Monday, December 16, 2013

This is why people take their horses to Florida in the winter!

Friday, December 13, 2013
Perhaps Mother Nature should take a quick look at the calendar.  December 21 may still be eight days away but cold winter weather has settled in the Oley Valley.  Sunday's snow, sleet and freezing rain was followed by another winter storm on Tuesday.  Monday's delayed school opening due to icy conditions led to a suitable day of working in the arena, surprisingly!  Nikki's work has been less consistent, but we are still going strong.  I underestimate her at times though.  On the coldest days she has demonstrated sensibility and a good work ethic under not so perfect conditions.  Her one departure was when the porto potty truck came roaring over the hill down the driveway.  There was a bit of leaping on the end of the lunge line but then she relaxed again.  No further outbursts while the driver was working or when he drove away.  The truck has arrived on other occasions and Nikki has not even looked at it, but this time there were other potties on the truck and they were rattling and bouncing.  Perhaps that was the difference.  I am certainly glad that I was not on her back during the outburst though!  The rest of the time she worked quietly as though the incident never occurred.

Unfortunately Suki will probably just be worked in hand when able but hopefully a lunge session can be thrown in here and there as well.  The weather is supposed to warm up over freezing again by the middle of next week so we should be good to go!

Bone chilling dampness can be discouraging, but you really just need to embrace it.  Dressing appropriately and acceptance of the conditions with a positive attitude makes the difference.  Easier said than done sometimes.  Yesterday (Thursday) I went to the barn dressed to ride only to find that unlike Wednesday, the footing was not suitable.  It was frozen and bumpy in many spots.  It was 25 F with a stiff wind, so I will admit that I was not totally disappointed not to ride! Most days I do find that I actually enjoy being out in the cold.  I enjoy the silence of the cold air, the snap of the gravel under my feet and the cold on my cheeks.  Admittedly this joy goes away below 15F!  But even then some outside time does feel good.
Due to the conditions the horses were in paddocks not in their fields.  Suki and Nikki were joined by Banker in the paddock behind the barn.  This is a very interesting dynamic.  Prior to Nikki's return to Thistledew Suki and Banker were turned out together.  In fact, initially that remained the routine while Nikki was paired with another horse.  I decided to have the girls put back together to make it easier when I wanted them kept in for riding, vet, farrier, etc.

When I opened the back door Suki stuck her face in to greet me.  Nikki was off to one side and Banker behind Suki.  There were three piles of nice hay and it seemed like they were all quite happy.  That is until Suki saw me!  Then it became necessary not only to keep the others from me, but also to prevent Nikki and Banker from standing together!  How exhausting!  Rob held Banker while I brought the girls into the barn fr grooming.  Nikki was first, surprisingly and while I closed the door she sucked two carrots off of the stall door!

It was so cold that I decided to just add another layer of clothing rather than groom.  I moisturized Suki's neck and face and picked the feet of both horses.  Suki charged over to the other side of the paddock when I turned her back out because Banker was caught "talking" to another horse over the fence.

Sunday, December 15, 2013
We have received a 1-2-3 punch of winter weather.  Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday.  The precipitation arrived later than expected on Saturday, but nursing a sore throat and fever I was in no shape to step out to the barn in damp, cold air and light snow.  Plus, the husband was not home which would have meant taking Isaiah to the barn with me.  This is fine if I am just going to groom, but at age 7 I would prefer to not try to ride while he wanders about.  Isaiah also missed his lesson which of course disappointed him as his new winter riding boots had just arrived.  We tried the Mountain Horse lace ups, but they came up too high on his legs and were not comfortable.  I ordered the Tuff Rider zip up winter paddock boots instead, and after reading reviews ordered TWO sizes larger than his regular shoe size.  They fit well and appear to be comfortable, but I guess the true test will be when Isaiah rides!

I have not used this brand before other than a pair of full seat breeches that I purchased several months ago for myself.  They fit well and are good for colder weather. So far these breeches have also washed well and lasted under hard use!

The snow started to fall at a greater rate by mid afternoon quickly covering my driveway and the road below.  By early evening the snow swirled about.  As a silent, snowy world descended upon the Oley Valley we cozied together by the fire with smores and hot chocolate.
From the door of my garage....
Unfortunately a few hours (and inches of snow) later sleet and freezing rain added a treacherous icy layer, continuing through the night.

Sunday, December 15, 2013
I stuck my head out the door early this morning staring at the state of my snow/ice covered driveway and trees coated in an icy shell.  A lone pair of Canada geese flew overhead under a gray sky calling out in their passage.  I translated this too "Why have we not headed south yet!", echoing in the sentiment that grips me in moments like this:  This is why people take their horses to Florida for the winter!!  Huddled under my ski jacket I pulled on a pair of boots to emerge into the snowy world and feed the birds.  Clearly it would be a few hours before I would be able to get to the barn.  My hilly driveway would need to be cleared.  This was irrelevant given that our street had not seen a plow since the snow began.
By late morning the temperature had warmed to a balmy 33F and was nearly 36F when I went over to the barn a couple of hours later.  The local roads were well cleared except for occasional slush.  I drove past the snow-covered fields and down to the barn.

I walked out to the arena, and for one brief moment of insanity considered riding.  That was before I actually walked INTO the ring!
The arena
Slick and icy in spite of the "warm" temperature.  The girls were in the paddock with Banker and would only get a short time outside so I decided to just check their clothing, feed them treats and head back home to the task of scarf knitting for Isaiah's teachers' Christmas gifts.
With temperatures dipping into the low teens tonight tomorrow I will surely see a skating rink.  Riding will be put off for a few more days.  After knitting I decide to read a few training articles to keep me focused.  I'm disappointed because I feel like I am finally getting back into the groove of riding again.  The end of the week is expected to bring temperatures in the 40sF so at least I have something to look forward to!

