Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winter Horses

There's something magical about a new snow and my horses seem to love the winter chill as compared to summer with the heat, humidity and flies.  I know some of you will curse me -- slogging through foot deep mud, mending broken blankets, picking out packed snow from hooves and chipping out frozen water troughs are not fun and I have done my share. But for the last ten years, Relish and Bell have had the perfect winter 'digs' and they do thrive.

We move them to their home across the street when cold weather rears its head, our own pasture grass is depleted and the farmer switches his calves from the field to their winter barn.  At the neighbors, my two plump horses have fifteen acres to graze, so though I visit every day to grain and check on them, I only need to feed hay when snow is on the ground.  Even then, they pick at the hay.  The grass is still green under the white blanket, and they much prefer digging through snow to get to it.  (Unlike cattle that do not dig.) They have a stream that never freezes and a huge run-in shed big enough for ten horses so there is no biting and crowding each other. If I do want to ride, there's fifty acres to amble across.  All this only costs me $50 a month for two. (Yes, I know how expensive boarding has gotten and I am very appreciative.)

The only tough time is when there is deep snow. But then I strap on my snowshoes and head over, stopping to pick up the neighbor's mail and shovel their walk.  We've had blizzards where I've had to dig out the barn door, but except for that, it's super ideal in every way for human and horses. If I was a competitive rider who needed an indoor arena, this set up would not work. Alas, that was a long time ago. Now the dogs (in their coats) and I walk the fields each time I go over to grain the horses, which is an added bonus.  Except for brushing burrs and checking for injuries, the horses are almost care-free.  The only hitch is that the neighbors are getting older, and I worry that one day they will sell their farm to an 'outsider' who doesn't like our arrangement.

Until then I will be thankful for my winter horses and their great home.  How's winter for your horses?  Do you spend more time 'chipping' ice and slogging through mud and snow than riding?


Francesca Prescott said...

Alison, I'm not big on snow and cold, although you are right about the cold bringing respite from flies and mosquitoes. And I'm lucky enough to have Qrac stabled in amazing facilities where whatever the weather does doesn't really affect me much as far as my horse is concerned. I've always longed to go for a good gallop in snow but there's never been the opportunity, as suitable places to do so are few and far between, and I have too much imagination to risk having him put a foot in a snow-covered hole! And Qrac doesn't tolerate hoof-grips, so I can't hack out in snow without him getting ice lumps under his feet.

But climate change has definitely affected us here in Switzerland as we've been having abnormally mild weather. Grey and gross and blah. Which is better than the flooding the poor souls in Northern Italy and the South of France are coping with...

I hope you manage to keep your pasture arrangement for as long as possible. And that even if you get snow, that it's not too extreme...

xx Cesca

Alison said...

Glad to hear you chiming in, Cesca. As I mentioned on your post, we missed you
(and Qrac).