We have had rain nearly every day for weeks. The fields are absolutely sodden and the ponies are very often dripping when they come in.
However, we do have the odd day when we can really feel that spring is coming. I rode out on Tuesday in beautiful sunshine – it was still rather cold but perfect weather for hacking out.
Galahad and I had a lovely time pottering along the lanes. The primroses and daffodils were out looking cheerful and making life feel good. It is amazing how uplifting a bit of sunshine can be!
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Cookster has had to start wearing a rug to stop him freezing himself in the rain. Obviously, we have had rather a lot of rain over the last week so the rug is very much needed at the moment.
However, although he measures for the same rug size as Galahad, the old rug he was using had rubbed his chest a bit. Nothing too bad – his skin wasn’t raw, he just had a bit less hair than before – but he clearly needed something a bit better.
My sister therefore went shopping and decided on a much more exciting rug than Galahad has ever had.
Sadly, it didn’t stay looking like this for long – most days he is just a muddy shade of brown. Occasionally though, the rain manages to wash off some of the mud and the stags shine through once more.
When I bring the ponies in for the night I quite often stand and watch them eat for a few minutes – just enjoying the peace and the sound of the munching. It turns out that it’s actually a very valuable stable management tool.
I was watching them on the evening of Boxing Day and realised Cookster didn’t look quite right – a little tucked up and shivery. It had been cold and drizzly for most of the afternoon and Cookster is not always sensible about seeking shelter. He was eating okay though and seemed fine in himself so I dried him off as well as I could and tucked him up in bed in pyjamas.
He was very quickly himself again but the next morning I sent him out with a thin waterproof rug on – he’s barely clipped so I didn’t want him too warm, just kept dry because apparently he can’t look after himself.
Now of course I have the extra dilemma every day of wondering whether he should still be wearing it or not. If it’s just cold and not wet then he doesn’t really need it but can I guarantee no rain? Thankfully, as it is just a thin rug the risk of over rugging is pretty slim at the moment and he has certainly shown no signs of being too hot. It’s a bit of a different experience for him though – he didn’t roll in the field for two days, although he was quite happy to lie down in the stable!
For a couple of months every winter I can usually only ride twice a week on my days off. It is almost dark when I leave for work and definitely dark when I get home so – as I don’t have floodlights – it is just not possible to ride. Having said that, I did ride Galahad in the very, very dim the other day. It was only around our fields and not on the road but was still rather nervewracking!
This year I seem to be more than usually burdened (though they are not really burdens) with odd hours at work and extra rehearsals for Christmas concerts so that even when I have a day off I am still not free to ride in the daytime. I am currently in the middle of what will be almost two weeks off for the ponies – something which can make me feel incredibly guilty, even though there is not really anything I can do about it. It is what comes of having too many hobbies!
I have to remember that the ponies really don’t care if they don’t get ridden. They have a whole field to gallop round and each other to play with so it’s not as if they are cooped up and getting bored. In fact, it is quite possible that they prefer being left alone!
It does sometimes seem as if I have all the hard work and none of the fun at the moment – the ponies still need mucking out and feeding even when they are not being ridden. However, I do really enjoy all of that too – just spending time with them is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to ride instead. Besides, I will get to ride soon!
As I mentioned last week, the ponies have been spending a few days away. On Sunday I was meant to be taking my dog to an agility competition but it was cancelled due to the snow. Of course I was disappointed but I took the chance to go out on a longer hack with some people from the yard.
Although the roads were mostly clear of snow there were still some nasty icy patches so we spent a lot of time playing follow my leader to ensure we all stayed on the safe path. It was rather an exciting adventure really!
We had two lovely long canter tracks to enjoy – which Galahad did very much! One of them was a little stony so he kept wanting to duck onto the verge to save his feet but otherwise he was bounding along.
In fact, I was very much impressed with him. Normally on longer rides he can start to fall behind the bigger horses and we do a lot of jogging to keep up. This time though he was full of beans the whole way round and kept up beautifully.
He did get very warm though and needed a wash down afterwards. We borrowed a lilac headcollar which although slightly big I thought was rather fetching.
We had a fabulous ride and finished it off with tea and cake. What could be better?
We have been having a proper wintry week. The snow started for us on Tuesday, we had some heavy snow showers on Wednesday and a proper snowstorm on Thursday night. Everything is very icy as well but I was pretty disappointed that the snow at home was mostly very wet and didn’t always settle properly.
