It was up to zero when we went out to feed this morning.
The snow from last night dusted the ground in a dry fluffy powder. So cold when it fell that there was no moisture to it. Cheeks immediately prickled with the cold as glasses fogged and noses froze.
The horses have heated waterers, as do most of the cattle. The tanks in the farthest pens are froze though. The ones too far out to justify having electricity run to them. I walked through the snow to reach them. Ice covered them, an inch thick at least. By the time I got there I was warmed. Steam puffed as I breathed fast, nearly panting pounding the ice. After breaking ice I was hot.
Coat unzipped I walked back towards the house. My job done.
It’s too cold for school apparently and with the late start my husband was out driving the feed truck. The children were waiting at home, hiding inside, in the warmth. I had wanted to feel the cold, get my blood flowing, keep from getting lazy and spoiled, so here I was despite offers to do the job for me.
And it felt good.
Stopping to pet the horses I thought about how important it is for people to have a job. Work to keep them busy, satisfied. Without work what are we? Even animals will choose to work for food instead of accepting it for free.
The horses were covered in a blanket of snow, each of them toasty warm in their winter coats. They may prefer to work for their food but they are happy to beg scratches for free.
As my hands grew tired and cold from being buried in their snow covered fur I said my good byes and turned for home. There was more work waiting for me. No need to seek any other satisfaction, I had plenty at home.
At eight The Goblin Child is old enough to participate in the horse activities in 4H. Of course I want her to. Not sure if she’s as excited as I am. She is willing though.
One thing that really bugs me about it though is that part of their curriculum teaches that you should ALWAYS approach, lead, mount from the left side. I wish that at the very least they could say for showing purposes you have to do these things from the left. At most if the importance of being able to do all these things from both sides could be mentioned it would be great.
That isn’t the point though, although it does factor in here.
The benefits of the program far out weight the little faults I like to pick at.
She has been working hard to get the horses haltered by herself. She is already very comfortable with leading and handling from the ground. I was getting something else done after she had haltered Lady and told them, both children, to go see if they could lead Lady through the hoop.
There was no ‘see’ about it. By the time I caught up with them they had already made laps through it. Through the hoop they had thrown their coats over to add to the difficulty.
I think they’re almost ready for this part of the test at least. Except for the little thing about leading from the right instead of the left. Such a silly little thing. Inconsequential but so important. Surely she can lead from the left for that one little thing.
Many man years ago, quite a bit more than twenty, I bought my all time favorite set of reins. Soft woven cloth roping style reins, they came with clips on the ends. The kind everyone mocks for their lack of coolness. They sure came in handy though, for unhooking a rein to use as a lead rope, to switch between bridles, to, gasp, unhook so I could use them to tie my horse.
I rope with those reins constantly. They were probably about ten years old by the time I was riding with them doing ranch work.
I still loved them. They felt good in my hands. Even if the clips were showing a bit of wear and tear. They were getting weak and loose.
I was also still riding my hot little bay Morgan that was about the same age but not showing any wear and tear. He was just as energetic as he had always been.
We were bringing cows out of the canyon pasture. Its name derived from the big deep draws that filled most of it. Two of them that came down and met in a Y shape at the gate down in the bottom. These draws were lined with smaller draws feeding into the bottom. There were springs all throughout leaving water holes in some places, bogs in others. The sides were steep, riddled with banks, brush, and holes.
Cows had an easy time disappearing up the finger draws in thickets of chokecherry bushes.
The rest of the herd must have already come down and through the gate. They were a wild bunch, to suit the pastures they grazed. A few were probably trying to stay where they were instead of moving on to the fresh pasture. Somehow I came to be galloping down the hill along the draw trying to cut off a cow who wanted to go back up. Nate, my hot little bay Morgan was up to the job. With legs of iron and endless stamina he could go all day. Barefoot even on the sharp rocks he was like a mountain goat in those hills.
We thundered down one side hurrying to cut off the cow. I was always scared of heights so I probably wasn’t as enthusiastic as him in the chase. The cow went through the bottom of the draw and up the other side. We were running along one of the finger draws. It went straight down right next to us. Using it as a fence we turned her and she took off back down to the bottom of the draw. She probably went out the gate with the other cows. I have no idea actually.
Because we didn’t stop.
Nate was going full out by the time we caught her. He wasn’t going to let a little thing like having finished the job stop him.
I pulled back on the reins. Nothing happened.
