This winter has been tough on my riding schedule. It’s been nonexistent. I love riding with snow crunching under hooves and fat flakes catching on eyelashes, much like the day when I captured this lazy winter storm looming over the mountains. I live for these days, but they have been few and far between this year. Usually the afternoon sun peaks out, transforming snow into a sloppy, slippery mess unpleasant to walk in and undearable to ride through. However, I keep trudging through muck and mire, waiting for when the world is covered again in a blanket of white and the stillness is broken by breath puffing around my horse like dragon vapor. This winter can be a bit like life, mucking though the slop to grasp a magical moment, no matter how fleeting.
This pictures was posted a few days ago by a childhood friend. We haven’t actually seen each other since elementary school but with the ever updating world of Facebook I’ve been able to keep up with his beautiful family. Our dads were both team ropers and while I can swing a rope at a dummy, Reed still chases a few steers.
This photo should be in a magazine with big block letters across the top promoting a high performance suplement for horses. Instead it is a superbly captured moment of a horse ready to do his job. His eyes and ears remain pinpoint on the cow, intensity builds in his arched neck, he waits to spring as the gates slam open. Any cowboy will tell you that half the work is done by a good horse. This is a good horse that loves his job.
I wholeheartedly believe that domestic horses need and want a job. With the cold weather and shorter days setting in, my herd has spent most of the past month napping and eating in their paddocks. This may seem like the good life but, like kids cooped up in house too long, it makes for irritable, moody, and bored horses. Their manners begin to slip, nipping at each other at feed time or getting pushy at a gate. We often have to revert back to foundation training. “This is my space, this is your space, get out of my space,” kind of schooling. My horses love their trail riding job and in the winter months I have to employ a parental like ingenuity to keeping them stimulated and out of trouble.
Like Reed, many owners can keep their horses working year around. My horses work seasonally, which leaves at least 3 months of down time. I’m hoping to fill some of those days with romps in the new pasture when the weather is nice. Just getting horses out on the walker or out on a lounge line helps. How do you keep your horses fit and entertained during the winter?
With the cold weather and short days limiting riding most of my time with the horses is spent in the barn. Today’s photo is of Bozly patiently waiting for my mom to bring him his feed bucket. At 34, the old man gums a warm Timothy pellet and beet pulp mash twice a day. We leave the stall door open so he can peak his head out to nicker encouragement. When the wait becomes unbearable he wonders over to the feed room to observe the progress. As soon as his bucket is picked up he skips back to his stall and tucks into his feed grunting happily. Bozley’s pure excitement makes my day.
Today’s shot took place on the last warm day of the season. We celebrate our Thanksgiving the Sunday before and I was very thankful to escape the kitchen for a few hours to take a few friends on a trail ride. The ears belong to Mia, my mischevious red dun mare. The love birds holding hands, Patience and Mark, rode Boz and Cisco. The whole ride Patience would giggle every time Boz would trot. “He’s got a lot of go for an old guy,” she would say. Boz is 34. It was a reunion for Heather and Zena. Heather had ridden the pretty Appaloosa mare when she was still at the rescue 5 years ago. It was Heather who urged us to work with Zena, who was ill mannedered but an amazing ride. Now Zena’s manners are much improved and Heather couldn’t stop gushing over her training. Our ride wouldn’t be complete without my outrider Paige giving some much needed exercise to Rain, our bay baby. The wether couldn’t have been more perfect for late November, my horses were on their best behavior, and the company was full of laughter.
It was a day to be thankful for.
I ran across this great between the ears shot on Tumblr and was immediately drawn to the “End of the Road” sign. It looked like the horse was just as eager to see what was on the other side of the gate.