Sunday, March 20, 2011


by Laura Crum

The skies outside my window are a VERY dark gray as I type this. Rain spatters down and wind tosses the branches of the big trees I can see. And this is a lull in the storm. By my rain guage, we have had four inches since yesterday, accompanied by high winds. The rain is increasing as I type, pounding on my metal roof. It’s a pleasant sound—usually. But right now I can’t get my mind off my horses.

I’ve been down to feed them this morning and all seem healthy enough. Nobody lame, all eager for breakfast. But I have never had more mud than this. All the horses have shelter and a dry place to hang out, but there is muck everywhere. My riding ring looks like a holding pond. You should see the ruts that the storm has dug in my driveway in just one night. And we were pretty damn wet here before the latest deluge.

This sort of weather is more or less typical for March here in coastal central California, but this is an extreme version of it. The weather guessers say that it is going to rain pretty much non-stop for the next week. I can’t imagine what things are going to look like after that. And I actually have a pretty good setup here compared to those in low-lying areas. My property is sloped and faces south; the ground is sandy. We usually dry out pretty readily and don’t have a big problem with mud. Yeah, right. Tell that to the horses.

The rain pours down outside; I just want to whine a little. Usually I try to write interesting posts worth discussing, or upbeat posts about the joys of horse ownership. Not today. Today I want to whine. So please forgive this self indulgence and feel free to click that little X if you don’t want to listen to me complain.

I believe I have ridden my horse all of three times in the month of March. All through January and the first half of February we had sunshine and I rode a lot and posted lyrical pieces about the beach and the trail. That seems like a pleasant dream or a distant memory to me now. Since the middle of February it has rained pretty steadily. I caught a cold. On those few days that it was sunny and dry enough to ride, I did not feel up to it. Frequently after spending twenty minutes cleaning up and saddling my little boy’s horse, I was just done. I sat and watched my kid exercise his horse while Sunny stared at me accusingly. But I simply didn’t have the energy.

I have been through periods like this before, and for me, it sort of becomes a self perpetuating cycle. I get out of the rhythm of regular riding and pretty soon I feel like I don’t even want to ride. On sunny days (if there were any), I’d rather putter around the garden looking at what’s in bloom, or sit on the porch and drink a cup of tea. The horses begin to seem like more of a burden than a pleasure. Something I ought to do but don’t really want to.

I give myself the usual pep talks. I point out that the weather won’t stay like this forever (I hope), and that when I start riding regularly again I’ll enjoy it—I always do. And our steady horses are just as good after a month off as they are if we ride them four times a week (and this is true). I remind myself that I don’t have to ride if I don’t want to; our horses live in big corrals where they can run and buck and play (and they do—not at the moment though), and they are happy when I turn them out to graze (which I do most days—but not in the middle of a storm), and that if I want to just enjoy them and not ride them its fine. I think about how much my son enjoys riding his horse and what a gift this has been for him. I feel a little better.

Then I contemplate the fact that my next novel must be turned in at the end of April and I still have half a dozen chapters left to write. The well seems pretty dry right now—unlike my corrals. Maybe I should make it storm in the story. Hmmm…

Anyway, Jami is sick today and I offered to post in her stead—I hope you all don’t mind my whining and rambling. Do you, too, go through these periods where (dare I say it) the thought crosses your mind that maybe horseback riding is more work than its worth? (I know—I don’t really mean it). With all this rain it will be quite awhile before I can get out on my beloved trails—some years it is late May or early June before the north slopes dry out enough that they’re not slippery. That’s a long time to wait.

OK—rather than typing blog posts, I ought to be working on the book. I hope you all are having a good day with your horses. Thanks for listening to me whine.


Ms Martyr said...

Sounds like you have a case of cabin fever. It's pretty common this time of year. I grew up in Southern California so didn't experience it much but am an old pro since moving to Alaska. I don't own a horse but take riding lessons twice a week (indoor arena - eat your heart out). Still, at times I find myself questioning the expense - should I really be so self-indulgent? Would my dollars be better spent by being sent to those suffering from disasters? It's a quandary.