I yanked back on the reins. The aged weakened clasps that attached my reins to my bridle gave out. They flew back past my head, nearly grazing my ears. I was still holding my reins in my hands but they weren’t attached to anything.
We were still galloping headlong up the side of the draw. A steep bank on one side. Fortunately nothing but a grassy incline directly under us. For the time being.
I leaned forward in my saddle, reached down the length of his nec and grabbed the side of the headstall.Then hauled his head around pulling him to a stop.
We spun circles for awhile until he conceded and halted for a moment. I reattached the clips and we took off back down the draw to catch up with the herd.
No, I did not replace the clasps as soon as I was able. Instead I took great joy in knowing they could fail any moment. They were my special safety break away reins. I figured that as long as they stayed attached I knew I wasn’t pulling to hard on the reins. The safety break away was for the horse not me. Especially if I was using them to tie with. Those clips stayed on my reins for a very long time. I don’t remember why they did finally get replaced. It wasn’t because they were a safety hazard. They were, but it wasn’t why they got replaced. It could have been that they got broke. Or it could be that they reached a point where they wouldn’t stay on at all any more.
I always have enjoyed the walk on the wild side brought on by improper tack, whether it’s gambling on my reins staying attached or a snaffle without browband or throatlatch. That doesn’t mean it’s a safe or smart thing to do. Just adds that bit of excitement to my life. Like riding Nate did.
Nate is long gone and well missed. The reins are still hanging with my bridle, still as comfortable in my hand as they were then. The clips are newer.
“I hear the children making noise” my husband with better hearing than me said.
I held perfectly still straining to hear what he was hearing.
Then immediately, “Hello 8, what are you doing?” I still hadn’t heard anything. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. Twisting about to look for the small child I finally saw him standing perfectly still in the door.
“8? What are you doing? Come here” I called. He walked slowly to me and stood by the bed trembling, I thought, in the dark. Reaching for him I pulled him close. “Are you ok 8? Did you have a bad dream?” He still stood, unmoving.
I hugged him, holding him there, because that’s what moms do.
“Lets go back to bed 8” Said his father, beause that’s what dads do.
8 turned away and silently followed his father back to his bed where he got tucked in and sent back to sleep.
This morning we asked if he had had any dreams. No, of course not. Did he remember anything at all from last night? No, nothing. Why?
And that is when we decided he’s moving back to the bottom bunk. Sleep walking is one thing. Sleep climbing down the ladder from way up high is something else entirely.
We were out for a ride. Well, the kids were. I was out for a walk.
8 was being lead on Lady. He likes to zip and enjoys her speedy walk. The Goblin Child was on Rusty. He’s big and goes so slow with her. She’s far more comfortable without zipping.
The Goblin Child always wants me to keep them on a lead line. She doesn’t want to hold the reins. I keep making her. Rusty stays right with us anyway. We work so much at liberty it’s unlikely he is going to do anything but walk with me anyway.
I lead Lady through a space between the stacks of hay. It makes rides more interesting, we can pretend to be following narrow tree lined paths. Rusty was plodding slowly behind. We, Lady,8, and I, turned between a different stack. Rusty was out of sight. Being the loving mother that I am, we quickly hid behind the stack. What is the point of having children if you can’t torture them a little?
We waited and waited but they never came.
I was getting worried. A small amount of torture is one thing. What if something had happened to them though!
We went in search. There she was behind a different stack of hay! She had the exact same idea and had hid to scare us!
I was so proud. Not only had she been willing to do the steering herself she had steered a completely different direction form us.
We did tapping in the Academy a couple of months ago. I found a great video about tapping to help with their eyes. If they were dripping because of allergies or clogged ducts or whatever reason. I was going to send you the link but it’s gone!
So here is my version.
You tap, gently, around the front of the eye. When they are dripping because of problems it will make a noise when they blink. It’s very noticeable. You keep tapping until the clicking goes away. There were probably other ways to tell when it’s time to stop too but I can’t remember them! I had planned on watching the video again. Stupid people taking it down.
It’s been warm these last couple of days of vacation. The snow isn’t melting but it’s the perfect temp to play in. And finally wet enough to build a snow man! The kids did it all themselves except for lifting the middle part up. I like the nose they made him.
It came as a complete surprise. The forecast had said maybe, a small chance of snow. We’ve gotten so used to not getting anything that perhaps they said more and we didn’t hear it because our expectations were otherwise. Whatever the reason we had not expected snow.
A small blizzard was even more of a surprise.
