The Cold That Snapped

Why do they call it a cold snap? It’s very misleading. Firstly, a snap sounds quick, like it’ll be over in a split second, not days or weeks. It should be called a cold long and onerous. Secondly, a snap implies inconsequential, no biggee, not weather that can freeze your parts or even kill you. Dramatic maybe, but true. When it’s -30 and the wind comes up, shit be freezing. It’s why we horses who live in this climate need to have shelter from the wind. We’re very resilient when it comes to weather but, left exposed in extreme conditions, horses have lost ears (and ended up looking like the two cranky mares in the photo below 😂).

Tempers can get a little short when the weather is cold.

It got cold last weekend. We felt the change coming, and had it confirmed when T put Nevada’s blanket on him while he was getting his afternoon feed. I was hoping she’d stop there, because it would mean it was going to be cold but not holy-crap cold. At twenty-nine, he’s not as muscled or fleshy as he used to be and he chills more easily than the rest of us. Judy came for a visit and Gidget’s blanket went on. But she’s in her twenties too, so, still no need to panic.

Judy and Gidget dressed for the weather.

Then it was Rosa’s turn. Oh-oh. There was going to be wind chill. But I hadn’t lost hope. Although Rosa’s pretty tough for a girl, she doesn’t grow a lot of hair for a Canadian-born horse, and she appreciates the extra insulation when the wind comes up.

When I saw my blanket come out of the barn, I knew we were in for a doozy. Thing is, at this time of year, when I have my full winter hair coat, I really don’t need clothing for any weather. As long as I can get out of the wind, I’m good. If it snows on me, I just have more insulation that I can remove with a roll if I choose. I have rolled so many times this week but this stupid blanket will just not come off.

Coated up and ready.

The rolling itself hasn’t removed the blanket but I think my rolling around like I’m on fire has convinced T that I don’t need extra clothing in the depths of winter. At least I hope it has. If only I could talk! No, thank you, I appreciate the thought, but I really hate wearing those things. If it comes down to it, I’d rather be cold. And I won’t be. I’m part Yeti.

The barn cats don’t need coats, they have “Meowi.”

She never used to put blankets on any of us unless there was a spring or fall storm, when we’d already shed some of our winter hair or not grown it yet. That out-of-season weather is the toughest, and when even I appreciate a little extra protection. Last year I got a new blanket and when winter weather arrived in October, before I had my full winter coat, I was happy to wear it. Itchy but happy. Things changed when Nevada got old and T started to blanket him more often. I think she felt bad leaving Rosa and I undressed in cold weather while our blankets hung in the barn.

She means well and always puts us first, in any weather.

I guess I’m just a natural kind of guy, a bit like Chico who also hates man-made clothing. He took a branch to the face yesterday while vigorously attempting to remove his coat in a lilac shrub, a branch that drew blood. Gotta give the guy credit for clear communication. I’m guessing he’ll be coat-free (and probably shivering) this afternoon when I see him.

Chico and his dreaded jacket.

Even if my please-don’t-blanket-me message has gotten through to T, she won’t remove it until things warm up a little. The blanket has flattened my coat to a point that it won’t keep me warm until it has some time to refluff. Our winter coats work a little like a down jacket, the insulation is in the warm air that gets trapped inside. So, I’ll suck it up for a few more days, try to appreciate the thought behind it, and pray for warm, coat-removing weather soon. And she did pull it off and give me a full body scratch yesterday that helped.

Feeling happier after my full-body scratch and a chance to clean up Nevada’s leftovers.

On the glass-half-full side, the best way for us to stay warm in this weather is to be given unlimited access to forage, and we’ve been scarfing down a round bale since last Saturday afternoon. I’m ashamed to say it but we’re a messy bunch of eaters. If you went to a restaurant and there was a guy sitting in the middle of the buffet table with his shoes on, stuffing food in his mouth and tossing to the floor all but the best, he’d be expressing his inner horse. T comes every afternoon and tidies up, trying to preserve some of the hay we toss aside that we’ll settle for when the bale is gone.

The pile on the left is our bale four days later.

The forecast says blanket-free weather by Sunday or Monday. Hooves crossed.

Spot Check

It’s been a year since I told you about Nevada’s (aka Spot’s) near-death experience of late last summer. You’ve seen him in the photos, so you’ve probably surmised his still around, but I thought I should give you an update on the old boy’s condition.

