Winter Whoas

We knew it would come. It always does. Winter weather of the prairie variety. Technically, it’s been winter since November in our part of the world, we even had some wintry weather in early October, but we didn’t have any serious winter conditions until a week ago. Last Friday it blew in and hasn’t left us.

We horses are generally very good at adapting to changing conditions and weathering cold temperatures, but this year I think we got a bit complacent, maybe even forgot just what Old Man Winter can be like when he turns on us. We went from weeks of mostly above freezing daytime temperatures and reasonable overnights to the minus 20s, 30s, and even into the 40s with the wind chill. The wind has come from a variety of directions but all of them nasty COLD.

Winter weather moving in.

The biggest concern around here when we get a big weather change is Nevada. He’s just not as tough as he used to be. Years ago, he was the guy who’d head out to graze in the worst of conditions. We’d watch him walk out into the storm, thinking he was crazy or incredibly brave, or both, and we’d inevitably feel compelled to leave our cozy shelter and follow our fearless leader.

At 28, Nevada’s much more sensitive to changes in weather and feed. T was three days into adding something new to his diet when the weather turned cold and snowy. She and Nollind had fed him and headed out for a dog walk when I started to see the signs of a bellyache—stretching out like he needed to pee, pawing at the ground, restlessness, and no interest in his hay cubes.

Nevada enjoying his daily private lunch.

I watched to the south where I’d seen the peeps and Chico disappear over the hill. “Come back! We need you!” Thirty minutes later, they reappeared half a mile from home, making their way at that excruciatingly slow pace that humans travel. “Hurry!” I wanted to shout.

T noticed the symptoms right away and they came to the old guy’s aid. Light walking, TTouch belly lifts, resting him out of the north wind that was now blowing with bitterness. Nothing was working. After an hour and a half, the symptoms were getting worse. Time to call the vet.

Looking south into the snow.

I’ve never been treated for colic and had the “up your nose with a rubber hose” experience, but from what I’ve been told, it is not at all pleasant. As soon as the vet rolled in Nevada attempted to perk up, trying to convince everyone he was just fine. He even passed some manure. But, based on his heart rate and some dehydration, he got the hose treatment anyway, for fluids and electrolytes, along with a shot of painkiller.

When the sedative wore off, he was right as rain, but grumpy about being cooped up in the barn. I was in there too, to keep him company, but I had hay and he had none. As the herd boss, he’s not accustomed to watching another horse eat.

Outdoors is (almost) always better for this guy.

Nevada’s not a big fan of staying indoors, and moving around is good for digestion so, with his heavy winter blanket strapped in place, we were turned out into the weather. Hay nets hanging in the shelter, fresh straw, some loose hay in the big brown feeder and we were set for the night. I think T would spoil us anyway but, when Nevada is under the weather, we all benefit. She and Nollind were back to check on him twice that night, bringing treats for all and a top-up on the hay. When the weather gets mean, it’s a bit like having room service.

Gidget enjoying room service.

By Saturday morning we were down into the -20C range (-4F), the wind had increased and it was feeling very cold. I probably didn’t need one, and she knows it, but T put a blanket on me anyway. I got a new one this year and, I admit, it does feel better than the old hand-me-down that never quite fit me right.

I love the name on my new blanket. Suits me, don’t you think?

A blanket always feels great at first, cuts right down on the wind-chill factor, but then the itch sets in, especially up around the neck and shoulders. Drives me mad! So, I roll, I rub on things, and I mooch scratches from the humans when they’re out each day. It’ll be off as soon as it warms up some and, now that we’ve had our first blast of real winter, I’m optimistic they’ll let me run clothing-free for the next cold snap. Until then, I’ll just accept the blanket for what it is … a gesture of love and caring from T.

After a roll in the snow to remove the blanket … Drat! Still there.
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Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

I’m back! It’s been many months, long winter months, since I last posted on the dog blog but they’ve finally given me a chance to have another go. They’re such proprietary little guys, something about people signing up for a dog blog not a horse blog, what if they don’t want to hear from a horse, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn’t want to hear from a horse? Go ahead, raise your hands. Just what I thought. Everyone loves horses. Case closed.

So, back to that long winter. OMG! What was that? The longest, coldest, snowiest winter in forever is what I say, although, according to the meteorologist types, only the amount of snow was one for the record books. And my, was there snow. My three herd-mates and I hardly left the paddock after December. It was just too much work and for what? Not like we were going to dig through that mess and find anything to eat.

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Me the day the snowbirds arrived home. Does my expression say, “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what’s been happening here?”

 

And where were Chico and Logan and our caretaking humans for this epic winter? I know you know. In Arizona! The land of no four-foot snow drifts, no freakishly cold wind chills, no need for winter blankets, and no me! But, seriously, just like I told you last fall, I’m not much of a traveller, so I wouldn’t want to be hauled all the way down there. I’d just feel better if the peeps and pooches were here to suffer through the winter with us. Selfish? Perhaps. But then I’m a horse and we’re kind of all about what’s most comfortable, safest, easiest, and generally best for us.

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Getting my funky (or is that fungi) hooves doctored after a long winter of wet feet.

 

Winter is finally over here in southern Alberta, and the green grass is starting to grow. Spring is a miraculous time for a Canadian horse. Not only do we have fresh food after months of eating desiccated grass, but there are no bugs! It’s like two or three weeks of bliss when it’s warm enough during the day to grow grass but still cold enough at night to keep the bugs from coming out or hatching or whatever it is they do before they set to harassing horses.

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Those first bites of green grass are like the best kind of candy.

 

If I had to choose between the cold, snowy season and bug season I think I’d have to go with cold and snow. Just imagine yourself standing in a field full of flies and mosquitoes covered in a scent they find very appealing with your hands tied behind your back. Your only defences are to run, stomp, roll on the ground, or shake your head. Welcome to summer in the life of a horse. The only other defence we horses have over humans are tails, but I’d take human hands any day of the week. We can swish the little tormenters off, but you can kill them or apply bug spray.

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Blissful spring day.

 

Spring is also the time when I have to get back to work after a winter off and it gets tougher every year. I thought I’d kept in reasonable shape over the winter but this year I’m sixteen and it does seem to make a difference. The consolation is that I think T’s hurting too. I can tell by the way she walks when she gets off. Snicker.

Well, I should wrap this up. The boss hounds said to keep it under six hundred words or they’ll edit me and I don’t want them to cut out my best stuff. I still didn’t get to telling you about my accountant tendencies so I guess that’ll have to wait until next time. Until then … here’s mud in your eye! (More about that horse racing inspired toast when I return.) Oh, oh. Six hundred and eleven, twelve, thirteen. Gotta go.

Soft White Pieces of Frozen Water

Okay, I get it. I hear you. Everyone is tired of that four-letter word that starts with “s”. So, this week, I won’t share any of my thoughts about how great “it” is for the grass and the trees. I’ll keep my glass half full stuff to myself. It’s become a sensitive topic for Albertans who are enduring a seventh month of winter weather. I understand and I’ll say no more. Done. Zipped.

I will, however, share a few photos before all this marvellous whiteness (oops, sorry) disappears.

04-Chico-Snow-cottonwoods04-Chico-Snow-twodogs04-Chico-Snow-wetlands04-Chico-Snow-logan04-Chico-Snow-drifts04-Chico-Snow-cottonwoods204-Chico-Snow-skiday04-Chico-Snow-happydogHopefully, by the time I post in two weeks, it’ll be spring and I can tell you about all the wonderful mud out here on the farm! Or is that a sensitive topic too?