Wear plenty of layers and prepare yourself for anything.
It’s finally happened: today dawned chilly, with a cold gusty wind out of the north spattered with fitful rain. It’s the kind of day where you start to doubt the equestrian life path you’ve chosen, standing as you are with your hood tucked up and your back to the wind as you nurse your frozen fingers, wishing your horses would eat faster so you could collect the pans and dash back to the barn and eventually thaw your hands over the car heater.
When you return to ride later this afternoon, there are choices to be made. Let this serve as your guide to help you navigate the horse world on that first really cold day of the season: here are the horses you might be meeting today.
The High As a Kite
With every gust of wind, this guy is off like a rocket, tail fanning the air and head up like an elk, blowing and snorting like he’s a wild stallion. Egged on by his pasture mates who are equally loving the crisp weather, there’s probably going to be a lot of farting and bucking and general carousing about while you and your barn friends stand by the gate clutching your halters and lead ropes wondering if it’s safe to go any further.
A relative to the High As a Kite but with a little less stamina and perhaps a little more focus, the Bluffer will thunder up to you in the pasture, eyes bugged out and nostrils flaring, and jig-step the whole way into the barn enough to make you wonder if you’re taking your life in your hands trying to get on him today. You’ll pop him into the roundpen or put him on the lunge line to let him “get it out of his system” only to find that he’s put his professional pants on today and is ready to go, no questions asked, no matter how many cold gusts of wind goose him under the tail.
The inverse of the Bluffer, the Anti-Bluffer comes in placidly to the barn, stands with a hind foot propped and lower lip a-dangling, looking for all the world like Dobbin the Lesson Horse until you lead him out for your ride and he comes alive in truly terrifying fashion, all prancing and snorting and clearly very excited that the temperature dropped twenty degrees overnight and the breeze is high. Don’t forget your lunging equipment.
The Ticking Time Bomb
This horse has been fairly pleasant to work with so far: he came in out of the pasture with minimal airs above the ground and came out tacked up and ready to work without complaint or explosion… but there’s a suspicious lift in his back and those ears are certainly on a swivel today with every gust of wind. Make sure your jacket is well-fastened and don’t make any sudden movements up there in the saddle or you’ll be off to the races.
The Puff can be found standing wisely with his back to the wind, coat fluffed up against the chill, perhaps with his face buried in the hay feeder in an ingenious technique to keep his nose and ears warm. He does not want to go riding today, thank you very much, though if you are insistent, he will reluctantly trudge in to the barn with you and perform his job, all the while clearly quite unimpressed with your work ethic on these less-than-ideal riding days.
The Even Keel
No matter what the weather — blowing snow, pouring rain, summer sun or chilly autumn breeze — the Even Keel is exactly the same, every time, every ride. The Even Keel can be found in the guise of old school masters and lesson ponies, the so-called Husband Horse or the true unicorn you acquired for a song. If you have an Even Keel, embrace this rare breed. And go riding.