winter at the ranch
It's a new experience for me to work outside during the winter. I realized that after living here for 23 years I haven't really felt winter the way I have this season. Instead of spending just 15 minutes at a time outside with my dogs and then running in the house to sit in front of the woodstove, I'm now spending hours at a time outside and running into the feed room to warm up. :-) I'd have to say that so far it's been okay. I had the foresight to get a good Carhart jacket with a hood and a really good pair of winter muck boots. Those two things, combined with down-filled gloves my mom bought me and a cowl she knitted (thanks Mom!), have made all the difference.
With the cold, snow and ice (ugh!) most of our time is now spent just making sure the horses and donkeys are warm enough, have water that isn't frozen and get enough to eat. Blankets have to be assessed daily for those who are wearing them to make sure the horses are not too cold or too hot. I've gotten into the habit of keeping horse treats in my pocket as I go around looking at water troughs, and I give the horses a treat while I slip a hand under their blankets to check their temperature. The older and more fragile horses and donkeys get moved into the barn at night, and it's a hoot to watch them sprint for the barn when the time comes. :-)
Water troughs have to be kept filled, of course, and checked daily to make sure the tank heaters are doing their job. It's a bit of a challenge to hook up the hose and fill the troughs in freezing weather, but we've been using an expandable hose that is lightweight to carry around, and we keep it in the warm tack room so it doesn't freeze and is always usable. It's practical things like this that I've never had to deal with in the winter before.
And let me just say a word about mucking in the winter...yuck! Our muckers have been having a challenging time dealing with frozen poo and have been working hard. As soon as we have a bit of a thaw it will be all hands on deck to catch up on the mucking.
There's something about being outside in the winter weather that appeals to me, even when it's difficult. My body has adjusted to the cold in a way it never has in past winters, and even with all the challenges I'm still having a great time being around the horses and taking care of them.
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Laura Weise is a Wings volunteer who lives in Stevensville and will be bringing you stories of life at the barn.