Laura Crum said...

Ms Martyr--Just put my raincoat on and went outside for a walk--combating cabin fever, as you say. Fed my horses lunch--they are doing OK despite the mud. I'll take my son's horse for a walk this afternoon--I like to give him daily exercise, since he has a tendency to stand around when the weather is dismal. Am feeling a bit more cheerful since writing the post this morning--I guess it helps to whine.

Thanks for your comment--its good to know that others besides me sometimes question their investment (of whatever sort) in horses. And I've got to admit, even at my most depressed, I've never questioned owning them--its all the effort that goes into riding that sometimes seems too much.

Anonymous said...

That post made me smile. In part because I'm right there with you. We are in the middle of spring thaw and it's a big muddy mess. It's hard to get motivated.

I recently took a long trip to the Fl. Keys to visit my parents, I got back on Monday, and went out to the barn to check on things. My horse heard my voice and ran, at a dead run, to come see me. It wasn't his normal trot over for a visit, it was "oh my god, you're back, I'm so thrilled." I got tears in my eyes, and all my questions about the money I spend on him went right out of my head. I guess I'm doing something right.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--I hear you. Its those little moments that make it all worthwhile. It quit raining for an hour and I got my son's horse out for a walk and grazing. when I put Henry away, Sunny went to his gate and nickered at me and so I got him out to graze, too. And suddenly I felt quite cheerful again. I realized that it doesn't matter if I ride or don't ride. It doesn't matter if I don't feel like riding ever again (though I will). Even the mud doesn't matter. I still love having horses.

Alison said...

Laura, a good whine is so cleansing! I think that is why email and blogs are so popular.

And um, you ARE avoiding your dozens of chapters, so get to them!

Laura Crum said...

Alison--Its only half a dozen chapters--not dozens! And I just wrote three more pages. Then, of course, I took a break. Writing blog posts and responding to comments is so much easier (and more fun) than writing books.

Linda Benson said...

Laura - I totally hear you. California's been getting its share of nasty weather this year. We get months and months of that nasty weather in the Northwest, and it gets so depressing this time of year especially, when you just want Spring to come So. Bad. Good luck with your writing, and hope your mud doesn't last too long!

Laura Crum said...

Linda--At the moment it seems that the mud will last forever. I know that isn't true, but that's what it feels like. I do know that you guys in the Pacific Northwest get a lot more rain than we usually do here. But I kind of think this year we might be drawing even with you. How are the donkeys doing?

Gayle Carline said...

I agree, Laura, and BTW, go ahead and whine. I'm in SoCal and we're having a day of blustery wind and cold rain. This winter has been couple days of 70's, followed by couple days of rain, which gets frustrating without an indoor arena. When you add the fact that I stable my horses about 20 minutes from my house, I definitely have moments of wondering whether the expense and the time is worthwhile. But it was horses that began my writing career. They were my lifelong dream. Would someone looking at my financial bottom line say they were worth it? NO. Would someone looking at my emotional/mental health bottom line say they were worth it? Absolutely!

Laura Crum said...

Gayle--We got another storm session this afternoon. This weather is definitely making horsekeeping challenging here in California. Though I guess we're spoiled. When I read about the snow and ice and freezing temps some places got this last winter, I guess I shouldn't whine about rain and mud.

Linda said...

I could have written that post word for word. I remind myself, objects in motion stay in motion, objects at rest stay at rest, but like you, I don't really feel that bad giving them time off. They don't care, and, like yours--you can saddle up and go no matter how long it's been. However, my husband built me an awesome jump today and rolled in some barrels from the neighbor's place, so I believe I will soon be in motion again. ;)

Behind The Mist said...

