When winter starts here in northeast Oregon (roughly mid-October) it’s so cold and crisp and when the snow falls it’s the kind of fluffy stuff the horses prance and gallop through just for fun. God, I love that winter. First winter is the damn best.
But then second winter arrives. Second winter is a lot like what I knew in New England – the temperatures vacillate between cold and cold-ish (and sometimes venture darn near warm), the snow falls as half rain or sleet, and that previously-fluffy, gorgeous white stuff that fell during first winter freezes and half-thaws over and over again during these miserable 37-degree days (with <20-degree nights), creating a horrendous ankle-grabbing surface that is what I imagine walking in Hell feels like. The driveway begs me to pull out my ice skates.
During second winter, the horses camp out in the run-in sheds, venturing only as far as the waterer and screaming at me every time the door opens because they are STARVING and couldn’t possibly wander out in the pastures looking for grub because they might break a sweat walking in the snow-ice. The poop piles are slushy gross mountains that on the warmest days are surrounded by vile yellow-brown moats of liquid. The skies are grey 6 days a week and while the days are surely getting longer, it’s nearly impossible to tell because it’s so damn grey. No one is happy.
Except the dogs. The dogs are always happy.
Last week was particularly difficult to motivate to practice my horsemanship. It was either snow-raining or windy and I’ve already mentioned the footing and we’re already sick of arena riding. But if not for the arena there would be no riding at all right now, and I know how lucky I am to have one so I’ll stop being a whiny princess.
After taking much of late summer and fall off from any real work, both Henry and I are out of shape. I forget how much strength it takes for him to balance and collect and me to stay in the saddle at anything more than a pokey walk. We did a mix of bareback and saddle rides last week and when using the saddle I lengthened my stirrups to work on my legs. One day we trotted for about 25 minutes and my legs were the proverbial Jell-o. H is not soft. He is not collected. His self-carriage is non-existent and I am not sure if it’s my riding or his being out of shape (it is most definitely my riding but a little bit that he’s out of shape). These rides aren’t much fun, poking around in circles, trying to relax and be forward. But I’m trying to get better at “lifting the corners of my mouth” and keeping the expectations low. I throw in some obstacles because H is great at obstacles. I do a little liberty work first, and he gets rewarded with treats. H loves treats.
Some days I don’t feel like I notice any difference or improvement and I’m tempted to feel frustrated. Then I come in and log my hours and think, time is time, and it takes the time it takes. And if I can get across my ice rink driveway and into the arena for a few minutes, I’ve done a great job.
End of Week 2 stats: 6.5 hours, 5 rides.