I have to admit, I’ve never ridden in sub-zero temperatures before. Not outdoors, anyway.
I’m civilized, you know, I come from a very solid central Maryland eventing background, and we have things like indoor arenas. We’d never dream of taking our horse out to a frozen arena. I remember getting so warm in the arena that we’d gradually shed layers, first the coat, then the sweater, then the second sweater, until we were down to a t-shirt.
The other fact is, when you ride for an hour or more, you have more time to build up a lot of heat than when you’re just riding for ten or fifteen minutes!
And it’s been so cold that you’d be insane to take a horse outside to the racetrack for more than ten or fifteen minutes. (Call a spade a spade: you’re insane to take a horse outside, at all. You’re insane to leave your bed, at all.)
I rode out on Tuesday morning to find myself on a gritty, clumpy track. The outer track was frozen solid, and riding the horses across it was like riding on asphalt. The inner dirt, which is formulated of some mysterious substance that really resembles a dressage arena more than anything (is it synthetic? I don’t know.) did not impress in the low twenty-ish degree weather. And the blowing snow – well, really, that just seemed like overkill. There was hardly any snow on the ground at all – just enough to thrill me and anyone under 12 – but what there was managed to come skating in great puffs of white as I went into the teeth of the north wind along the homestretch.
I had to turn my head from the wind – I still haven’t found a muffler for my face – and by the time we hit the top of the stretch (jogging, that is, we were going backwards on the track) I really felt like I’d never get on another horse as long as I lived. I couldn’t feel my left fingers. I couldn’t feel my face. I couldn’t feel my left foot. It was all very bad.
Then we turned back, along the backstretch, and with the wind at my back, it was a different story. I was glowingly warm. Not a bit of my skin was exposed to the breeze. It made all the difference in the world. By the time I got the horse in, I had broken a sweat, my muscles were singing, and I was fully ready to take out another horse.
But along that homestretch, into the teeth of the wind… oh, I’m never getting on another horse again, I would think…