However, I have been out and about this week as the ponies went away to my instructor’s yard for a few days. The yard is high enough above us for the snow to have settled much more than it did at home. In fact, I was worried they would be snowed in and the ponies wouldn’t be able to go at all.
Luckily, the roads weren’t that bad and the ponies were duly collected on Wednesday. I have had a fantastic few days playing in the snow. Thursday was the best day though – a heavy snowfall was forecast for the afternoon so I decided to ride nice and early. Driving over to the yard the roads were pretty clear so I fully intended to take Galahad out for a hack. First though, I had to school Cookster.
The school was excitingly snowy when we started and before long a few flakes of snow were falling, just to add interest. Those few flakes increased and suddenly we were in a proper snowstorm. It was really rather lovely.
I’m not sure how much Cookster appreciated it but I certainly did – everything was so beautiful! Even better, my riding skirt was getting a proper use too.
Of course, I couldn’t very well take Galahad out on the roads in weather like that so we stuck to the school too, although – annoyingly – the snow had stopped by the time I got on him. Not that the roads would have been safe anyway!
I know the snow causes all sorts of problems but I can’t help enjoying it!
Galahad and I made full use of the whole twelve days of Christmas – we have been wearing our Christmassy outfits all week.
On New Year’s Day we went for a hack with my sister and Cookster, then came back to wassail the apple trees. This is something we do every year, although the ponies don’t often get to join in. They definitely appreciated the apples!
Yesterday was our last Christmassy ride and we had a lovely time, pootling along the lanes which were, for the most part, nice and quiet.
We had a couple of stops along the way – we met some new friends.
We admired the view and we even spotted a few signs of spring.
It was a perfect day – sunny but with a chill in the air. Wonderful.
Just when we thought that spring was on its way, this happened.
This winter storm has been dubbed the ‘mini beast from the East’ which, as my sister says, rather suggests a woodlouse with a snow machine.
We drove home last night through a proper snow storm but about two miles from home the snow suddenly just stopped and we thought we would get none at all. It did eventually start snowing though and by this morning everything was white.
I always find the snow fascinating for watching wildlife – the tracks are great – and this morning I spent quite some time watching the pair of thrushes that arrived here recently. I am very much hoping that they will nest and we will have a little brood of them.
We also had a proper snowball fight for the first time in ages – the snow last time was not great for snowballs. We even built a little snowman!
We did managed to go for a very short ride. Galahad was a little chilly to start with and it didn’t really feel safe to go too far but it was wonderful to get to use my riding skirt in earnest!
By that time a lot of the snow had melted but as we came back in it was snowing again and pretty soon all the green was hidden once more. It is still snowing now, although not as much as it was, and I will soon be curled up by the fire with a book and a cup of tea. It is a pretty good day.
By Sunday it was safe enough to ride again so Galahad and I set off up the hill. I love the snow but it did feel good to be riding.
Not that all the snow was gone – it wasn’t quite clear in the valley and we didn’t have to go far up the hill to find more.
It is all gone now and what with the heavy frosts and a few sunny, dry days, the ground was beginning to dry out and show signs of recovering from our very wet winter.
For the last couple of days though it has poured with rain and the mud is just as bad as it ever was. It does make life interesting – we usually use the stream to soak the ponies’ overnight haynets and with it flowing as strongly as it is at the moment that takes quite a bit of strength!
Even before the snow came last week we were living in a beautiful, frozen landscape. The mud had frozen hard, which make walking much easier, and even the stream froze – in some places all the way across.
It wasn’t quite strong enough to bear my weight but the dog had no problems at all. I’m not even sure she realised it wasn’t normal ground.
The water tank in the yard was very well frozen and that was enough to bear my weight. In fact, it was a bit of a problem because although we could break the ice it just kept freezing throughout the day. Once the snow came the ponies were eating a lot more hay which meant they needed more water too. We had to increase the number of water buckets inside the stables – they still froze but with only a very thin layer of ice – and we periodically topped them up with warm water as well. The ponies loved that!
We also stopped soaking the overnight haynets for a while too. They just froze solid and made eating very difficult indeed for the ponies!
Despite the problems though, everything was simply beautiful and I miss the frost now the rain has come back and we are once again sloshing through the mud.