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Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Equine Snow Angel

Winters in Central New York are tough ... it's like jumping into any icy river just walking out the back door some days. With a monstrous lake effect snow machine (off Lake Ontario), on average, Syracuse NY gets dumped on with over 115 inches of snow every year, more than any other larger city in the United States. The towns up here have the tools, plows and salt to keep the roads clear, although not always with laser guided precision.

The plows sadistically knocked our fragile mail box off it's helpless post four times last month. Funny how nobody at Home Depot questions when I buy three mail boxes at a time, knowing that the average life of a rural mail box is shorter than that of a dung beetle in sub zero weather.

If you think driving and living in the snow is bad, try taking care of five horses in the winter. With layers of thick blankets, the horses still do like to stretch their stiff legs all winter long out side, which makes for brutal days of blanket changing, fighting sub zero wind chills and shoveling snow paths to the barn and pastures.

So, while I'm at work enduring the harshness of fluorescent lighting, ringing phones and the heat that just always to seems to be a degree or two off. My sainted snow angel wife is bundling with layers of long underwear, ski pants and fleece like Sir Edmund Hilary on Mt. Everest, to go out into cold. With frequent six foot snow drift blocking the way to pasture, she shovels paths to fields to get our pampered equine snow mobiles out for a few hours of snow play. Of course, there's no grass in the winter, so, she lugs hay on the kids plastic red sleds to our tundra-like pastures.

The cold actually changes the dynamic of stall cleaning. On day's like today when it's 10 degrees out (yes Fahrenheit), the horse poop freezes in the barn within minutes of it dropping from it's heated maker. So, at least, the horses can't grind it into the shavings. The snow's too freaking deep to dump the manure too far from the barn, so it gets dumped in a big pile not too far from the huge front doors. Of course, in the spring, it gets moved to another pile, closer to our unsuspecting neighbors who can't quite figure out why the damn flies are so bad in the hot summer.

Yet, even with the cold and snow, it looks absolutely amazing outside with the happy horses eating hay on the white snow covered field. As steam exhales from their muzzles,icicles dangle from their whiskers like these are mystical polar horses from arctic circle. They roll and dance in the snow like school children ecstatic with yet another snow day off from school.

My wife is a saint! A cold saint ... but a saint none-the-less -- a virtual equine snow angel.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Horse Shows -- Structured Pandemonium

February 5, 2010

If there were only one word to describe a horse show it would be “contrast”. Horse shows are structured pandemonium. They are incredibly exciting, yet exceedingly boring, easy and exhausting, swift and dawdling, morning and night, stunning and hideous, expensive and, well, more expensive.

While I truly dislike watching the daughters of others show, I truly enjoy watching my daughter show. My butt cheeks would quiver as our horse approached the first jump and my wife clenched my arm with her fingernails. Time slowed and our breathing became shallow and shaky as if our bodies were in sub-zero pools of water, while our heads were baking in a desert on the equator of Mercury. While my body quaked, my mind became a play-by-play announcer. I thought to myself,

‘Eight jumps … that’s all … we just need eight clean jumps. Any hitch, knock, falter, wrong lead change, short, long, chip, could send us home unhappy. There she goes. So beautiful… like a ballet… a symphony. So beautiful.

There’s the first jump … good… good. Now the second … smooth… clean. Don’t forget to breath, breath. I don’t think I am. Breath damn it … Breath.

Now coming to jump three… just like a ballet … clear. Good…Easy on the hands… easy … easy … OK and now four … easy on the pace… easy … easy … good… great! OK a single at five … these are the hardest … a single jump … all by itself… nothing for judging pace… just a lonely jump… all alone.

Three more jumps … a gymnastic… three jumps in a line… nice gait… nice … nice … breath … breath… good over six… breath… good over seven… breath, breath …now eight. Here it comes. It’s coming … the last one. Great. Awesome! Breath. The perfect course…Breath … the perfect course. She’s done… she’s done… breath… breath. So beautiful…just like a ballet… just like a ballet’