"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dashing Through The Snow

So apparently the DC area doesn't get any snow in the winter.

*Snort* Yeah right.

These photos were taken around 11:00 pm last night while at work; I had to run outside to get my phone charger.

We didn't have any emergencies in the hospital at the moment, which gave me a good 5 minutes to stand outside gawking. It was NIGHT. These photos were taken without a flash. But the glow of the city lights reflected onto the thick cloud cover, which in turn reflected back onto the snow. It was surreal and beautiful. I just stood in the middle of the employee parking lot giggling.

It started snowing again shortly after that. When I got home a little before 3:00 am, the entrance to our apartment building looked like this:

2 days prior, when the forecast was still saying "Yes, there's going to be snow on Friday" (which meant it was a sure thing), Kathy and I had looked at one another in the barn aisle and said, "LET'S RIDE!!"

The plans held. We modified them to include an appointment to finally ride at the indoor arena next door, though, because the forecast had said the wind would be gusting up to 40mph. Yeah...not riding in the woods in that.

We are allowed to use the arena for either $10/ride or $50 unlimited use per month. The owners sometimes use it for lessons, so they do ask that outside riders schedule our rides, but they can be scheduled as little as 24 hours in advance.

Today was COOOLD. But thankfully the wind had died down by the time I arrived at the barn.

So it was really 22 degrees, no wind chill to add to it...haha...

I got Lily from the field and flew my horse kite back up to the barn.

Not Lily. But you get the idea.
I set her free in the arena to let off some steam. She has 5 acres to run on, but nooooo, she prefers to run around in the arena.

Goober brains. She was channeling her inner Arab.
Settling down.
Her eyes were closed in this one. :)

Nice little canter.
Her head was in a good place: I stood quietly in the center of the arena and she chose to gallop in a circle around me instead of using the entire arena. She just had all this ENERGY. She slowed to a trot when she was done, and I called her in.

I tacked her up in full trail regalia. I have a fleece quarter sheet, but I decided to take a note from Karen and use my Back on Track back pad instead.

Kathy and I looked like two Stay Puft Marshmallow Women after we had our vests on underneath our jackets.

We made our way out in the snow. The forecast had said we'd get 2" accumulation.

2" my ass.

There was 2" of snow, yes. With at least another 4" on top of that.
Not complaining though. LOVELOVELOVE!
Charles didn't believe me, so I showed him these photos!
Kathy getting a photo of Queenie's feet disappearing in the snow...
...and then of me standing ankle-deep in the stuff.
Kathy and I were laughing as we made our way through it. "Kathy, we need snow shoes!!" I exclaimed.

We mounted up and rode the 1/2 mile over to the indoor.

Windswept snow.
I can't begin to explain why this element makes me so happy, but it does.
Kathy was laughing. It was a freaking mission to get on the horses with all of our bulky layers!
Tally ho!
I dismounted to open the property gate, let Kathy on Queenie and Lily through, and lock it behind us. I mounted up again. You ride up a bridle path that goes between the two horse fields on the property; it leads straight to the arena. Kathy was nervous about the horses in the fields, but they were off minding their own business.

I was lost in thought when Lily all of a sudden started prancing underneath me, and I realized that all of the horses on BOTH sides had started galloping around their fields. I saw Queenie tense up, but she never changed pace. I got Lily back into a walk and all four of us watched the horses tear around the fields next to us. Queenie and Lily were fine.

Snow had blown into the main entrance of the arena. The footing looked like it might be frozen solid, but as the mares stepped onto it, I realized it was textile footing. For those that don't know (and the only reason I know was because I hung out at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, with my trainer at the time, who was oohing and aaahing over the footing in the arenas; I'd never have paid attention otherwise!), textile footing combines sand with fabric, be it fibers or shredded pieces of what looks like felt, to create a dust-free, loose footing that doesn't compact down but at the same time doesn't get deep. If watered, it stays moist but drains well...and the fibers keep the footing from freezing solid. It is the ultimate perfect footing for working horses. I'm not sure what exact combination of fibers they had in this arena, but at one point when I dismounted to scoop poop, I realized that they had both the felt pieces and flakes of rubber mixed in with the sand. It's something like this.

