Friday, February 14, 2014

Riding in a blizzard

Apparently, at least half the country was assaulted by this latest winter storm (I think The Weather Channel is calling it Pax).  Northern Virginia, where I live, was no different.  By the time the first round of the storm was over on Thursday morning, we had over a foot of snow.  That meant the Federal government was closed, so my husband was home from work.  I still had to put in my usual part-time schedule, but by 3:00, I realized that both my husband and I had our to-do lists done for the day.

And then it occurred to me that I could go riding.  I usually don't have a chance to ride during the week, especially this winter.  I have to wait until my husband gets home from work and if we want to have dinner together, it means that I can't get out to the barn until well after dark.  At which point, the temperature is typically in the 10-20 degree range, and I think that is too cold to ride.  I can cite some study on how the cilia in your lungs start to die once the temperature gets much below freezing and you're doing aerobic work, but really, once your nose feels like it is going to freeze shut and ice forms on your eyelashes, it's just downright unpleasant to be out riding, no matter how your lungs feel.

Anyway, yesterday, the temperatures were hovering in the 33-34 degree mark, which was definitely rideable.  There had been a sort of weird mist coming down all day, but I wrote that off as inconsequential, and got in my truck to head out to the barn.

Now might be a good time to mention that our street had not been plowed and my husband had only shoveled half the driveway (the half that my truck was not parked on).  I guess he thought that my truck could just power through anything.  That is generally true, but I had parked on ice the night before (I felt compelled to go check on my horse as the storm was starting) and our driveway, while short, is very steep due to the fact that our entire subdivision was built by monkeys who didn't understand how important proper grading is for driveway management.  That means that despite putting the truck into 4-wheel drive, low gear 1, I was unable to make any progress at all.  I ended up shoveling the rest of the driveway while cursing my husband's name and then I managed to get out OK.

Until I got to where our street (a cul de sac) intersects with a more major residential road.  I love how the snow plow operators apparently have no clue that when you plow 12 inches of snow and leave the residual piled up at the intersection, it defeats the point of plowing in the first place, because no one can get past the 4 foot high mound to actually drive on the plowed roads.  (Of course, maybe that was the intention all along...)  Anyway, I was able to blast my way through to the main road, where everything was in good shape all the way out to the barn.  (I'm always so surprised that rural areas have much better snow removal than urban ones.)

Unfortunately, the barn owner had decided to leave the horses in for the day, citing concerns about dangerous footing.  It is true that trying to walk through deep snow is a cardio exercise, but I think the horses probably would have just hung out at the hay bale and been fine.  However, I felt no concerns about my horse's welfare, and I promptly put him outside to play a little before I got on.  Nimo is 11 now, and much more mature and less prone to stupid behavior, but I didn't think that riding him after he'd been cooped up for almost 24 hours was the best choice.  As it turns out, I needn't have bothered with the turnout.  As soon as he figured how much work it was to go through the snow, he headed for the run-in shed to hang out while I cleaned his stall and retrieved my tack from the trailer.  (Note to self:  Do not leave tack in the trailer even if you think you won't be able to ride, because it really sucks to hike through deep snow to retrieve said tack if you stupidly decide you do actually want to ride.)

I did get these pictures of Nimo enjoying the snow for about 2 minutes.  The lighting isn't great, so he looks more like a silhouette, but I did capture the elusive moment of suspension in the trot picture.

Here's the thing, by the time I finished picking Nimo's stall, getting my tack ready, and chatting with a couple of people, it was snowing again.  And not just any snow, but the kind that is being blown sideways because it's actually blizzarding out.  Apparently, the mist was not so inconsequential after all.  Sigh...I really wasn't dressed for a blizzard, but I decided to ride anyway.  I figured even 20 minutes was better than nothing, and I had hauled my tack all the way from the trailer, so really, I was committed.

Because the snow was pretty deep, although I think it was less than a foot, I decided to do the bulk of my ride as "laps" up and down the driveway with short forays into the deep snow as a sort of interval training.  The driveway was plowed pretty well and it is quite long (maybe a quarter of a mile?)  After the first trip down the driveway, when my face became numb on one side, I revised my plan to include trot work.  That ended up working well.  I'd walk Nimo near the barn, then trot the rest of the way down the driveway, walk to turn around, trot until I got close to the barn, then walk through a field of snow, turn around, walk past the barn, and then start trotting again.  And repeat.  I even added a little canter - whoohoo! I did my little routine 3 times before it started getting dark.  I'm not really sure how long I rode, but I think it was probably about 45 minutes.  I wish I could have done a couple more loops because by the third one, Nimo was really loosening up and I was feeling warmer, but I didn't want to have to ride after dark and because Round 2 of this stupid blizzard was clearly well under way, I thought it would be prudent to get home as soon as possible.

If I had to do it again, I definitely would have worn face protection, but otherwise, my clothes served me well.  Everything was completely soaked after the ride, but the water hadn't penetrated the top layer, so I was dry underneath.  Nimo was wet and steamy, but it didn't look like he had worked up much of a sweat, so I decided not to blanket.  He's got a ridiculously dense coat that requires two rounds with water and soap to even penetrate in the winter, so unless he sweats, I don't worry about him getting chilled when he's wet.

And the great thing about all of this is that I RODE MY HORSE!  It's such an awesome feeling to have done it and it motivates me to do more.  It looks like today is supposed to warm up into the 40s, so I'm thinking another ride would be great.  My husband will understand if I skip Valentine's Day dinner, right?:)


  1. Sounds like an excellent ride despite adversity!

  2. You are like me - gotta wait til the husband gets home to saddle up:) Sounds like a super fun ride! I rode in the snow too:) There's nothing like it!

  3. Thank you for also riding in the snow! You make me feel like a normal person! Everyone at my barn thinks I'm bonkers.

    LOVE that first photo of Nimo doing his extended trot in the snow!

    1. I don't think we have much of a choice this winter - either we ride in the snow or don't ride! And everyone at my barn thinks I'm nuts too:)

  4. LOVE the photos! I'm glad you're a member of the "crazy" crowd who rides in the snow and "abuses" their horses. -_- I think people are jealous we're having more fun than they are. ;-)