Every time I am in one season, I think, "Why didn't I ride more in that other season?"
The truth is that I have a hard time remembering what challenges I face every winter, spring, summer and fall if I am not facing them at that very moment. I decided to write a post to remind of those seasonal challenges, so that hopefully I can plan ahead to work around them or with them rather than to let them take me and my horses by surprise. I'll probably be adding to these lists as more issues arise.
Of all the seasons, it is the most understandable for why I don't ride very often. With four to five months of temperatures hovering around 115 degrees F, it is best for the health of my horses and myself to avoid exertion while outdoors. Here's a list of obstacles that prevent me from riding in the summer months:
1. Triple digit temperatures cause symptoms of heat exhaustion to come on in a hurry. It's just dangerous to be outside during the day for extended periods of time.
2. August totally sucks with its monsoons and haboobs. We get flash floods, mud, dust, high winds, thunder, lightning... Just yuck.
3. The dog with the storm phobia will tear apart the house if I leave her at home alone, which prevents me from being able to ride the horses just before or after storms, when it is cooler. She actually senses storms coming, and will be in a state of panic hours before the wind even picks up.
Fall is the one season I always expect to be riding the most, yet something always gets in my way. Here's the list:
1. Coming out of summer hibernation, I am physically out of shape and it doesn't take much for me to injure myself. Injuries require time to recover.
2. With other people coming out of summer hibernation, viruses start making the rounds and I get sick more often. Illness requires time to recover.
3. I'm due for all of my doctor appointments in the fall, and those always lead to lab and imaging appointments, as well as follow up appointments with the doctors, not to mention all the trips to the pharmacy. My time gets sucked up in medical care hell.
4. With the horses coming out of summer hibernation, they are fresh and rambunctious. I usually have to go back to square one in their training, which means a lot of boring ground work and very little riding.
5. Holidays. It takes a lot of time to prepare for holidays and special days if I am coordinating and hosting the activities for them. I can easily spend two weeks before each holiday doing nothing but cleaning house.
With the major holidays over, I should be able to take control of my schedule, but...
1. There is a sudden population explosion after Christmas. Every house on our street is occupied and buzzing with activity. Unfortunately, most of this activity involves construction noises and large trucks. Kids are out riding their go-karts, grown kids are out racing motorcycles, ATVs and dune buggies up and down the street, race car engines are being tuned up, and trespassers can be found all over my property. Out on the bridle trails, there are hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and loose dogs behind every bush. My horses are nervous wrecks. Therefore, I spend most of the winter desensitizing them and exposing them to the things that scare them, so that they can be safer to ride.
2. The days are short, so when I feed the horses their breakfast at sunrise, by the time they are done eating, the afternoon sun is so low in the southern sky that my sensitivity to light makes me lose the desire to ride. Also, by then, we are just an hour or two away from the horse's dinner time, so they are anxious to get home to eat at sunset.
3. Rain and snow and mud. Need I say more?
Spring has proven to be my best riding season so far, but it is not without its challenges.
1. Rattlesnakes. A rattlesnake will most likely not kill a horse if bitten on the leg. However, if a horse is bitten on the nose or around the face, its air passageway can swell shut and the horse can suffocate. I've run into a lot of rattlesnakes along the bridle trails as well as in my back yard around my barn.
2. Killer bees. So far I've been caught in three swarms of migrating bees while on horseback. It's scary as hell. You don't know if they are honeybees or killer bees. You have to close your mouth and eyes, hold your breath, and hold still until the swarm passes you, and you have to pray that your horse does the same. Fortunately, my horses froze up during those experiences instead of bolting. I'm sure the outcome would have been different if we got stung. It is worse to stumble upon a hive than to be in the path of a migration.
3. Dust devils. Similar to bee swarms, and your actions need to be the same. Carry water, antiseptic, and bandages to treat cuts for you and your horse.
4. Sometimes winter jumps right into summer, so you have to deal with the triple-digit temperatures in the spring.
5. Sometimes winter drags out and you have to deal with extra rain and mud.
6. With everything being green and in bloom, the horses tend to do a lot of snacking along the trail on rides, which is a no-no. It takes the fun out of riding if I am in this constant tug of war with the horse's heads.
7. Just when I start getting my hopes up because the traffic in town begins thinning out, I can get both a parking space and a cart at the grocery store, and I don't have to spend as much time standing in lines, a bunch of stragglers show up in their RVs and campers in my neighborhood and they bring with them barking dogs, cigarette and cigar smoke, campfires, and revving engines, which results in us having to keep our windows closed at a time of year that would otherwise be perfect for airing out the house with fresh air.
They also start tossing uneaten food out for the wildlife, which attracts animals I prefer not to have around my property and horses, and most of the food ends up being dropped into my water troughs by birds. I waste a tremendous amount of time and water having to clean out and re-fill troughs.
8. Allergies. It's impossible to ride a horse when you have to blow your nose and rub your eyes every ten seconds. And if you take even the so-called non-drowsy pills to fight your allergies, you spend the entire day sleeping.
9. Gnats. It's impossible to get anything done when you have to be swatting gnats out of your face every second of the day. It's also time to put those fly masks on the horses, which takes more time out of my day because I have to put four masks on in the mornings and take four masks off in the evenings. Just cleaning up manure and feeding sucks all the energy out of me.
10. People. People tend to be more sociable in the spring, so they fill up my calendar with get-togethers, which takes away from my riding time.
What about you? Tell me where you live and what kind of seasonal challenges you have to face.