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

Saturday, January 10, 2015


It was a ridiculous 23 degrees today but that wasn't keeping me from riding in the snow. I am a wannabe chionophile mmkay?

Because SNOW.
Lily came up to the barn with Queenie when she heard me helping Zoe in the barn and let me catch her. Gracie had lingered behind but she also let me catch her. I brought both girls out to the barnyard and set them up with some hay and Gracie also received her grain dinner so she continues to think I'm awesome because she gets fed when she lets me catch her.

I tacked up Lily and rode her in the paddock for 30 minutes. Our warm-up was inspired by Karen. We walked a lap in each direction then did some trotting. Lily was in a cranky mood, which always cracks me up: the mare trusts me enough these days to have an opinion about what I'm asking her to do. We did some lateral work at sitting trot but after some angry tail swishing I asked her to canter up the long sides of the paddock, halt, do a half turn on the haunches to change direction, then canter off again. It was kind of challenging with the slight incline of the paddock's footing but the snow gave Lily excellent traction. She had no problem executing the canters from a standstill nor the sudden halts. Sometimes she would halt crookedly so I would ask her to reinback until she was straight before asking for the half turn. She gets annoyed if we do anything for too long so I asked her to move on out into the trot again, where we did 10 meter circles in shoulder-in and haunches-in, followed by figure 8s across the paddock and back again. I then asked her to walk forward and realized that she was so tuned into me after our warm-up that I could get her to walk forwards, backwards, sidestep left or right or turn on the haunches without pause from one movement to the next with just the slightest of aids from my seat alone. It was awesome: it felt like we were a centaur!

Afterwards I let her walk around on a loose rein before dismounting. Zoe had stayed inside Kathy's while I finished riding so I wouldn't be riding completely alone (thank you again Zoe!) and she walked out of the house as I was removing Lily's bridle. I hung Lily's bridle on the fence and walked over to Zoe to say good-bye. 

Lily walked around the barnyard and when I returned to fetch her, I caught her doing this: 

She had walked over to Gracie's feeder and was licking it clean...
...and Gracie, who is usually quite food aggressive, was completely allowing it!
Lily startled when she realized I was standing there. She hesitated for a second, acting like I'd caught her doing something naughty, but I told her, "It's okay," and she stuck her nose back in the feeder, allowing me to snag the photos above! Gracie was like, "Whatevs. She asked nicely." I may have been a little flabbergasted...

I finally had Lily come to me so I could halter her, remove the saddle, blanket her and give her her dinner. I unblanketed Gracie and put the Bungee Straightjacket on her. I really, really wanted to ride her bareback but there was no one at the barn and I wanted to work her in the rig first to see how she would move in the snow. 

She was SUCH A GOOD GIRL. Very calm, no dragon snorting episodes at all despite the frigid weather. I let her warm up in the paddock at the trot in both directions with the rig on its loosest setting (with side reins clipped directly onto bit, no doubling back). I asked for a canter but Gracie would not pick it up so I did not insist: while I want my horses to obey, I also want them to tell me when they don't trust the footing. Gracie did not trust the footing today so I didn't push the matter.  

We then moved out into the back field, where I clipped the rig on the higher setting to work Gracie on the hill. 

This setting.
Gracie did really well on the hill. There were two instances where she got upset about something she thought she saw in the woods (I didn't see anything) and instead of proceeding to tear around me with her tail flagged, she simply...stopped. She stopped at the end of the longe line and turned to face me, waiting for direction. I let her stand for a few seconds then asked her to continue working in the same direction as before. Each time she obeyed. 

It was really awesome. It was awesome to have her tell me she was feeling insecure by stopping instead of just trying to rip the longe line out of my hands. 

I continued longing her across the field until we were at the flatter top section. I was still entertaining the idea of riding her bareback afterwards but she had a couple of nasty slips in the snow and I eventually ditched the notion of riding her at all. She was fully aware of her hind end and each time she adjusted her pace to accommodate the footing, but the slipping told me that she isn't used to moving at speed in the snow. She has gotten the hang of moist clay but not snow yet. She told me she was frustrated by stopping...and trying to go back to the barn. Here I did correct her sternly and asked her to continue trotting in the requested direction. She obeyed without getting upset about it, so I had her ease down into a walk. Good girl!

I then asked her to halt, unclipped the rig side reins from the bit, and walked her back to the barn, where she was untacked, blanketed and received a handful of hay. 

She likes having her forehead rubbed and kisses between her ears.
I turned them both out for the night. They both stopped to drink water from the troughs by the gate: Gracie from the one with the de-icer, Lily from the trough without the de-icer. I was kind of stunned when I saw my Floridian TB mare methodically break the ice in the second trough so she could drink the frigid water underneath. I had no idea she knew how to do that!

Chionophiles, all of us!


  1. You are a very brave person riding when it's that cold! I'm glad that you had a good ride :)

  2. I like that you didn't push Gracie to canter when she didn't feel secure. I'm sure that will help build her trust in you even more. And I'm impressed that you did so much with your horses on such a cold day!

    1. The snow was a huge motivating factor! I knew sooner or later it would melt and turn everything to muck and work in the paddocks/fields would be limited.

      I was positively thrilled that Gracie didn't obey me, as weird as that might sound to others. Both Lily and I had excellent traction in the snow but we've both found our bearings in it going on our third winter in work here. I'm glad Gracie has gotten to the point where she will let me know how she feels about footing. It's important feedback. :)

  3. Awesome ride!! So excited to see you out working in the snow. There aren't many of us who are willing to brave sub freezing weather to ride and work our horses. And centaur!!!

    So tell me, what were you wearing? It doesn't look like you have bibs on so I'm curious.

    1. It's funny: at 40 degrees I'm not as motivated to do stuff with the horses but mainly it's because everything turns to mud! 30 degrees and under? Bring it! *Especially* if there's snow on the ground! :D

      I don't own bibs YET though the day we get another winter like last year's (snow from December through February, which is highly unusual here), you can bet I'll be buying a pair! In the meantime, I wear layers and layers and layers...for pants I was wearing 2 pairs of silk-type long johns + Irideon Wind Pro breeches (this combination will keep me comfortable into upper teens as long as there's no wind); 1 pair of nylon sock liners + 1 pair thick SmartWool socks; Kamik snow boots (I LOVE those things! Rated to -40 degrees F/C); fleece Cuddl Duds top, Romfh microfleece long sleeve shirt, ELT thick fleece jacket (yes, ALL the fleece!) plus the outside portion of my 3-in-1 jacket. :)

  4. nice job getting out there in the snow - glad the mares were good!! i definitely prefer snow to mud... but my mare gets such terrible snowballs in her shoes... sigh. hopefully some pads will fix that!

    1. I've heard a lot of people have success with snow rim pads. Lily had Epona shoes for our first winter here...they have a tiny hole underneath them and she still would get snowballs in them. No snow rims available for those though. Thankfully we didn't get a lot of snow that first winter, but I totally hear ya! I hope the pads fix the issue for Isabel!

  5. Snow riding is the best. If you fall off, it doesn't hurt near as badly :) Our first winter in WI I pulled Gem's shoes due to the ice balls she would get packed in there and just never put them back on.

    Your ride and ground work sound amazing. Those types of rides make being cold worth it.