Ok, I'm seriously tickled pink that we have access to an arena this fancy! I never dreamed of having this opportunity. You can board at barns that have footing like this but board at this type of facility is usually at a premium. While rough footing is great for conditioning bare feet, when you're doing dressage-type work, it's wonderful to have perfect footing - it's just one less variable for the horse to deal with, allowing him/her to focus on your requests.

Snow mixed in with the footing. You can understand why we thought it was going to be frozen solid when we entered the arena.
Yay indoor!
I did a long walk warm-up with Lily, while Kathy worked on getting Queenie to work independently from Lily: the little chestnut mare wanted to tailgate us.

Queenie being a very good girl about indepency
I moved on into transitions with Lily: 5 strides walk, 5 strides trot, all the way around the fancy arena both ways. Then trot 5 strides, halt 2 seconds, rein-back, trot 5 strides. We then proceeded to do shoulder-in at the trot down both long sides of the arena in both directions. I don't remember the last time that Lily's shoulder-ins were this effortless. Again, I continue to be amazed by how much all the trail work is benefitting her overall conditioning, allowing her to easily do things that used to be difficult for her.

Video taken by Kathy. It's a little blurry but you can get an idea of how great she was doing! Kathy did a fantastic job considering Queenie did not want to hold still while she was filming. :)

We did giant X's and 20 meter circles at the trot, then cantered once around the arena in each direction. Lily gave me the most wonderful collected canter in both directions, maintaining the bend. I wish I could have had the whole session filmed. It felt like a beautiful, magical session with her.

For our last exercise, we went back down to a walk and did zig-zag leg yields, then focused on doing half-pass to leg yield. She has never understood half pass well and it frustrates her. I've never practiced it on a horse that already knows how to do it, so I'm not great at it myself either.

Maybe some day we'll be this good at it...
So I got her moving animatedly at the walk, then leg yield to the left. Then walk straight forward, then half-pass to the left. She didn't give me the noticeable bend that you see in upper level dressage horses like the photo above, of course, but she did tilt her face slightly in the direction of movement. 3 steps like that, and I released her into a stretch and patted her profusely. We did this a couple of times in each direction and called it a day. The great bulk of the workout was at a walk. Lily did not break a sweat, and I did not want her to.

Kathy in the meantime had been working on gaiting with Queenie, just down the long sides of the arena in each direction. Queenie was happy to oblige, ever hopeful that each time her and Kathy would be leaving the indoor through the exit at the end! Kathy was very clear with Queenie that they were NOT leaving the arena, and it wasn't long before the chestnut mare was going off of seat commands from Kathy as they glided along smoothly.

We then walked around talking. Queenie had pooped again (I had scooped it up the first time), and this time Kathy said she would do it. I asked her if she thought Queenie might let her do it from her back without dismounting. The rake was standing up in a muck bucket in the corner of the arena. Kathy challenged me to see if Lily would let me. I tried, but Lily saw no purpose in standing by the muck bucket. She thought it was an incredibly silly request and did not understand why I was so desperately trying to reach for the rake from her back. She refused to move an inch closer.

Queenie, on the other hand, let Kathy! Kathy grabbed the rake, then walked on, aiming the rake forward like a knight's lance as she said, "ONWARD!" We melted into a fit of laughter.

We walked both mares over to the pile of poop, and Kathy attempted to scoop it. And dropped the rake in the process. So she ended up having to dismount anyway to get it.

We were done after that. Kathy got back on and we trotted up the path between the two fields leading back to the gate, the horses almost gliding as they pranced through the snow. I dismounted to open the gate, hopped back on after locking it, and we made our way back.

