Hard frost, hard work

Winter is hard on man and beast and looking after the horses in sub zero temperatures is hard work. A few days ago the water tank in the yard froze and I had to bring water up from the house. The stream that provides the horses with water during most of the year is still flowing, but access is arduous and Minnie and Cassie don’t make the trip down anymore. Now our well is frozen too. No more water until the pipes get a chance to thaw out. You take running water for granted until it stops running and the household grinds to a halt. Simple things like taking a shower, flushing the toilet or putting the kettle under the tap for a cup of tea. The well of our nearest neighbour is also frozen. It means extra trips to the village to get drinking water, including the 80 liters I need for the horses every day.

I am wrapped up well in fleeces, a scarf and two pairs of ski socks when I go out in the morning and the work keeps me reasonably warm, except for my hands. Even though I warm my gloves on the heater before I go out, my hands still turn into blocks of ice that painfully thaw out in the jeep on my way to work. It doesn’t help that I have to take my gloves off for the fiddly jobs, like opening the lock on the tack room and putting supplements in the feeds. The morning routine takes twice as long as usual. All the droppings are frozen solid and I need a shovel to separate them from the ground before I can scoop them up into the wheel barrow. It really would be much easier to have the horses stabled. Then I would only have to muck out two stables. Now, I have to clean the whole yard, the track, and the stables too. It is time consuming, but I console myself that at least my horses are moving around all the time and that it is keeping them healthy, calm and reasonably fit.

Minnie and Cassie are coping much better with the cold than I. Their noses, ears and feet don’t freeze. I rug them on very cold nights, but they are generally warm enough. They have the shelter of trees, hedgerows and stables and they are well fed. They entertain themselves by browsing the hedgerows. They take the winter in their stride and go on with the business of living. I find it hard at times to do all the jobs that need doing, when the north easterly wind rushes across our hill top and bites my face, blowing right through me until I’m chilled to my core.  Then I look at my horses. They watch me while I push the wheel barrow around and when I’m finished they come up to me, seeking attention. Their presence and peace works as always like a balm. Horses. Yes, hard work. Worth it though.


4 thoughts on “Hard frost, hard work

  1. That is hard work indeed – having to go to town for water. I hope you get a thaw soon. I was just saying to Maire that although the temperatures drop far lower in this country than in the British Isles, I think I’ve never been so cold here as I used to get at home. Maybe it’s the damp.

  2. June, we are getting some extreme temperatures here now, last night it was -1o C, but the wind makes it feel much worse. We need a long thaw now before the ground and our pipes get a chance to defrost. I’m just happy I don’t have 40 head of cattle up here, it’s hard enough to get water for 2 horses and the household.

  3. I feel for you!
    We get subjected to some pretty nasty winters here to. Since Grif lives at a boarding farm, I am not directly involved with his daily care and having to worry about water and such things. Still – I wish I had my own place. Seeing him every day would be wonderful.
    The issue I struggle with is the drive. I have to drive 35min to see him….and when we get heavy snows, I don’t get to see him…(my car just doesn’t do well on some of those back country roads). There are times I have waited 2-3 days for the roads to clear so I could go for a visit.
    Winter presents such unique challenges to many of us — but I agree 100% that it’s not worth giving up the horses!
    Hugs to you and the horses

  4. Thanks Carol,
    This is my first year living in the same place as my horses. Minnie actually lived here before we did, we only built our house last year and moved in last February. So I know what it is like when you have to drive to visit your horse and how hard it is when you can’t get out because of the weather. I feel very lucky that I can just walk out the door to see my horses anytime I feel like it. Having the horses roam freely also means they are a real part of the family. They can literally walk up to the house and they do show great interest in all our goings on. Unloading the shopping is a definite favourite.

    We are getting some really extreme temperatures this winter, even during the day it’s staying well below freezing, very unusual for Ireland. It is impossible to do anything with the horses, the roads are all frozen and the ground is as hard as iron, but at least I can spend time with them.

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