The Deep Freeze

Even down here in the sunny South it has been COLD this month. I feel so sorry for all the horse people further north than me, because it has been so COLD the past two weeks. This is North Carolina, we are not supposed to have weeks of bitter cold, we are not supposed to wake up to single digit temperatures. We are not supposed to have weeks of bitter north winds.

It was already cold a week and a half ago. I had a lesson on Bingo, and the cold north wind tired me right out. I was so cold that I even forgot to do my rider's push-ups during my lesson. My fingers hurt so much, in spite of my BOT gloves, that I was not able to remember everything I should be doing.

In spite of the cold I had a pretty good lesson. Since my last blog Bingo has been behaving quite well, in fact he has been a very good boy!

Both lessons I've been using the Equicube, and it continues to help me. Debbie really likes how steady my hands become after carrying the Equicube for a minute or so. She likes how my back straightens right up, and she likes how my back stays straighter even when I am no longer carrying the Equicube. By two weeks ago my arms and my back had gotten strong enough so I could carry the Equicube for three whole minutes, two minutes longer than I had been able to before, so it is getting my muscles stronger. Hallelujah! I still am not good enough carrying the Equicube to keep good contact, so Bingo gets to go around the ring on sagging reins as I use my legs and seat to turn him. I had despaired over my physical weakness, and how my body basically refused to get stronger because any exercise brings great fatigue, but carrying the Equicube almost painlessly helps my muscles get stronger and it does not exhaust me as much as other exercises. Hopefully I will soon be strong enough to keep good contact while carrying the Equicube.

Bingo did not balk at all the last two times I rode him. I do not know if that lesson when he balked was because he just did not feel good that day, or if he was just tired of being good for me. It was a big relief to me that he decided not to balk again! When a horse balks and then backs up it can mean that the horse is getting ready to rear, which is why I do a turn on the forehand to get him out of the balking, I just do not want him to end up with more weight on his hindquarters.

In the cold weather I put the BOT Contender II saddle pad, two butt blankets (one BOT), four exercise boots (BOT), the neck cover from my summer fly sheet, the BOT poll cap and the Fenwick mask with ears on Bingo, and as we put these things on him I can see Bingo checking off a list of what he expects so he does not feel as cold in the riding ring. If I forget something he starts to sulk, then when I remember and put it on he becomes more cheerful. There are NO windbreaks on three sides of the ring, and in particular there are no windbreaks on the north side of the ring, so the bitter cold north winds bear down on us mercilessly. I can understand why Bingo wants to be covered with warm clothes in the winter! As we put each piece on him he relaxes just a little bit more, and when we walk out to the ring he is pretty happy, it may be cold but at least we are coddling him so he won't be as cold as he would be “naked”.

But between riding in the cold, and visiting my son for Christmas, and cleaning the house in preparation for my other son visiting us, I became exhausted. I HATE not riding, but it is probably a good thing that the weather forced me to rest so I could recover.

I got to ride Mia once, it was cold and the wind was bitter, but she hunkered down under her exercise sheets and she was not too mad at me for bringing her out into the cold, windy ring. The other, colder days I thought about riding Mia I got this message from her—“Are you absolutely INSANE?” Of course when I opened the front door and felt the cold, bitter wind I decided that Mia was right, it would be insane for me to go out and ride in the ring. I cannot afford to ride at a stable with an indoor riding ring, so I just have to bear up under the cold as best I can.

I so admire the people who get out in the cold weather to feed and water their horses in the bitter cold. I know it is much worse further North! I used to be able to get out in the cold, not that I had any choice, to feed my horses and carry warm water down from the house to put in their feed (in case they do not drink as much as they should), and in their water trough and buckets. I remember those bitter January mornings! I hated breaking the thick ice on their water trough and buckets, and sometimes the buckets froze down the sides. The horses were always so glad to see me carrying their hay and feed, and they would all nicker at me. But nowadays, more crippled that I was decades ago, I am just so glad that I no longer have to get out in the bitter, cold wind several times a day to give them food and water.

Next week we will have “warmer” weather, next Wednesday morning the low will be 30°F, a veritable heat wave. I WILL be riding then because sitting around inside hiding from the cold gets really boring, and physically I get weaker every day.

Have a great ride (weather permitting)!

Jackie Cochran

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