When the weather is too cold to ride in Colorado (a rare occasion for someone as horse sick as I am!) I have been writing a new fantasy for horse lovers: Behind The Mist...just released...and a weekly blog about the noble and great horses throughout history.

Anonymous said...

Ug Laura I totally understand where you are coming from...not only do we have melting snow up here in Ontario Canada but this morning it was pouring rain. And of course I have one horse that has an injury above her coronet band that requires bandaging, and that bandage is constantly covered in muck!!!!! But once I get it changed and see just how much happier she is I forget about the hassle and inconvenience. Well, that's until the mud sucks off my rubber boot and I'm hopping around trying not to land my sock foot or my butt in the mud!!!!

Leslie said...

Good timing for me to read your whining post, Laura.Been going through similar rainy weather here in S.OH since early March.I have heard on the news how CA is getting lots and lots of rain. I do feel for you! As long as our two creeks stay in their banks I'm good! But sure do hate the muddy mess in the corral area.

Amusing to see how Spirit gently walks through the mud to get out, or back in, to drier areas while Bo plows through at a run!

On the rains,I keep telling myself "this to shall pass..."

Keep us updated on your situation. Sounds like CA is really getting clobbered.

Shanster said...

Absolutely I go thru the same feelings in winter when it's so cold and dark here... and yes, it is sort of a wierd self-perpetuating cycle to not be able to ride and then all of a sudden you feel like you don't wanna ride ... I totally get it. I try to remember it's cyclical and try to not beat myself up about it... easier said than done for sure.

And yes - sometimes that little voice whispers in my head... "is this really all worth it?"

But the sun comes out and I get more energy and I find myself back outdoors and enjoying all the horse things I've always enjoyed and that little whisper is long gone....

Laura Crum said...

Shanster, Leslie, Lynn, Linda and Behind the Mist--Thanks all, for your comments. It really does cheer me up to hear that other horse people go through the same thing. Its raining here this morning--just for something different--and forecast to rain (and storm) for another week. I am letting go of all thoughts of riding in the foreseeable future and just hoping to keep all horses healthy. At least with the rainy weather I ought to get some work done on the book. Of course, it doesn't help that I've also got a new puppy. She's awful cute, though.

horsegenes said...

I think we should have a "who has the most mud" contest. I am sure that I would win.

I don't want to be a "Polly Pissy Pants" but if the weather doesn't give pretty soon... I am going to go crazy. I am tired of the rain, the wind, the mud and the cold.

What keeps coming into my mind is that we aren't going to get a proper spring. Last year it rained like this and then went to over 100 degrees within in a week or two. The ground dried out quickly but the grass died too.

This past weekend was a complete and totally lose. We only get 52 weekends a year and I feel like I just wasted this one. I did get a ride in on Sunday, but I have no excuses for not riding. My horses are dry and I have access to a large indoor arena. This weather, all the gloom and doom just makes me want to hold up in my bed and eat. I did read the book that Francesca suggested - The Horse Dancer. I sat in my bed with a cookie (or two) and boo-hoo'd. It was a good book and the perfect book to read for a blustery weekend.

Hopefully the weatherman will be wrong and we won't get rain for the next 10 days. Keeping my fingers crossed.

joycemocha said...

This is why I insist on an indoor arena any more. What you're describing is standard conditions where I live for most of the winter. Mocha gets some slack time because it's ski season, but otherwise, we're working in the indoor. However, we have a lot of games we play, including simply bombing around the arena working on conditioning.

Mentally, I know that even with the indoor, I hit this wall as well (and I don't have trails to ride). It gets better as the weather does.

I grew up riding outside in this slop. Now I want a lighted indoor to accommodate working adult schedules....

Funder said...

Your stupid rain is making it over the mountains and turning into snow for us. :( I keep telling myself it's fewer fires and more water to drink, but it's not easy.