In short … he’s awesome, amazing, and very fit for an almost 29-year-old horse. We had more pasture time than usual this summer and, although it resulted in some extra heft on both Rosa and me, it was great for Nevada. He flourished with the combination of fresh food and plenty of exercise. T arranged things so that we had to do a lot of walking, and movement is so important to horse health. Our whole system is designed to walk and eat, walk and eat, repeat ad infinitum.

Our fall pasture at the back of the property. Oh, those idyllic autumn days.

Since last September, Spot had only the one health incident that I told you about in my Winter Whoas blog in February. Although that one got serious enough for the vet to be called, I think it would have passed on its own, and Spot will be more careful about complaining of a belly ache in future. Nobody wants a gratuitous colic tubing for a little gas.

All summer, Spot was relegated to pasture horse with the rest of us, only getting a cup of oats once a week with some probiotic in it, just as a little insurance. But, as the weather has grown colder and the pasture less robust, he has been going in every afternoon for grain and alfalfa cubes and some extra hay. He looks great but T wants to make sure he maintains his weight going into winter.

Enjoying a mostly indoor snack on a wet, wintry day. Chico likes to keep things tidy.

The rest of us don’t need any extra, there’s still no sign of our ribs following the summer of grazing, but T always throws us a little loose hay while Nevada enjoys his buffet. She doesn’t like to play favourites, even when the favourite is as old as Spot. But really, I don’t mind. One day I’ll be the old guy needing special treatment.

Me sporting my ready-for-winter weight and coat.

I’m seeing more of a hitch in Nevada’s backend since the weather turned colder and I know T has noticed it too. I think it’s a combination of old bones not liking the cold and less moving around when there’s snow and ice to navigate. I’m sure T’s started adding supplements to his winter ration and she was measuring him up for a new blanket last week. He’s adequately woolly, but he does feel the cold more than he used to, especially on those high windchill days, and a blanket does help him out in those conditions. If it fit him, I’d be happy to loan him mine, but there’s a rather significant size difference. He’d look like he was wearing his little brother’s jacket.

Snow on the ground means hay in the feeders!

So that’s the good news from the farm. I’d best get back to my pile of hay before one of the girls gobbles it up!

Inside Outside

It’s that time of year again, when one day we’re sweating it out in the sun in our ever-expanding hair coats, and the next we’re hunkered down in the shelter avoiding an icy blast of wind and snow. Such is life lived outdoors. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Even Nevada, who gets cold a little easier than he used to, prefers to be outside.

At 28 years old, Nevada gets a jacket when the weather is unseasonable

The weather has to be downright vicious before any of us vote for being put in the barn. It’s dry in there, and a little warmer than outdoors, but we’re each limited to a 10’x10′ square. I can’t move Rosa or Gidget off the hay net they’re working on if I decide I want it, I can’t roll if I get a little itchy, or go for a trot if I need to stretch my legs. Horses and confinement just don’t go together.

Rosa hanging out in the sun after the September storm

Lucky for us, T’s not inclined to stall us for most weather. We have a great three-sided shelter that’s deep enough to get out of the swirling snow, and she hangs hay nets inside when a storm is coming. It’s a great place to hide out from the weather. We’ve already had two shelter-net-worthy storms this fall and we weathered them both in comfort in our run-in shed.

Ready for the weather. That slope on the front part of the roof really helps keep the snow out

We chuckle when T gets asked by a city-dwelling friend if she puts us all inside at night. Like that would happen. We’d hate it and she’d have an extra couple of hours of chores every day. On top of that, Nevada does this thing called “stocking up” when he’s kept confined and the old boy would have cankles on a daily basis!

Cold front rolling in but we’re not worried

The other thing about being indoors that’s a real drag … no grazing. Even in the worst of the storm a week ago, we headed out to the field for a little pasture time, knowing we had a cozy shed to return to if we got wet or cold. And grazing a snowy pasture is a little like enjoying an upside-down grass sundae. The human style of sundae has ice cream with the flavour on top, the equine style has the tasty stuff on the bottom with the frozen delight on top. We push some of the snow out of the way with a lip (or a hoof if it’s deep) and, voila, grass sundae. Our pasture is almost half a mile from our waterer and when there’s a little bit of moisture in every bite, a guy hardly ever has to make the trip.

Enjoying a grass sundae

This Fur-iday, the sun is shining and things are warming up. It feels great standing here soaking up some rays. I’m all for a long, warm, snow-free autumn season. Most humans are summer lovers but, for horses, the autumn that comes after a hard freeze is awesome. A warm day is like bug-free summer and it doesn’t get better than that.

A perfect day for furry horses