Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Slippery When Wet

"Treachery, seek it out!" (Hamlet, Act V, ii)

The ground froze last night and as the day progressed, the top layer thawed again. The footing is very slippery on the top, and treacherous.

I put all three Boys out in the arena/pasture turnout for the day. With the sand, the arena is not as bad as the areas with just dirt/mud, and the pasture does have some grass to hold the surface. I gave them some good piles of hay out there to keep them occupied and they seemed quite content.

The arena was very sloppy, however, and never quite good enough for riding. And, I'm just as concerned about the trails as the surface layer is slick. I remember more than once almost going down with PJ in this kind of footing, and he was very wise about that kind of thing. It's just fine with me for now as I am getting plenty of exercise doing the barn work as pushing the wheelbarrow through the mud is rather a chore.

There was a huge flock of starlings hanging out in the woods today. I thought they were going to land in my yard to attack the bird feeder as they often do, but not so. They seemed to stay in the trees and pasture area instead. What was truly amazing was the sound they made whenever they took to the air. It was as if a tremendous gust of wind had whipped through with a whirr and a rush as loud as thunder. This happened several times in the morning and even later when I went out for afternoon feed.

Apparently, it had been going on all day, because it did not startle the Boys at all. Hundreds of birds all taking flight at once can be a bit daunting. I remember how dramatic it was when the geese used to take off from the pond at the last barn where I boarded. Eventually Toby and PJ learned to ignore it, but at first they would spook. I always remember that incredible sound and now, I was hearing it again, only this time from birds a tenth the size of the geese....mutiplied by at least a factor of 100, perhaps more.

I don't know if these are migrating flocks, but often I will wake up to find my lawn covered in black feathered starlings, devouring whatever food they can find. If I've filled the bird feeder, it's emptied in a matter of seconds. My going out will frighten them away, but if there's any food left, as soon as I disappear they are back in force. Then, some leader in the group decides it's time to go, and they take to the skies again---usually heading south. I wonder if this flock was one flying down from a more northern state where the Arctic cold had just been too much for them.

Ah, yes, the perplexing problem of trying to get a horse clean in the winter needs a bit of a postscript. First, I agree that I think the horses need their natural coat oils to keep warm and dry, so I am not keen on bathing--even if I could. I once had a trainer whose philosophy was to just kind of clean off the area where the saddle and girth were going to go and just forget about the rest when you were just schooling. Her point was there was no reason to waste hours trying to clean a horse who was just going to go back out the next day and roll in the mud when you really needed the time to ride before dark. *lol* Second, I do have a really good horse vacuum, and for more serious grooming it really does help. But it does not vacuum out that deeper layer of dirt and dust in the horse's undercoat. And, again, there is something about the texture of Toby's hair that the dirt just clings to, safe from the vacuum's efforts. I can get him clean enough to look OK as long as no one give him the "white glove test."

Meantime, I find the best cure is prevention, so I tend to like to keep at least a sheet on each Boy for most of the winter. But, how can you force your "kid" to wear a jacket on a warm, sunny afternoon in January when sunshine is such a welcome visitor?

I'll get them clean sooner or later, and for now, "later" is just fine by me.


  1. "Slippery When Wet' wasn't that a Bon Jovi album? I might be wrong, always getting that stuff mixed up. But we've got the same problems here with the footing. I'd rather have the packed snow. Pushing a wheelbarrow has to be the pits, don't hurt yourself. I sometimes drag it behind me.

    I'm with you too on the cleaning, it all comes out in the wash eventually.

    Interesting about the starlings. We still have those darn geese in the pond. The horses are used to them by now. Blue sometimes takes exception if they go into the paddock and he chases them.

  2. I love a flock of birds in unison, how spatially aware they must be to fly together and change direction. I greatly enjoyed your post. The horses sound so happy, allowed to wallow. I think it's worth it.

  3. Anonymous9:04 PM

    I'm pretty careful about the footing, too - I've had horses go down with me and that's no fun. Our arena has very mediocre footing at the best of times, and I doubt we'll be using it much until spring unless we get another good snow. We're in the hard-packed snow (almost ice) department now, and they're saying we may get a bit of an ice storm tomorrow - hoping not too much!

    Be careful with that wheelbarrow - that's strenuous at the best of times - I'm a big fan of the Garden Way style cart with the big wheels - easier to push.

  4. I agree - better to keep them clean than try and get off layers of mud. But i do give them a brushing when I change coats. It's been snowing wet snow here for 2 days, so I've got them covered again. My old mare gets chilled when her hair gets soaked.