to go every morning when I turn them out, no matter how deep the snow. As long as there's hay, water, and room to run, they're happy. But the deep snow has limited the horses' travel area. I tried to entice them down the hill, out of the wind one day by dragging the hay sled all the way to the bottom of the field. They just stood at the edge of their packed area and looked at me. Rolex and Harley ventured part way down my snowshoed path, then spun around and cantered back their "feeding ground". Slave that I am to their every whim, I dragged the hay back up the hill.

The snow is too deep down there! Bring back the hay!

Our Kentucky-bred Ruffy, loves to play in the snow, but by the day's end, she's also the first to the top of the hill, waiting to come inside. Due to the pecking order, she has to wait her turn, unless Miss Speedy gets to the top before anyone else. If she times it just right, I can throw the halter on her and get her out of the gate before the rest of the gang show up. Otherwise, she has to wait for Vance, then Rolex, and then Harley. When the wind is really blowing, which it has done a lot this winter, things are always interesting as the OTTBs all charge out of the gate. Vance, the old Standardbred, shows the most sense, and calmly waits while I shut the gate behind him. The others, well let's just say, I have to hang on to the rope while trying to close the gate simultaneously.

We had a nice break in the weather Thursday--no wind, sunshine, and milder temperatures. After Harley had a chance to burn off some steam in the pasture, I tacked him up for a ride. I've ridden so little this winter, I was ready for  an "actively interesting" ride. John had spent the morning doing a little driving with the girls, so I expected to go solo. But thankfully, he decided to saddle up Rolex and go with me. I rode Harley up the road a little ways, with no issues, but the minute I turned around, the sideways prancing and snorting ensued. He becomes so herd-bound in the winter, and coupled with lots of energy, he can be a real handful. Rolex is the calming factor for Harley. Oh good, she's coming too. I hate to venture out all alone!

We attempted to ride into Orris Falls, but the hock-deep snow was a tremendous workout. We didn't go far before turning around. The deep snow kept Mr. Prancypants from taking off for home! So we turned it into a road ride. Midweek, with no traffic, made the ride quite pleasant despite scary things like mailboxes poking out of snowbanks, people shoveling off roofs, tractors and snowblowers moving snow, and barking dogs, chin-deep in drifts. Harley demonstrated the striding walk I know he has, that often becomes a jog as he catches up to Rolex's swinging walk. For some reason, he decided to take the lead on the way home, ears up, prancing now and then, but maintaining the front position for a change. I even had to do some half-halts and circles to let Rolex catch up! Rolex seemed happy to follow, although she'd already had a little workout pulling John's sledge.

Rolex striding down the road

Ruffy is not as far along on the driving lessons as Rolex. She's a bit more nervous about what's going on behind her rump. But John has progressed slowly enough that she's getting used to tack hanging off her in places she never imagined.

And even though many would say this has been a winter from hell with the cold, the wind, the relentless snows, I still love seeing my horses every morning, watching them play in the snow, and seeing Harley, especially when he looks like this--my noble Sir Snowy Cheeks!

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