Here in central Massachusetts we just got through days where it was in the negative digits overnight, the days started at 0 degrees, and it never made it out of the single digits. The feels-like temp was well into the negatives. Although getting them all fresh water was slightly more challenging, the horses all went out and enjoyed themselves. Here at Misty View our philosophy is that the horses go out every day and all day, unless the weather is dangerous (high winds for example) or the footing is too icy. It’s definitely we humans that struggle with these low temps far more than the horses, so we just bundle up in our big girl warm clothes and deal!
Despite the cold temps the farm is as beautiful as ever. We may be deranged, but Elisabeth and I both love New England weather even during these brutal winter months. The horses get us out of the house and moving around each day (multiple times a day!) and for this we are grateful. We joke that it’s way better than a gym membership (and ok, perhaps a little more expensive, but who’s keeping track…?) On the other hand, riding and training at this time of year is not easy and not for the faint of heart!
Trying to keep a consistent riding schedule can seem virtually impossible for the months of December through February. The good news is, our business has been really taking off. Online sales keep increasing more than we ever imagined and both in-person and zoom boot fittings seemed to fill much of our "free time" in November and December...so our “down time” during the off show season in New England has actually been far busier with the business than we imagined. Oh, and teaching in public schools, with Covid…well, you can imagine that there is never a dull moment! Like everyone else, we tend to be on overload in December from holiday prep & work and family obligations…and so our horses always end up getting extra days off while we try to maintain our sanity! Then January comes along and that’s where we are at now. Whether it's subzero temps or the dreaded snow/ice falling off the indoor, keeping a consistent schedule is a challenge to say the least. So what are two adult ammy gals with full time jobs, a side business, a farm to run, and wonderfully busy families to do??
Solution: long lining! With some outstanding professional help, we have been introducing both horses to double lunging and we have been thrilled with their progress. For our little Miss Dezi, the long lines give Elisabeth a way to patiently work through Dezi’s avoidance to truly engage. This mare has mastered the pleasantly going along without breaking a sweat...but ask her to really kick in, engage, and carry, she has been known to raise objections...in a decidedly unladylike way. Being able to confidently and calmly work through this on the ground has been a game changer for her work. Here is a video of her working on collected canter and canter-walk-canter transitions the other day. She is getting so confident in her ability to use her body more effectively and doesn't she look proud even?!
And who would like to see an Ollie update?
Remember that we made the decision two months ago to have him live out 24 /7, due to his PSSM diagnosis. So this guy has been REALLY out in the elements (with shelter of course). And he’s loving life and doing fine with it. Ollie will still come out to work in the ring tighter than I'd like and needing encouragement to get truly forward but we are thrilled with this first trot. This is after two days of below 10 degree temps. Not bad, right? (And for those of you who haven't read the previous blog post: check out what he looked like when he first came out on the lunge in September for comparison!)
Long lining has been a great way for him to warm up and work through some obedience issues about going forward before getting on without putting myself in danger, and I also like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he does feel a bit muscle stiff. I guess it’s worth saying here that Ollie has been a horse I have never been able to lunge without his pulling a shoe…or should I say multiple shoes. No joke. He is so naughty on the lunge and bucks so hard that it’s not a matter of IF he will pull a shoe, but more like WHEN or HOW MANY. This has been really frustrating, because his PSSM for sure makes him a candidate for a quick lunge before I get on. We've also wondered if his explosions on the lunge are tied to his muscle disease. At any rate, the long lines have also been a game changer for him, because they allow me just enough added control that his antics are more civilized…and the shoes stay on…and we’re all much happier with that! Here's a short clip of Ollie being Ollie, but this is far controlled than he has been known to be on the lunge!
Although he is a fresh guy, he has been settling down to work in the longlines really well. In this clip, there are a couple brief moments when he contemplates a sassy explosion, but he then thinks better of it. Atta boy, Ollie!
So in terms of his PSSM2 management, as mentioned above, Ollie is still living out 24/7 and seems to love it. I've also done a radical redo of his diet (which is the reverse of what many do with their PSSM horses, but I'll save that for a future blog post). I am trying to work him as consistently as I can. Depending on my schedule, he gets the Bemer horse-set on him either before or after I ride. I've found the harder I work him the better he seems. I also blanket him within an inch of his life, both because he lives outside and because of his PSSM! .Aside from when he's getting tacked up to work or cooling down, he pretty much lives at this point in a 450 gram blanket with a hood. He is toasty!
Here is is after his longline work, thinking he is just the best boy ever.
So that's a little insight into our January so far. But we also love hearing from you. What are you doing to stay motivated and keep your horses happy and healthy during the winter?