#TBT: 4 Ways Equestrians Totally Jump the Gun on False Spring

Pump the brakes!

Mud, mud everywhere...and some very winter-fat horses who are begging for riding. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Mud, mud everywhere…and some very winter-fat horses who are begging for riding. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

I’ve gone on record plenty of times before stating how much I dislike early spring. Late spring is fine, with its flowers and sunshine and peeping frogs and baby calves and all that… but early spring basically means one thing — mud. Mud everywhere. Deep mud that sucks off your boots (not to mention horse shoes), thin wet mud that splashes into your eyeballs and open mouth as you’re hollering for your horses to quit farting around and making a mess, gritty mud that transforms into a fine powder that coats every surface when your barn dog finally dries off…

That’s not to say I have not been enjoying this week of relatively balmy weather. A lot of the East Coast seems to be caught in a springlike lull this week, with record temperatures predicted for my particular corner of Horse Nation tomorrow, and the mid-50s we’ve been experiencing, while producing plenty of mud, have also made things like basic barn chores and horsey time much more enjoyable. But I have to keep pinching myself to remember that yes, it’s only February, and no, summer is not right around the corner. False spring is just that — a big, fat, lie.

Here are four things I’ve had to stop myself from doing this week lest I incur the wrath of the weather gods and send us straight back to the tundra:

1. Washing, repairing and putting up blankets.

Oh, how tempting would it be to at least get the heavyweights all nicely laundered, sun-dried on the line, patch up the little holes and fold them up into storage! But because weather works in mysterious ways, I know if I so much as touch the heavy high-necks we’re going to get a surprise blizzard with record low temperatures. So while I have all the barn doors and windows open to air out, I’ll have to stare at the muddy, pin-holed heavy blankets sitting on the rack for another month at least.

2. Bathing.

(No, not me… the horses.) Admittedly, the fact that we might get into the upper 60s tomorrow is NOT going to stop me from at least washing the socks on my draft horses as we have a full day of wagon rides planned for Saturday, and I’d like them to not look like feral animals I found in the woods… but I also know that as soon as I turn them back out with their nice bright white socks they’re going to plod right into another mud puddle and then it’s probably going to rain again. Literally, I cannot win this time of year.

3. Giving in to my horses’ desires and thinking about grazing rotations.

For one thing, there’s no actual grass yet. For another thing, I’ve got to make my pastures stretch all summer long through careful rotation, so starting in March is definitely not a road map to success. Meanwhile, the horses are trying their hardest to convince me that yes, it IS time to open the gate, and are performing all sorts of interesting acrobatics to try to grab a little bit of just-thawed grass from under the fence. Go back to the feeder, kids. Nothing to see here.

4. Starting to think about a spring legging-up plan.

Even without considering that riding around the farm right now is only a good way to strain a tendon in the mud or tear up the pastures and trashing them long before spring even actually starts, there is no point in thinking that this week of perfect riding weather can be beneficial for fitness. My riding horses get the winter off, so it would hardly be fair of me to start trying to get them fit this week only to have the snowclouds slam shut again and send us all back to the winter paddock.

As sinful as it feels to have warm sunshine on my face and just stare at my horse staring back at me, as though I’m squandering some precious resource, it’s important to remember that everything has a season, and no matter how much I want to believe we’ve taken the first steps towards summer, we are simply caught in a period of false spring. Soon, my friends… soon.

Go riding… if you can.

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