Okay, so it's not really winter yet. We've got a good 21 days until the formal arrival of the coldest, least riding-friendly season, and we should be making good use of the time. I, for one, am not.
Oh, I know all the stats about global warming and climate change, and I've (nearly) resigned myself to the idea that future autumns, like the current version, will probably be rife with chill winds, rain and early ice. Cognizance does not make the heart grow fonder. While I'm doing my best to grab the rare half-hour ride when the footing and my mental state are both appropriate to the occasion, the gloomy skies and endlessly down-shifting temperatures are making me feel more like a hot toddy than a cold saddle.
Still, there are horse things to be done, and there's at least a modicum of pleasure in seeing each project completed. For instance, the stock tank de-icers have already been merrily de-icing the stock tanks for over a week now. The heated buckets have replaced the regular flat-backs in the barn, though it hasn't been cold enough to actually plug them in. I've got the York rake on the tractor, and I've begun the ritual manure removal from the area in the pasture around the bale feeder. A quick swipe daily until the temps drop to poop-freeze-minus-ten keeps the ground tidy and the horses free of frozen lumps under their feet. For now.
Perhaps the most depressing moment was the Laying On of the Blankets. I'm used to having to apply waterproof sheets in the fall to keep cold rain from soaking those nice, fluffy coats. I'm not at all used to having to put mid-weight blankets on until some time in late December or early January--Ice Storm Season here in the wilds of Jersey--so the annual dust festival that comes with unearthing all the winter finery I so carefully washed and packed in plastic in the spring brought an unusual number of four-letter-word moments this year. Leo was already shivering by the time I broke down and covered them up. That's just not right.
Now comes the true test of horsemanship: The working up to working out. My guys are used to having time off during the winter, but five months isn't reasonable. That means someday soon I'm going to have to figure out how to keep them in shape without any of us winding up frostbitten and disgusted. Zip, for one, is bored and beginning to look daggers at me when I wander out to check the troughs. He's not doing much reading, so the planetary climate issues are not pressing on his mind. What he's more concerned about is the dearth of cookies. Cookies come with work. No work; no cookies.
Yesterday I grabbed a brief sunny moment and a handful of cookies and went out to the pasture to discuss the problem with my Advisory Committee. For once, there was perfect attendance. I was surrounded instantly by big, buggy eyes. I said the magic word--COOKIE--and they couldn't move fast enough. The smilers were grinning, blinding me with the glare off their teeth; the ones who know how to bow looked like a chorus line, and Zip was line-dancing, throwing all his tricks into an extravaganza that would put the Rockettes to shame. Can we say bored horses?
At least that few minutes reminded me of why I do this. Whenever I come to the "I could be doing so many things if I didn't have the horses and the farm to worry about" point, they do something that just tickles the heck out of me. Then I remember.
And I go back to waiting for spring.