There are lots of things that seem crazy about life. Have you ever ordered something with a credit card over the phone? The number of numbers that must be recited, many of which I have memorized, make me laugh: card number, expiration, security code, address, zip code, phone number. But this story is about the crazy things my life with ponies requires.
Willowtrail Timothy, my five-and-a-half-month old Fell Pony cross, is scheduled to become a gelding in a few days. I have found that post-surgery exercise facilitates trouble-free recovery. Since I don’t have an automatic walker, and I loathe lunging (I get bored and dizzy, and I’m sure I communicate my opinions to my ponies), I usually pony the new gelding. I have delayed weaning Timmy so that I can use his mom for ponying. I no longer ride Mya the Wonder Pony, but she still enjoys harness work, and this spring she (and Timmy in-utero) ponied Willowtrail Mountain Prince from a jog cart. I intend to do the same for Timmy.
That plan, however, is where the craziness that this life requires becomes relevant. The jog cart was buried under a tarp under two feet of snow. I began by shoveling the snow, with my mare Shelley ‘helping’ over the fence. After I had the cart exposed, I found that the shafts had fallen off their stand to the ground, and because we had a wet fall, the shaft tips had frozen into the mud which was now frozen solid. I hauled several buckets of hot water to melt the ice and eventually the cart came free.
When my husband came home for lunch, he informed me I had a moose for company. Last weekend we brought in ten tons of hay, and while the moose haven’t found it yet, I knew it was a temptation. Since the sun was out for a change, I decided moving some round pen panels to protect the hay was a good chore. Did I mention it was cold? My gloves had become wet when freeing the cart, and now they froze to the metal fence panels, leaving holes in the leather. Before my chores were done, I went through five pairs of gloves trying to keep my hands warm.
When I went inside for lunch, I noticed that one of my finger tips was aching like I’d hit it with a hammer. I knew that wasn’t the case. My husband, being a search-and-rescue expert, informed me that what I was feeling was the precursor to frostbite. Fortunately I’ve been able to relieve the aching somewhat. (1)
When it came time to hitch Mya, the temperature was barely into the teens above zero Fahrenheit. I had moved her bridle with bit into the basement next to the woodstove so that when it came time to put that piece of metal into her mouth, it wouldn’t be frosty and dangerous to her mouth tissues. Her harness leather was stiff, and I put it on with gloves on, something that I’d not done before but really had no choice about. I was very thankful when Mya reached for the bit, a sign that she was willing to continue on this sub-freezing adventure; being a pony she feels free to express her opinion about such things. Timmy, too, was willing; he much preferred being led behind this strange object strapped to his mother to being left alone in their paddock.
I kept the first session short so that I could end on a positive note for all of us. The next day I got home too late to harness and hitch, so I just ground drove Mya with halter and lines and led Timmy down the drive. Mya was much more confused about that arrangement! The picture here shows the three of us on day three at the end of our driveway at seven degrees above zero. Today the high isn’t supposed to be above zero, so we may take the day off!
I know all equestrians do crazy things to keep equines in their life. I’ve heard of fans and misters in barns, for instance, which seems crazy to me, since I live where it is windy year-round, snowy in winter, and we’re visited by thunderstorms regularly in summer. No doubt the craziness my life requires appears just as unthinkable to those folks as theirs does to me, It is all, of course, worthwhile if it means keeping equines in our lives!
- I’ve been applying a balm to my finger tip each night, and the aching has subsided, for which I’m hugely grateful. Click here for more information.
(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
If you enjoy stories like this one, you might also enjoy the books A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies and What an Honor: A Dozen Years with Fell Ponies, available internationally by clicking here.