In our last article, we were praying for good weather in January for our In Hand clinic, following a cold snap earlier in the month. Well, we were very lucky for the clinic, and able to fit in full sessions both days without anyone getting rained on. The sun even shone. What we weren’t expecting, shortly afterwards, was to have snow on the ground for two weeks!
Not just a smattering of it, either, but inches of the stuff. Not a blade of grass to be seen anywhere. The horses – all eleven of them – got through the last of our hay stores alarmingly quickly. This was meant to be for the clinics, since the whole point of having excellent grazing is not having to supplement it, but there was simply nothing for them to eat otherwise. No chance of running water in the field, either, and as before when the water pipe burst, we had to carry buckets across from the tack room to the yard. At least it wasn’t case of filling up containers and ferrying water in a car to them, which must be the situation for quite a number of horse owners in the country. Our normally low-maintenance gang suddenly required almost constant care. At least their feet stayed clean!
We arrange Intensives (rather than clinics) in the winter for just this scenario – at least only one or two people will be affected by less than clement conditions, and usually a break in the weather will appear at some point. It was a shame, nonetheless, that the clients we had who were due down from Liverpool had their plans so disrupted. Not only couldn’t they bring their horse, but even when they came down just the two of them, with the plan of doing some dismounted work and theory and maybe working with one of our horses, they still had some treacherous driving conditions to negotiate, and a daily slide down our steep driveway. We had been prevaricating over the various options, and they had delayed as long as possible in coming, before deciding to not bring the horse. This was just as well. By the time they did come, the only way to get a horse down the drive would have been to get it to sit down and slide here on it’s bum. If people have this level of rapport and understanding with their horse, they probably don’t need our help.
The school wasn’t remotely usable, not even for humans on foot. The minus 11 degrees freezing nights meant there was a hard pan of ice on top of the snow, but not so hard you couldn’t guarantee suddenly falling through it in a nasty jarring sort of way. Worse, though, was that since the driveway was impassable and there were no real signs of improvement, the prospect of getting more hay in was dismal.
Luckily, our landlord came to the rescue with his JCB and fetched a large hay bale from a neighbouring farm. This gave us a couple of days leeway for our regular supplier to dig himself out of his village and attempt the journey to us before he disappeared to Spain for a well-deserved and (for him at least) well timed holiday. In spite of our efforts with a shovel, he still couldn’t risk a trip down the drive though, so our trusty landlord helped us once again by ferrying the haylage bales down the drive with his tractor.
It was another 5 days before the snow disappeared, and then we had 7 days of back-to-back Intensives, who enjoyed glorious Spring sunshine every day of their visit. We’re thinking of hiring these clients to attend all of our clinics, to see if they can guarantee us the same sort of lovely weather for the rest of the year.