Battening down the hatches

Never before has the phrase battening down the hatches meant more than it does this year. Over the weekend, New Mexico totaled more than 1,000 new COVID cases statewide, our most significant spike since the beginning of the pandemic. With the arrival 0f sub-zero temperatures staying inside in northern New Mexico might get a little easier.

Winter preparation for people with horses takes on a different meaning. Horse owners stock their barns with hay-like others fill their pantries. Frozen pipes can be catastrophic if horses can’t access water on frigid days. The vet for our barn fielded more colic calls in the past month than the prior five months. How many of us scrambled to dig out our heaviest coats, our thickest gloves, our long underwear?!

During the warmer months, boarders at my barn are lucky to have two outdoor arenas to ride. Once winter kicks in with its full frigid force, traffic in our indoor arena might just become a parking lot. All of us are fortunate that the COVID spike hasn’t threatened our ability to care for our horses and riders. Yet.

Part of my winter planning includes protecting myself and other riders once the weather requires closer proximity. I am trying to limit my indoor space footprint, meaning that all my tack and medicines for my horse have found homes in my own house or my truck. I stocked up on all medications that my horse needs through the winter. Though I have a stash of facial masks, I upgraded to ones with multiple filters and planned to wear one during my lessons once we are indoors.

Small steps may not seem like much but add meaningful actions for both our horses and us.

Because I am a product of the midwest, frigid temperatures aren’t foreign to me. For me, winter meant snowsuits and soggy mittens, snow forts, and hot chocolate. I started riding in the throes of winter, and while my mother navigated icy roads, I wore a parka and cantered for the first time.  As an adult and as a horse owner, winter now isn’t as idyllic, especially during our COVID year.

Winter, for me, allows my mind to drift, reflect, and write. I slow down with my horse and pause to inhale his icy breath, knock the icicles off his whiskers, and warm my hands under his blanket. I ride, yes, but these moments hold more meaning for me on dark mornings.

Stay warm. Stay healthy.