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.