Monday, December 16, 2013
Oh yes, icy it is!  I walk across the ice crusted snow out to the bird feeders.  Isaiah was off to school looking forward to an afternoon of wrapping Christmas gifts for a family in need.  Each class "adopts" a family and we send gifts according to the family's wish list.  It is a good lesson in giving.

I waited until noon for the day to "warm up" to 25F then head to the barn.  The slush in the driveway at the farm is now solid ice so I park by the house and walk down.  Lucky for me I have my Yak Trax for my boots or I would have been slipping and sliding all the way down!
Yak Trax work surprisingly well!  Confidently and steady as a Yak I walked down the driveway, checking the arena for giggles as I walked by.  Needless to say it was all ice!  The horses were not even able to go out in the paddocks, so I spent some time grooming and spoiling them.  Oh, and dressing up Nikki!
Suki wouldn't even let me put it NEAR her head!

Suki's skin was a little drier than usual even under her blankets, but not bad considering it had been a few days since her last full spa treatment.  Oil of Olay freezes while in the tack room (unheated, obviously) but I keep it in my car along with wound ointment and body moisturizer to keep her everyone happy!  She enjoyed her time with me and loved being fussed over by the fox hunting ladies. They had never seen her on cross ties and without clothing and were surprised at how tall she is.  It was also their first opportunity to see the naked area across her back.  Suki loves when people tell how brave and beautiful she is!

In addition to playing dress up, Nikki received a face massage with a towel.  This is one of her favorite things!!

With more snow on the way tonight I will have to be satisfied with grooming Suki and Nikki and reading training articles.......
That is why people take their horses to Florida for the winter!
But I will bravely continue to embrace the elements and ride on!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The mystery of pasture injuries

Friday, December 6, 2013
The past few days have been dark and gray.  With temperatures moderate I manage to ride even if it is a bit misty or drizzly which I do willingly given the upcoming wintery conditions predicted.  A bit of snow no longer phases me but after adventures in the sleet last week I really have to draw the line.  That was an odd day though.  The quiet snowflakes that tumbled down at the start of my ride suddenly switched to sleet!

Yesterday I managed to fit in a ride on Nikki and a brief lunge for Suki but it came later in the day than usual due to thick morning fog.  Nikki seemed tense under me, as though the snap of a branch would set her off.  I overcame my own anxiety at this feeling by keeping her occupied in work.  She settled quickly.  

While grooming Suki I noticed a long scrape on her left hind white sock, down the front.  I always marvel at how horses manage to obtain these injuries.  The location suggests that a scuffle with Nikki was not the cause, and nothing in her pasture could really do it either.  Yesterday when I was leaving I did see her perform several hardy rolls, back and forth again and again.  I guess it is possible that she caught it with her foot during that roll.... It appeared to be superficial but in the past such an abrasion would cause her to be a slightly off.  Okay, sometimes she would actually appear 3-legged lame with a lesser scrape!  I always thought that it was her way of trying to get out of having to work.  Ever the drama queen and diva!  Following her brave recovery from burn injuries I do believe that she was exaggerating! Suki had come in from her field fine with no evidence of lameness, so I proceeded to prepare her to lunge.  Cleaning the wound, it was indeed superficial but I added some wound ointment under her boots.

Suki was also somewhat tense so I wonder if the start of hunting season has them on high alert.  After a buck and a snort she also settled into work but I kept it short anyway.  And she was 100% sound. Following the work I cleaned the abrasion again, added some ointment, gauze squares and standing wraps behind for over night.  Suki tends to stock up when in for extended periods and this would be exacerbated by a cut on the sensitive white sock/pink skin.

Knowing that today would be completely unsuitable for riding outside I was happy to get in that ride.  Three days in a row for Nikki then a day off works fine.  

This morning I awoke to the sound of rain on the skylights.  The Suki and Nikki would be in today.  Temperature was in the 40sF but expected to fall during the day.  Needless to say the girls were happy to see me. I spent time with each of them, grooming Nikki (who pulled my hat off while I was brushing her front legs).

Suki's mystery wound looked fine but after cleaning it and applying ointment I once again wrapped her hind legs for the night.  The barn was cozy and peaceful with the sound of horses contentedly munching on hay.  The heavy rain continued through the night so arena condition tomorrow is questionable.

Saturday, December 7, 2013
Another cold and gray start to the day, but i think that I am getting used to it.  I dress warmly in layers and hope for the best.  The sharp air slaps my cheeks as I fill the bird feeders, while my regular squirrel visitors watch me from not too far away, waiting for their first opportunity to snag some yummy nuts from the ground.

Driving to the barn a flock of geese flies overhead in formation, honking loudly as they pass.  Everything about the morning offers the feeling of impending wintery weather, but I am looking forward to my ride nonetheless.   Coming down the drive to the barn I can see some puddles in the arena, but upon further inspection it is not so bad.  Nikki worked well, lifting her knees and hocks when we passed through the occasional puddle.

Suki was impatient to get out of her stall as usual, and the scrape looked fine when I removed the wraps.  One thing about these winter blankets....they hold the moisturizer nicely underneath so I decided not to add more.  Just the exposed areas were moisturized today.  A thick layer of ointment on the scrape, and I was confident that it would be fine for turnout.  Cloudy, windy and cold I added a layer to both horses.

Tonight temperatures will dip far below freezing, so without much sun today I expect a frozen tundra for an arena tomorrow morning.  Sunday afternoon and evening going into Monday Snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected, so Nikki really needs to work tomorrow.  If the footing is too hard early it may be okay later in the morning before the bad weather starts.  Suki will probably not work in the arena.  I can probably take her out back to do some in hand work.  Might be a good piaffe day!