Sunday, November 2, 2008

Oh, Wind, if Winter Comes

I can't deny it any longer. Winter is coming. The days of riding a horse or two after my evening commute are over. With the advent of Daylight Wasting Time, I'll be lucky to squeeze in twenty minutes of groundwork before dark.

I am trying very hard not to complain about this, to put my structured side on hold and allow my training and conditioning schedules to bend with the wind...and rain...and snow... That said, I do have a few goals for this winter:
  • Maintain Aaruba's fitness and (maybe) build speed in preparation for the 2009 endurance season. The good news here is that equines retain fitness much longer than human athletes. A fit horse can enjoy a month's layoff with minimal loss of fitness. I think I can manage 2-3 rides per week for most of the winter, which should be sufficient for maintenance. If we can safety (in terms of both footing and temperature) do some speed rides, so much the better.
  • Continue Consolation's on-trail training and build foundational fitness in preparation to being serious conditioning in Spring 2009. This should be easier than my goal for Aaruba, as Consolation's workouts are shorter and less strenuous. I'll be thrilled to get in 3 rides per week on Consolation, but I'll settle for 2 rides plus some groundwork.
  • Continue Acey's under saddle work in preparation for early conditioning in Spring 2009. In Acey's case, I won't need to worry much about a sweaty, chilled horse; however, wind may be more of an issue with her than with the others. Typically, the greener the horse, the more it is distracted by windy conditions. I'll settle for 2 sessions per week and take more as they come.
My biggest challenge, other than finding sufficient daylight and reasonable weather conditions, will be cooling out sweaty horses. We don't have a barn, so I'll need to be sure my mounts are warm, dry, and fluffy after each workout. I plan to do this by:
  • Riding as early as possible in the day, so there's time to cool out before nightfall.
  • Planning time for longer walks at the end of each ride (at least 1/2 mile; preferably a mile).
  • Toweling after unsaddling (thrift stores are a great source of cheap towels), and currying to separate wet hairs.
  • Using a jersey cooler to wick moisture away from the horse and prevent chilling. I ordered a cooler for $20 on clearance from SmartPak. It's a touch small on Aaruba, but for that price, I wasn't going to be picky, and it'll fit Consolation perfectly.
  • Letting the weather win, occasionally. The silver lining? More time to blog!

Oh wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?
~ Percy Shelley


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Merri said...

I worked for a bit in Ireland at a steeplechase barn one winter - i.e. wet, rainy, cold - and you know what they did?

After toweling off the horses after a work they put the horse 'rug' (blanket) on - with a layer of dry straw underneath. I guess it provided a bit of insulation so the rug didn't get wet too.

But then, that trainer was a looney tune, so I don't know if many people did that, or just him.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi Merri! That trainer may have been a looney tune, but he wasn't alone in rugging with straw or hay beneath. Apparently, it's a fairly common practice on the other side of the pond. It's known as "thatching."

I'm still trying to figure out how they keep the rugs from getting full of stickery straw particles!

Lori Skoog said...

What is the temperature range where you live? Do you have a run in? Tonight I will do my chores at 5:30 instead of 6:30. Fortunately, I have an indoor arena when the snow is too bad to ride outside....we get plenty.

Spartacus Jones said...

Perfect timing.
I was JUST thinking about this myself, muttering foul incantations against winter lay-off's.
Thanks for reading my mind!
"Thatching sounds interesting....


Jonna said...

Blasted weather anyways...Riding in the winter is just as much of a challenge in northwest Montana.. and now I am kicking myself because yesterday was beautiful and I had too many "other" things that had to be taken care.. today is cold and wet.. wouldn't you know it. Tamara, any indoor arena's nearby you could look at currying favor with for the winter?

Ashley said...

Ha, come to Arizona! We have not an iota of a clue what winter is here...

89* predicted today, but the ponies didn't get the memo, as they are fuzzy. Their interal clocks are telling them that winter is fast approaching. Let's just hope they're right, because I'm ready for what passes as winter around here!

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Lori -- We get temps down to around 15 F degrees and up to 102. Fortunately, most of our winter days are dry and cold, though last year we had snow on the ground for a solid month in January-February. That was pretty unusual, though. A run-in is next on our project agenda. Farm never ends, does it?

Jonna -- Ah, riding in the rain. Aaruba and I did almost 16 miles in yesterday's drizzle. At least it wasn't too cold. Sadly, I don't know of any indoor arenas in my immediate vicinity. We're working on lighting our round corral, but that doesn't make the footing any safer. Alas!

ellescee said...


I just finished a short course covering complimentary and alternative medicine, and the profs sung the praises of using acupuncture along with some of the traditional chinese herbal therapies for equine ulcers. Maybe it's something you could give a try--I know it'd be cheaper than using the Gastro-Guard!


Esther Garvi said...

Fortunately for us, winter in Niger is the best season of the year, which the exception that the sun goes down are a quarter past six and not seven (which makes it impossible for us to hit the trails after work). The colder we get, the longer we can stay out, and our best trail rides often occur during winter... How do your barbs in the US like (or dislike) winter? Here in Niger, they spend us much time possible sunbathing...

Jonna said...

Tamara- I actually don't mind exercising myself in the rain and as long as it is not a complete downpour with a driving wind, riding in the rain doesn't bother me too much either. Unfortunately, I like a fool volunteereed to do the Family birhtday party celebration at my house over the weekend....

Esther- We actually , due to the brutal winds we get here in our area of Montana, have built run in sheds so that every horse can get out of the weather if they so choose. We are out on the flats and while the cold doesn't bother the horses too much , the wind can really cause them to get quite cold. We have blankets on hand should it get too nasty out but the sheds combined with feeding out alot of hay during cold weather and heated water tanks really keep things in check during storms.. I just did a post on my blog spot on our custom built stock tank boxes to help insulate the water tanks. Feel free to check it out!