Is it Truly Winter?

After months of mild, wet weather, last week I was caught by surprise when the temperatures suddenly plummeted.

Of course I`m used to the cold and to be honest, I don`t mind it at all, but I`m afraid I`ve started to become a bit slack with my layers and last Thursday I was very underdressed for my three hours of hacking!

Luckily a friend gave me a, ahem highly attractive, hat cover for Christmas which is fleecy and drops down to cover your nape and Velcros up to cover your chin. It`s a great idea, but I hadn`t yet gathered the courage to use it as it is a multi coloured check pattern!

On Thursday I decided it was better to be a warm idiot than cold, and out it came!

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I have to say, it does the job and I stayed lovely and warm – well my face did! However by lunchtime I had stuffed two handwarmers into my boots to try to thaw out the ice blocks there – these little one use bags of magic always amaze me as they don`t feel hot yet make a big impression on your overall body temperature. I also have microwaveable handwarmers which are really useful for when you get home, like today, and need to warm your hands. I have a strange finger too on my right hand which goes icy cold and numb far quicker than the rest of my digits, and takes far longer to warm back up. I think it goes back to when I popped the tendons in that hand doing up a girth a few years ago (don`t ask …)

After Thursday`s chilly hacks – which were picturesque and very enjoyable – here`s a little clip – I dug out my thermal leggings for Friday and stuck a long sleeved top under my polo shirt, and found a couple of thinner jumpers to layer under my gilet and coat. My snoods have been called up for service too – I love feeling that my face is half warm, I could almost still be snuggled under the duvet. But, as I noticed today when someone passed me on a hack, they can`t see me smile in acknowledgement or hear me talk! So I either have to risk my nose and chin getting chilly or gesticulate wildly. First world problems, eh?

Moving swiftly on.

This weekend saw a smattering of snow. Just enough for the cat and I to get excited, but not enough to disrupt life. It reminded me of a debate I`d seen online about whether it`s safe to ride in the snow. For me, snow is such a rarity that it means we should go sledging, or snowball fighting, or build a snowman. Mundane tasks, and things that can be done every day are cast aside.

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Above are three photos from 2010, when college was closed for two weeks; baby Otis played in the snow; instead of riding we sledged down the bank field; we skated with our horses to the indoor arena to lunge or ride quickly before going sledging again; I had to drive my brother`s Series II Landrover which had to have a miners lamp left burning underneath it each night so the engine didn`t freeze (it was also covered with an old woollen blanket); and my friend`s brother pushed my car up the hill from her house so I could negotiate the downhill home (then we realised that my friend was still in the car with me, but that`s another story).

So you see, snow to me means a quick holiday from riding, and has many happy memories associated with it. And not so happy ones, such as the time my Dad dropped four year old me off at school in six inches of snow and by the time I`d got halfway along the driveway and realised it was closed, he`d sped off! I think my Mum has just about forgiven him for that.

But for so many countries snow is a fact of life. They can`t afford to close schools and offices for six months of the year, or for the country to grind to a complete stop – like we do under two inches of snow!

Which brings me back to my original question – is it safe to ride in snow? Well, yes it is if you know how to do it correctly. But like so many other aspects of life, it is dangerous if you do not take the correct precautions. Snow balls up in hooves, particularly shod hooves, so I`m sure that in countries with a lot of snow forecast they will remove shoes or put special snow shoes on. We advocate greasing the soles of the foot, which definitely helps to a certain extent. Knowing your routes and what is underfoot is important, as the world changes when it becomes white, and then of course having a nimble horse who is used to working in snow, and is steady and surefooted helps. I saw an article about a polo match on a frozen lake in St Moritz, Switzerland, which looks absolutely breathtaking whilst also proving that you can ride in the snow!

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I tend to think that when snow comes, riding can go by the way side a bit because, after all it is a rarity in Britain and we shouldn’t`t let the child in us be suffocated by not rolling around making snow angels. If we were to expect a winter like Sweden`s then perhaps we do best by taking a lesson from them and preparing our horses, as well as the rest of our lives, for the impact that snow has.

 

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