My husband sets me back on track when I get out of the riding habit. Apparently I am, err, more difficult to live with. If I go too long without riding he will inform me that I am going to ride my horse the next day. ;)

Laura Crum said...

kel--I will win the mud contest. And last year my first trail ride after the spring rains was in early June. I don't want a repeat of that schedule, but it looks like I might get it.

joycemocha--I really don't like indoor arenas--though I know they're practical. Its a good thing I don't want one--cause I darn sure can't afford one.

Funder--I, too, am grouchier when I don't ride. But this weather turns me grouchy, anyway. I just want to see some sunshine and a few flowers in bloom--even if I don't ride.

OK--back out in the rain to feed the horses lunch. Thanks for the comments--misery loves company. It does cheer me up to hear from other horse people.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Michigan-clay-mud-soup here. It's one foot deep - I know because that's how far my foot sinks until it hits the still frozen ground underneath. I wear black rubber farmer boots up to my knees and it still tries to yank them off. If I'm not careful and make sure the mud releases my boots, my next motion will be a face-plant in poopy, pissy, cold mud slop that oozes underneath all your clothes in the few seconds it takes to stand back up again. Ask me how I know :)

Oh, don't whine to me about Californa weather LOL!

But I did have a nice quiet grooming sesson with my 4 horses and my boarder's horse. All got pretty and kinda shed out before they got put in their dry stalls for the evening!

Riding season is heading our way!!!

Laura Crum said...

Jackie--So once upon a time I was feeding my uncle's horse herd on a stormy evening--and he has that deep clay ground, too. I was wearing the knee high black rubber boots as I waded through the mud lugging heavy buckets of cubes while agitated yearlings ran around me. And yep--I forgot to step carefully and one of those boots stuck in the mud and I fell flat on my back, yanking my other foot out of its boot. And yep, that pissy mud soaks into your clothes instantly--and fills the boots. As I discovered when I found them, half buried in the mud. You should have heard me cuss. The horse herd all stood silently about, staring at me, too scared to worry about their dinner. It was really funny--much, much later. So yeah, we got respectable mud here in California, too.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Hey, I don't even wear socks in my boots this time of year...even when it's just above freezing. Learned the hard way that cold wet muddy socks are just....disgusting! Worse than bare feet in pissy poopy mud!

At least your mud is warm and not half frozen!



Francesca Prescott said...

Well it's sunny and mega dry here in Switzerland, and has hardly rained since...I don't know when. Crazy dry, actually, to the point where I keep hoping it might rain just a bit as the garden is totally parched. Not that I'm whining about the weather at the moment, as the sunshine is soooo wonderful,with all the flowers coming out, and the willow tree all lacy and baby green, and the other trees all quivering to show off their new green bits.

But you know, Laura, I think whining is good, and writing down a good old whine is even better as it helps put things into perspective. I'm feeling like having a little mini whine as I've still not had the blood test results for Qrac due to some mess up at the lab in Paris, but will have them tomorrow, apparently for sure. And then after that I'm going to whine about not being able to pick him up next week as there is no free stable until apparently the second week of April, which is super frustrating. But I'm not going to have a giant big long-lasting whine as my daughter comes back from uni on Friday evening for a month and I can't wait to see her!!!

Is it still raining in Santa Cruz?

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--It is pouring! Its eight o'clock in the morning here and I am going to have to don full rain gear and rubber boots to go feed the horses. I hate to think what the corrals will look like--they were bad enough already. Yuck.

I hope you hear about the blood tests ASAP, and I totally get how frustrating it is not to have your new horse home right now. Though I envy you the blooming flowers. Mine are sodden. I bet your daughter is excited to meet Qrac (I keep wanting to spell it Crack--Qrac looks funny in English.). Good wishes to all of you and I can't wait to hear that you have Qrac home and are enjoying him.

Anonymous said...

I started to write blog in English.
I will write about everythinkg, will be a lot of pictures, reviews of books, films, songs etc.
So it would be nice if you visit my blog sometimes :)
(Sorry for mistakes, I'm still learning English)