Around the beginning of February, my wrists are ready for springtime.
By that part of winter, I've gotten my hands soaked, breaking ice from the thermal waterers, in the frigid cold and biting wind, more times than I can count. I've pitched hay, swept hay, stacked hay, and tossed hay twice a day for about three months. I've wiped slick, gooey mud off hooves and pasterns, and brushed dried, dusty mud off faces and bellies, My arms are protected pretty well by several layers of shirts and sweaters; my hands are kept safe by gloves... but all that ice and hay and mud seems to find its way between the gloves and shirts, and winds up irritating my wrists and making them red, raw, and ready for the return of more civilized weather to Kentucky. Here it is nearly March and I'm still waiting....
Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike winter. I grew up in the Northeast and Lexington is mild in comparison. And the horses like the cold much better than the sweaty mess of July or August in the Bluegrass. But this time of year brings other annoyances and frustrations, as well. My horses tell me when I've gone a little shy on the hay or beet pulp. They do so by chewing... everything. It's bad enough when they gnaw on the fence boards, but it's dire when they whittle the posts down to toothpicks or when they go after the lap boards on the barn. Of course, hay isn't cheap -- this year, it's not even easy to find -- and there's only so much beet pulp a horse is going to want to eat.
Most years, they can spend their days finding overlooked patches of grass out in their fields. Introducing one of the major problems this particular winter: pasture problems. An especially dry summer meant no new growth... add lots of rain and ice over the past few months... plus all the horses slopping around in areas close to the gates and run-in sheds... means that pastures tend to become mud pits during in the months leading up to spring. This year, it's bad enough that I wonder how long it'll take for grass to re-establish itself in some of the areas that are churned up worst.
Another bane of winter: abscesses. Last night I had the first round of treatment for a mare with a hoof abscess. She's 23 and hardy, but between the sloppy pastures and her tendency to accumlate ice balls in her hooves, she developed the painful condition. She gets a couple of days of stall rest now plus a poultice to encourage drainage. Fortunately, the recovery is usually as rapid as the onset, so she should be in good shape within a few days. Then, back out in the pasture so I can break more ice, throw more hay, and clean more mud!
This year, I don't have foals due until early April. Here's hoping for some warm breezes and solid earth to have returned before then!