Ah yes, another polar vortex descends. Polar vortex is a word that just entered the local lexicon last year, but darn did we learn it thoroughly. The Great Lakes area (or at least our section of it) also seems to be getting wind from Nebraska along with our polar vortex fronts. ‘Back in the day’ we used to look forward to the January days when it got down to ten degrees F or below because normally the winds went away and the sun came back. It was cold, but a ton of fun to be out in. I love winter sports – skiing, downhill and cross country, sledding and just generally enjoying the white stuff. Its been the better part of a decade since we have had what I consider a ‘good winter’. Last year was exceptionally windy, cold, windy, long, and windy. Most of the time we had a dusty yard with a few snow drifts. Picture the images of the drifts and dunes in the Sahara and that is what the snow in my yard looked like. So we are getting our first real cold snap though we have had weeks of unrelenting wind. Even Whitman is generally unperturbed by the wind since it is so common. Helping peg the funmeter are the bitter temperatures and knife-like wind chill.
Which leads us to Winter Games – barnyard style.
Pasture sprints: I tried to bring Belgians in last night. The other two groups (Whitman is in solitary again) came in no problem. Their speed was in between “walking on a mission” and “get out of my way while I rush down the run to get in the barn”. I made my third trip up to the pastures. This time I was wearing my hood over my hat. The night before I went with just a stocking hat and got an ice cream headache from the windchill. The Belgians watched me open the gate, started down, went back up, started down, got distracted by some hay in the run, started back up, looked at the angry human in bemusement, half started back down, half started back up, little Morgan ended up between three Belgians and just raced back and forth like a duck in a shooting gallery. Trying to herd Belgians in head to toe Carhartt’s and most every layer I owned was quite the workout. Hopefully the wind prevented the neighbors from wondering why the air was turning blue. Being sweaty in 20mph winds isn’t my favorite. I finally got all four members of the herd downhill from me in the run and was able to chase them in. The 18.2, 2000 lb. Belgian, “Hank the Tank” was looking at me as if I was crazy – “who doesn’t enjoy this weather”. Mind you, Hank will start sweating in early spring just standing in his stall.
Pin the blanket on the pony: The rules for this game depends on the horse. You have the speed circle-ers like Webster. He gets a sheet and a muzzle – neither of which he wants. He is a little Morgan in a big stall so he can spin really fast. If you leave the door open a tiny bit he will nose it open and bolt out. Then there is Sam who starts to itch as soon as he sees the blanket. You have to get his on while he is trying to rub it off. Sometimes he almost sits down trying to rub his butt, other times he is at a 45 degree angle to the floor rubbing his shoulders against the wall. Cosmo does the three legged-threaten-to-kick stance while his blanket is being put on, so you have to keep a close eye on the left hind and be ready to deliver a flat-of-the-hand spank to the flank. Ries and Rosie are both pretty easy – no freestyle or artistic points to be gained there. Fortunately, the Belgians hardly ever have to be blanketed (mostly just if they might get wet backs and we are not going to be around). Quinn likes to run backwards from the blanket, Liberty doesn’t care and neither does Hank. However, getting a blanket on Hank looks like some sort of power lifter event. To reiterate, he is 18.2 which means he is ginormous and so is his blanket. Even though he stands still for it, you have to have the blanket all spread out (no hope of getting it over his head), you crouch down and then perform a clean and jerk while trying to launch yourself up in the air and toss as much of the blanket over his back as best you can. Plus you are doing this wearing a ridiculous number of layers yourself. Which leads to the next event –
Every layer you own wrestling/speed walking: You put on your base layers, then you shoehorn yourself into your bib overalls. Normally you leave the bibs over your boots, so you shimmy into the whole outfit as once. Don’t think shimmy as in pole dancer – its more of a Hobbit move for barn goers. Once you get the bibs on your legs, you grab the straps and do this twisting leap to get your self into the boots, legs, and straps without being twisted up. This gets harder each year as your rotator cuffs degrade with age and overuse. Then you put up your hood from your sweatshirt, drag a neckie over it, put on a hat, tuck the hood back over it and jam yourself into your coat. Gloves are pointless at this moment so you stick your mittens on. At this point, you have to go to the bathroom but since you are an adult you choose to hold it. Now you try to motor out to the barn. You can’t do this to a single rhythm since your ability to walk and maintain any sort of cadence depends on the snow. If you are on a plowed area you can speed walk, but you risk setting yourself on fire from the friction of your pants. Then you hit a drift or deep snow and start walking like a zombie – rolling one whole side of the body ahead of the other and trying to remain upright.
Of course there are other events – frozen bucket hurling (pretty sure that one should be in the Highland games), shoving the wheelbarrow through the snow (again, should be with the power lifting events), speed swearing, shoveling of all sorts, cold engine starting, etc. All of which has to be done with the knowledge that you are at best buying yourself a small window of time before you start back up again. Obviously these are not the glamorous images that watch and perfume companies want associated with their products that they like to link with other equestrian scenes.
– Stay Warm, Y’all.