I have written an alphabet of horses before; however, the alphabet of horses is something that I think can be modified many times over to encompass the different seasons or different aspects of horse ownership. Today, we'll cover the horsey alphabet "winter style."
I think you will find some humor as well as useful advice among the letters
A is for always wear layers. Lots of them...Like more than you ever imagine you could possibly need. No matter where you live, it always seems colder at the barn. The day you think, "Oh it's not that bad," is the day the 40 mph wind gusts come blowing through and the temperature drops 15 degrees in ten minutes.
B is for buckles suck in the winter. You will learn to hate the buckles on your horse's bridle, halter, and any other buckles that you might encounter when interacting with your horse. Why you might ask? Because you will have to take off your gloves in order to buckle and unbuckle. So basically, just when your fingers are finally getting warm, you will have to take your gloves off and then they will be frozen again. Buckles are the devil in the winter.
C is for cancellation. If you don't have an indoor, your lessons may be canceled due to inclement weather or frozen ground conditions. If you have an indoor, your lesson might be canceled because the road conditions to get to the farm aren't good enough. Your friends might cancel the trail riding plans that you had because it is just too cold to be any fun. Be prepared for cancellations for any number of reasons when it comes to your horsey life in the winter time.
D is for daily ice breaking. Even in this modern age of heaters for our water troughs and water buckets, there always seems to be somewhere on the farm with ice breaking. Maybe the horses think it's fun to pull the floating heaters out of the troughs. Maybe you have a cribber in your barn who breaks his buckets and doesn't get the luxury of a heated one. You can bet there will be daily ice breaking somewhere or somehow. Just accept it and be prepared for it.
E is for the horses eating just as much, even though they are not working and earning their keep as they attempt to do for the rest of the year. They are still going to eat, eat, eat all winter. Hay bales, hay rounds, grain, treats, and expensive supplements. The temperatures go down, and so does the barn traffic. Unfortunately, a horse's appetite doesn't. Some of them even need more food in the winter, and they expect us to pay for it even though they are making us no money!
Farrier day is the worst in the winter. I don't care if you love your farrier ad if he or she is your best friend and you look forward to their regular visits to the barn. Nothing is worse than standing still, trying to stay warm holding horses for the farrier in the winter time. It doesn't matter how many layers you are wearing or how prepared you think you are with hot coffee and hand warmers. Farrier day in the winter is miserable in my humble opinion.
F is also for fly south for the winter, which many of us wish we could do! :)
G is for grass. Well, I should say lack thereof. If you normally are able to cut cost over the summer months letting your horse graze on healthy pastures, you probably have no such luck in the winter. The grass will die and you'll have to start feeding your horse's more hay to make up the difference. Say goodbye to grass, and grazing, and all those extra green dollar bills in your wallet because you will spend them on.....
Hay! Yep, if there is not enough pasture, you will spend a ton of money on hay over the winter. Your horses need forage, so you will either be buying baled hay or round bales. You will go through a lot of hay in the winter. It is also harder to find in the winter, which makes it more expensive. If you are smart, you stocked up on hay over the summer so you will have it during the winter when you need it most.
I is for ice. Ice on water buckets, ice on water troughs, ice everywhere. Ice you have to scrape off your car window to drive to the barn. Ice that you slip on in the paddocks. Ice that you have to chisel out of your horse's feet if he has shoes on. In the winter, there will be ice, and ice and horses don't go together very well, but they always seem to go hand and hand in the winter time, much to our dismay.
Jumping, you might as well forget if you don't have an indoor and you live in a cold climate. Between frozen ground, snow and then periods of boggy mud when it all melts, unless you have an indoor, you won't be doing much jumping. Pack the jumps up for the winter so they don't get weathered and prepare for flatwork.
K is for keep on working. Whether you are a professional in the horse business that has to continue barn work all winter or a horse owner who has to keep going to a 9-5 job to pay for their horses' expenses, we have to keep working in the winter, even when the horses are not. Ungrateful beasts!
L is for less time to ride. Or I should say less good times to ride. It gets dark so early in the winter time, so if you have school or work all day, you will have a lot less good riding time. If you want to ride in the daylight hours, that just leaves the weekends. Otherwise, you will be riding in the cold dark evenings under the arena lights (that is when the temperature at that time of day is bearable to be outside).
