You would think after eight years living here that I’d be used to the beginning of six months of snow-covered ground. While I am always in various degrees of readiness physically, it’s the emotional/mental part that is hitting me especially hard today. Primarily, I worry about the ponies. This particular storm was troublesome because it was preceded by soaking rain overnight. The temperature dropped ten degrees, from 35 to 25, between 6 and 9am, heralding the arrival of four inches of snow.
As usual I check each of the ponies as I feed, especially observing their second thigh because that’s the easiest place to see if they’re shivering. There has been no pattern this fall about which ponies shiver after a storm like this. No pattern except that it has never been my oldest, 23 year old Sleddale Rose Beauty, nor my youngest, Willowtrail Liberty. Beauty looks more hale and hearty now than I expected she would; visitors still remark they can’t believe she’s twenty-three. What a blessing fell birth bestowed on her. And this Rocky Mountain climate seems to have blessed Libby similarly. Nor has it been Lunesdale Silver Belle whom, while also fell-bred, just arrived here from sea level and a much friendlier climate. I’m trusting that her hill genes will kick in; in the mean time, she gets a special shed all to herself, which she doesn’t seem terribly impressed with!
It is, of course, the hardiness of the Fell Pony breed that allows me to have them here. Many of them this morning had an inch of snow on their backs, despite having the option of a shed. As the temperature continued to fall, ice began to form on their manes and forelocks, a sure sign of the months to come.
This fall lulled me into complacency. Usually we have our first snow during the last week of August, and then a few more small storms that melt away. This pattern eases me into winter white, each storm highlighting the chores that remain to be done before fences freeze down, gates get blocked, and hay can no longer be moved into storage. Last year our first snow wasn’t until the last day of summer, in September. This year our first snow was just a few weeks ago, during the first week of October.
While I enjoyed the six weeks of pleasant weather that we’ve had, it did nothing to prepare me for the loss of bare ground. The ponies’ coats have been thick and heavy for weeks, so that should have prepared me. But it didn’t. I wasn’t finished enjoying the colorful foliage of the wild roses, the bright red of their rosehips, the vibrant green of kinnikinnick, the pleasant sight of a fallen aspen leaf turned gold or orange or even still mottled with green.
There will surely be open spots yet where we have shoveled or plowed; usually we have until Thanksgiving before all ground is covered. But there are places in the woods now that we won’t see bare until spring. I will envy them their long rest.