Saturday, September 20, 2008

September Storm

I woke to the drum of rain on skylights, bursting thunder, a gust of wind through windows thrown wide to the tang of sage in a desert deluge. The old count-the-seconds method indicated that the storm was still a few miles away. By the time I got outside to feed, however, lightning and thunder crashed one upon the other, loud and bright as explosions in the gray dawn.

The Barbs, calm and hardy as always, dug into their meal with gusto, seemingly oblivious to the storm but for their ears held low to repel the rain. Aaruba, however, skittered away from his hay and back again, shivering with cold and nerves. Rivulets of water streamed from his soaked coat and down his legs. I decided that, wet though he was, he'd be better off with a blanket than without one.

I rarely blanket my horses, preferring instead to let nature prepare them for the seasons as they come. Occasionally, however, a storm like this demands more protection than Aaruba can manage alone. I fetched his breathable, waterproof rain sheet and strapped it on. Ideally, a layer of fleece underneath would have helped him dry, but Aaruba dislikes blankets at the best of times and I wasn't keen to distress him further. Besides, the ambient temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees, and the rain was pounding down so hard that I figured the fleece would be soaked before it touched his back.

Aaruba was sufficiently chilled that I knew I'd need to warm him up a bit under the blanket before leaving him to his breakfast. So, we amazed the neighbors by going for a walk in the raging storm, up and down the nearest hill until Aaruba could stand and graze without shivering so hard his knees trembled. Already soaked to the skin, I stayed with him for another ten minutes of grazing (there's nothing like wet grass to keep a horse hydrated and colic-free when he's tense) before returning him to his pen, still blanketed, with plenty of hay to get his intestines busy producing heat as they processed and fermented the roughage.

Five hours later, the rain has stopped and the clouds have broken enough to let an occasional wash of sunshine draw water from the horses' coats as steam. Aaruba is warm and content, glad to have his blanket removed and hung in the shower to dry, pleased for an excuse to get alfalfa in addition to his usual hay.

Perhaps we'll even get a ride in later.

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