Zero degrees tonight. As the temperatures plunged this week, I suddenly remembered that these are the conditions I own a bunch of this cold-weather clothing for. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it until now, but sheesh, I had drug these heavier items–sweaters, cords, the heavier base layers–out earlier in the season when I was still teaching in Welches. I don’t remember using my winter clothing much last year, but then again, not only was I still half-organized here in Enterprise, but I think we were in Portland during the coldest temps last year, and came back just as the temperatures rose to the teens at night.
Of course, I have to remember that I taught in a cold room for eight years, with a door that opened only to the outside and I probably wore my heavier winter wear much more frequently than I do now. Welches may not get as cold as Enterprise does on a regular basis, but it did hit the 30s with damp and rain or snow pretty steadily from late November through February. So as a result I do have a nice stock of heavier clothing and things that go over light ski base layers and look good, just because I needed that functionality to be comfortable. Especially since I went to the barn several nights after work, and it was damp, cold, and near the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, which meant a lot more wind than up on the Mountain.
Single-digit and zero degree temps here in Enterprise don’t seem so bad after that. Without wet and wind, it’s possible to get outside and do things in these high mountain valleys. Today, hubby went off to cut wood for a local nonprofit that provides heating wood to people in need. I went out to the barn to do a short ride and give the horse some meds before the farrier appointment tomorrow morning. Mocha seems to appreciate the new life and she’s not as frantic in the pasture this year. Then again, last year winter pasture life was all new and she had bonded closely with one other horse, who was a bit of a stinker. This year, her friends are mannerly and she’s back to her mannerly habits, including coming up to me in pasture. I mixed in some warm water with her usual pellet feed and she slurped it right up, not rushing through it.
Then we headed out for our inspection of the fence. This winter, I’m riding Mocha in the pasture using a sidepull–a type of bitless bridle with a stiff leather noseband that is slightly snugger and sturdier than a halter, with a curb strap and extra ring so that the reins lie right. Despite her greater energy this year, I’m not too worried about her taking off with me because something startled her. For one, she doesn’t have her winter shoes on yet, so she’s not moving as fast and she’s having problems with ice buildup in her shoes. I counter that somewhat during our rides by spraying canola oil on her feet and shoes to supplement the rim pads she’ll get tomorrow–last year, I used WD-40, but the new spray nozzle on that stuff doesn’t work worth a hoot in wintertime. I had enough of wrestling with that darn nozzle on cold, snowy days last winter. I’m also hoping to get some borium or tungsten put on the shoes to help with the grip–the rim pads will help reduce ice buildup as well. So until then, we’ve been taking it rather easy.
I could tell in the cold of today that Mocha wasn’t wanting to move fast, which was fine by me. She clearly had energy from the way she moved, lining out in her usual big walk with a level head and ears forward, but she was also being a smart horse and not wanting to exert herself any harder than she had to in these conditions–temps in the low teens, if not single digits. I remembered why I want to be riding midday in wintertime–as the sun went behind Ruby Peak, I could look up to some of the high mountain ridges to see skiffs of snow blowing off the very tops. While there was a faint wisp of moving air in the field, that high-altitude wind reminded me of bitter cold days riding the lift up the Magic Mile, where I would bend over double to keep warm in the teeth of a sharp breeze.
I did see some cold weather oddities. As we first started out, I noticed shimmering heat waves over the neighboring alfalfa field. Now maybe that was over the irrigation ditch that is still in the process of freezing up. It’s hard to say. Further on, the pipes on one of the wheel lines (irrigation pipes on big metal wheels) vibrated, slowly at first and then more intensely. And yet the wheel line we rode next to wasn’t doing that.
Winter is here for certain.