Money, obviously in every horse alphabet the M is for money. Money for feed, hay, grain, board, farrier, dental, lessons, tack, expensive treats...the list goes on and on. There is an infinite number of ways to spend infinite amounts of money on horses all year round, even in the winter!
N is for not as fun. Nothing is as fun with horses in the freezing cold. Trying to ride under a zillion layers of clothes is not as fun. Holding on for dear life as your horse spooks from the cold wind is not fun at all. The list goes on and on. Those of us diehards will stick it out though to enjoy them the rest of the year.
O is for only asking for horsey stuff for Christmas. Though the ground may be frozen and we can't ride, our Christmas list will be fully horse themed. From riding clothes and tack to home decor, we only want horse stuff.
P is for purple, which is the color your fingers and toes will turn when they get cold to the point of no return. Despite all the gloves, socks, and insulated boots, there will be days when you feel like you are so cold you must look purple. Purple is also appropriate for the bruises that you will get when you fall off of your horse on the frozen hard ground. If you haven't had the joy of experiencing that yet, it hurts way worse.
Q if for going quite a long time without riding if you don't have an indoor. Or it could be for being quite nervous about getting on your horse in the cold wind. Or it could be for being quite afraid your lesson program might end over the winter when you run out of money to feed your horses when they aren't working. Or it could be for quite grateful that you board your horse at a full care facility that you trust, so you don't have to go out in the cold if you don't want to!
R is for really cold. As mentioned before, it is always a lot colder at the barn. R is for ready for spring. Most of us horse people are already thinking spring when Halloween hits, so we are are more than ready for winter to get the heck out of here as soon as possible. It could even not come at all really! R is also for really stupid and spooky, because in the winter, it seems like even the quietest, most easy-going horses act really stupid when it's cold and windy.
Snow. It is a curse word to me. I hate it. Please don't say the "S" word in my presence. It is an unfortunate part of winter on the farm. I think it is a disgusting white pain in the butt and I dread the thought of it. No snowmen or snowball fights for me – there is nothing fun about snow. Ya'all that want to go for scenic rides in the snow, have fun! I'll be inside not freezing my butt off.
T is for terrible footing. The outdoor riding ring will go from an ice skating rink to mud bog and back again over and over all winter long. The paddock where your horse turns out will do the same thing. You will either trip and twist your ankles in frozen ruts or get your boots sucked off your feet in the mud. God forbid, there is snow on the ground and you get snow in your boots. T is for terrible footing all over the farm!
U is for underdressed. It doesn't matter how many layers you have on, you will always feel like you are underdressed. If you think you have enough layers on, add two or three more to your body. Then pack some extra in the car just in case. Make sure you have extra gloves too in case yours get wet! Maybe even extra socks. You never know what might happen. One thing I do know is that you will pretty much always feel underdressed and like you underestimated the cold.
V is for vaseline. If your horse wears shoes over the winter, they might get packed with snowballs and make it hard for your horse to walk. Use vaseline on their feet before you turn them out so that the snow won't stick in their shoes as badly.
Wind, W is for wind. I'm not talking pleasant summer breezes, I'm talking cold artic, take-your-breath-away wind. An acceptable winter day can quickly become unacceptable when the wind starts blowing. Also, we hate wind because it spooks our horses. Stupid winter, stupid wind.
X is for the extra everything you need in the winter. Extra warm clothes for yourself, extra warm blankets for your horse. The extra nerve to get on your horse in the cold wind, the extra money to pay to ride your horse in an indoor. The extra supplements they might need when their old joints don't respond well to the cold. X is for all the annoying extras that the horses require in the winter. It is also for the big X I would like to put on all the winter months on my calendar. I wish I could X them off. Then hibernate until spring and come out to sunny, green grass and 70 degrees. That would be extra awesome!
Y is for the many times you will ask yourself why you are doing this in the winter anyway? Why did this seem like a good idea? Why don't I pick an easier sport? Why don't I own a vacation home in Florida? Why does winter have to come anyway? Why do we need it? Just why?
Z is for zebra, of course. Every horse alphabet ends with zebra, especially the winter one. Why the winter one you might ask? Well duh, all horse people have an adorable little baby zebra on their Christmas list!
So that is my tribute to horses in the winter. Here's to hoping the Farmers Almanac is wrong and we have a mild one!