Sunday, January 5, 2014

And winter is still here...

A friend and I had made plans to ride on Saturday well before I realized exactly how cold it was going to get on Friday.  Some kind of nasty storm blew in Thursday night and it was followed by winds that must have been directly from the Arctic.  I don't want to take anything away from the parts of the country that had well below-zero temps and wind chills in the minus 30-50 range, but you have to understand that we don't have severe winters in northern Virginia.  We have nice winters that give us a little snow, a little cold, are punctuated by occasional warm days and then are over before we get too sick of them.

This winter has been colder and wetter than usual and it is making me more whiny than usual.  Anyway, when I woke up on Saturday morning to discover that it was 12 degrees outside, I desperately wanted to go back to bed and curl up with a hot water bottle and some coffee for the rest of the day.  This behavior is no longer possible, though, because my one-year old would sit on me and bounce up and down if she found me laying down and she would definitely steal my coffee, and then proceed to run around the room while alternating between drinking it, giving some to the dog, and throwing it on the floor.

So, I was forced to get up and be productive, while hoping that the projected high of 38 would come to fruition.  At 9, I left for the barn to get ready for my noon ride with a friend at Andy Guest State Park.  As I was trying to wrench my truck door open (it was frozen shut), I wondered if it was such a good idea to be out riding today.  Then, when I was trying to hook up my trailer and the snap that holds my emergency brake line was frozen shut and I had to smack it with my rubber mallet (best tool ever, BTW), I contemplated the wisdom of continuing to be outside.  Next, as I was attempting to kick the wheel blocks from my trailer wheels (they were frozen to the ground and had to be whacked with my favorite tool to pry them loose), I fantasized that my husband was telling me we were moving to Florida tomorrow.

Finally, I got everything hooked up and loaded, and I pictured in my head the steep hill to get into Andy Guest park and the very short, but very steep hill in and out of the trailer parking lot.  I wondered how well the park maintains its roads in the winter...and it occurred to me that maybe my friend and I should ride someplace else like Manassas Battlefield, where at least the parking would be level and we would be 15 minutes from my house if we ended up needing help.  As it turns out, my friend was on the same page and had already left me a message on my cell telling me that she thought the Battlefield would be a better place to ride.  So, we agreed to meet at the Battlefield.

As I pulled into the parking lot at the Battlefield, I was surprised to see that another rider was already there and while her horse appeared to be covered from nose to tail in some sort of giant purple winter parka, I assumed she was planning to ride.  I was guessing she was a woman because I know of no man who would outfit his horse in that fashion.  It turned out that this lady was an endurance rider I'd seen at events before.  I have never seen her or her horse in any state other than perfection, which boggles my mind.  She seems like a very nice person, though, so I try not to hold the fact that she is always beautifully dressed in coordinated colors and that her horse is groomed at least as well as any top halter show horse against her.

I pulled into a parking spot while noting that the parking lot was covered in a lot of ice.  Then, I opened the door of my truck, put one foot on the ground, and promptly slipped and fell out of the truck onto the giant patch of ice on which I had parked. Luckily, I was wearing about eighteen layers of clothing, so mostly I just injured my pride.

I noticed that a similar patch of ice was behind the trailer, so when I unloaded Nimo, I just explained to him that he needed to be careful when getting out of the trailer.  Whether it was my explanation or the fact that he has four legs or is just generally less clumsy than I am, Nimo was totally fine, and immediately set about eating as much hay as possible while we waited for my friend to arrive.

After my friend got there, we saddled up and headed out into the Battlefield.  I wasn't sure what the trails would look like, but as you can see from the pictures above and below, there were only a couple of inches of snow on the ground, so the footing was actually pretty decent.  We did run into a few patches of ice as well as some ice in the creek we crossed, but otherwise, the trails were great.

We ended up riding a little over 2 hours, which was about an hour and 45 minutes longer than my toes felt comfortable with, but aside from the loss of feeling in two of the toes on my left foot, I was in pretty good shape by the end of the ride.  (Note to self:  Buy wool socks!)  Nimo, on the other hand, was still quite fresh, and could easily have gone another couple of hours.  In fact, I ended up doing some lateral work on the trail to keep him focused on the way back to the trailer.  It turns out the nice, wide trails at the Battlefield are perfect for super short zig-zag leg yields and half passes and there is plenty of room for shoulder-in and haunches-in too.  So, conditioning ride, check AND dressage work, check.


  1. Dammit, Gail. I literally LOL'd about the horse in the parka, then apologized to my husband (we're watching the 49ers in the playoffs, VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS), then the VERY NEXT PARAGRAPH had me LOL'ing again. Now he thinks I'm not taking my football seriously enough!

    Glad you got 'er done! Wool everything. Perhaps some vodka in a flask wouldn't be amiss?

    1. Sorry, Funder:) My husband takes football pretty seriously too, and I've been guilty more than once of failing to recognize that:) And yes, a flask with something in it is definitely a good idea - I don't know why I didn't think of that already!

  2. I seriously hope to get to the Manassas Battlefield to ride with you. It's awesome that you can ride out there in pretty much any conditions! I continue to scour eBay for increasingly technical winter sports gear, but it seems like the entire country is thinking along the same lines!

    Toe warmers have been a huge help for long rides in the cold. The Grabber brand ones have an adhesive side and you just stick them inside your boots. (Maybe all brands have the adhesive; I dunno. Total noob at this kind of winter.) Just went and ordered more on Amazon, since it seems we're going to have this crazy weather for awhile...We chose this area to move to because it had seasons but not the Midwest/New England winters. Hopefully this is the last one like this for a long time!

    Ok...I have to ask...was the rider in purple the one they call The Hunter Princess? :)

    1. I'm sure we'll find time to get together:) I'll have to look into the toe warmers - thanks for the suggestion! And yes, I believe the lady in question is called The Hunter Princess, but I don't know her well enough to know if she appreciates that nickname or not, so I figured I'd leave it out, just in case she happened to come across my blog and was not excited to see her nickname in print:)

    2. Hahaha...yeah, I have no idea if she appreciates the nickname or not. Your description of her was spot-on, though; I had to laugh and tell Liz. :) She pointed the lady out to me at Fort Valley; she's pretty hard to miss once you notice her. Her mare is adorable.


    Just giggling.

    That is all.