As we reached the bottom of the hill, I had a second thought: it is supposed to warm up over the weekend. The snow will not be like this again. I wanted to canter in it! So I told Kathy I was going to turn around and canter up the hill, and she chose to go on back to the barn.

I turned Lily around and we cantered in the shallower snow up the hill (3" deep). We made our way back down the hill at a trot, then rode up the bridle path at a walk, since the snow is deeper there.

We arrived at the slight slope at the opposite end of the property, the same one that leads to the back gate that we prefer to use. The snow here was also about 3" deep: shallower. I cued a canter.

Lily cantered the first two strides, then flattened into a gallop. It is the first time she's offered a real gallop in a place other than the Hill of Doom in the back woods. She coiled and lengthened, feeling like the Thoroughbred cross that she is. It was an awesome feeling.

We flew up the small slope, skimming over the shallower snow, and came to a trot at the top. It's a very short slope; we were at the end in maybe 20 strides. We trotted back down...and did it one more time.

I think both Lily and I were grinning as we walked home. The sun had just set behind the hills in a blaze of pink glory.

Lily got untacked and received her beet pulp dinner, soaked in plenty of hot water. The low for tonight was 5 degrees with a wind chill of -15. She's never been out in weather this cold; it's a first. I put her Thermo Manager stable blanket on (it doubles as a cooler or blanket liner), then her midweight on over that. She happily followed me back down to the field. I was glad to see both troughs filled: there used to be only 1 trough in the mare field but after there were problems with the old de-icer, they now have 2 troughs, one with a (new) de-icer and one without. Some horses just don't like drinking de-iced water. I broke the thin layer of ice in the plain trough, hugged Lily one last time and left for the night.

I was quite comfortable all day despite our lovely super-cold weather (for this area; I know some of you are in the negatives and with a lot more snow than us!) What I wore:
- Cuddl Duds fleece under shirt
- wool boucle turtleneck
- REI fleece jacket
- Free Country shell jacket
- SSG 10 Below Gloves (Phoebe, who is always cold in the winter, swears by these gloves; she has tried ski gloves but she considers these to be better. I have to agree; they feel bulky but you can really feel the reins with them, and they are both waterproof and wind resistant. I have a pair of ski gloves and I just can't ride with them.)
- Cuddl Duds silk under pants
- Tuffrider fleece breeches (they really are warmer than the Kerrits Power Stretch, IMO)
- REI nylon sock liners
- Smartwool heavyweight socks
- Kamik Acadia snow boots (I did put toe warmers inside them)

Success!! Now to go order more toe and hand warmers...


  1. So jealous of the footing in that indoor, ours leaves a LOT to be desired... BUT it is attached to my barn, so there are some pros :-)

    1. Oh yeah - an attached indoor with the heavenly footing AND an affordable monthly board rate would be a wonderful thing. Lol We had the attached indoor at the previous barn, but it was awful to ride in in the winter: the footing froze anyway and when it didn't, it was so, so dusty even the horses coughed when worked in there.

  2. What an awesome ride and wonderful video. I can't wait until I can canter Ashke (we have the dead-run gallop down) in the snow.

    1. You'll get there! One step at a time. He's improving by leaps and bounds; I have a feeling you'll be cantering on the trails with him, in control, well before the end of 2014! :)

  3. Oh I hate the snow, if it could be summer all the time I would be happy! Boo, cold! Looks like you guys made the most of it though, great ride :)

    1. I love seasons and getting some snow (though I hate the mud after!) but some of the record low temps we've been having can just go away for the next 10 years. Hahaha...

  4. That sounds similar to our footing, although we have no rubber, just the sand and textile. We did have some freezing initially but since we added mag chloride, all seems to be well. Really nice stuff.

    Glad you were cozy! Cantering through the snow is the absolute best. :)

    1. It's almost as good as cantering on the beach. Love the sparkle of the powder as it billows out around her feet when we do anything at speed in it. It's so beautiful!