Had we known it was coming we would have brought the cows into the corrals. Fed them where there was shelter and feed. Instead they were out in the corn field. A great place in the weather we had been having. Lots of corn stalks to graze on while they search out the ears left behind.
Not a drop of shelter though and the wind is howling down with this snow. Driving it into drifts, coating everything in its path with a blanket of white.
Looking out into the powdery white my husband sighed deeply. This would mean lots of time digging out the feed bunks and the cattle would have to be found. Cattle drift with the storm, as any one who is a fan of old westerns can tell you. They don’t exaggerate the force of a herd with heads down walking blindly with the wind until stopped by fence line or, as in my favorite by Louis L’amour, a cliff. They could have drifted down to the corrals. That was the best case scenario. The storm isn’t all that bad. We could see the hay out inn the stack yard still. The wind was whistling through the trees letting us know how much worse it was blowing away from the shelter of the windbreak. They knew the way though. It was a good possibility really.
Or they could be gone. Off across the neighbors fields. Mixing with their cows. Hopefully not making it as far as the highway. We have a neighbor who lives on the highway and they got a whole herd of cows and one horse in their yard and barns during a blizzard. The horse determinedly herded the cows and held them in the barn until someone came to find them.
As my husband headed out to start digging out the cattle, I went the other way to check on my horses. They have a run in shed that they refuse to use except on sunny summer days and plenty of feed and shelter. I hate fr them to get cold or wet though. I wanted to see how they felt about it and offer the option of the shed to dry off in. Checking onn Ghost, Poppy, Baa, and Violet where they have their own little pen with sheds for all I closed gates and rearranged things so the horses could get to the barn.
Then I walked to the edge of their pen and called.
In the distance I could see where they were standing happily eating hay. They had heard me and responded with heads thrown in the air and ears prick towards me. They came, ready to go in the barn.
As they came through the falling snow to where I could see more than an outline of them, I was confused. Where were MY horses? These horses were a completely different color! We didn’t have any white horses!
Even as powdery as the snow was it had coated them head to toe. All fur was white, their manes all that retained any color. The beautifully colored snow horses pranced through knee deep drifts, nipping at each other and determind in their goal. Together we turned and walked into the barn.
Wading back to the house for a curry comb to scrape the snow from their hides I paused, wondering how the men were fairing. In the distance I spotted the dark outline of a payloader, then of two. They were digging snow, clearing a path to feed. Happy to know they were out there I carried on.
Horses scraped free of their snow blankets I followed my tracks back into the snow with a pitchfork to dig up some hay. Had I known it was going to snow I would have had this ready and waiting for them! It is more pleasant when all things are dry and not buried. With a handful of pitchfork my phone rang. Rushing to dump it through the open barn door I leaned against the barn to shelter my phone from the moisture and managed to answer before it stopped ringing. My husband was calling to check on us as he worked.
Yes, we were fine. Or I was. I couldn’t vouch for the children in the house. They had computers though, great baby sitters for times like these. How were the cows? They had drifted into the corrals! They were going to feed them in n the corrals. The corral I had turned the horses out into because we weren’t using it for cows! Uh oh. I needed to shut some gates!
Pitching a few more fork fulls to the horses I started my walk. Lots of corrals with lots of gates makes a nice little track for the horses to wander through. They also make a long walk through deep drifts to close. The first gate was buried in drifts. I pushed and pulled and could barely move it. Not such a bad thing. I could close other gates and this would give the cows a bit more room. But I had to try one more time first. Walking the drift down, kicking snow out of the way the best I could I go the gate farther shut. Repeating the process over and over I managed to get the gate closed.
Out of breath, lungs burning from panting inn the cold wet air I finished the loop closing the other gate then back into the wind towards the buildings. My torso was hot, sweating under coats, and gloves, and scarf. My legs were frozen solid with only the thin covering of my jeans. You would think the two would even each other out. Combine to leave you comfortably warm, instead of dying of heat and freezing to death at the same time.
A the buildings I paused. Halfway between house and barn I had to decide. Did the horses need more hay or did I need to sit down a moment, catch my breath and alternately warm up and cool down? They had been eating when I called them. They could survive for an hour or so on what I had given them already. I gave in to temptation and went inside. To write this. Now I should go check on them. Probably let them back out. A glimpse of blue is showing through the clouds now and then. The blizzard is gone. Hardly enough moisture in the dry powdery snow to make it worth the trouble it made. At least it will settle the dust for awhile. And I will turn the horses back out now that they’ve had time to dry.