It is so Irish to talk about the weather. We have so much of it and we do love it as a topic. It’s a great day, a fine day, a soft day, a windy day, a wet day, a wet day, a wet day…And here I am talking about it too.
Ben, bless him, grows a grand winter coat – a rug in fact. I curry it, I brush it, I put the saddle on and off we go. We do not do the kind of riding in the winter that necessitates a clip. I run my hands along his back, marveling at the dense, thick mat he has grown, which will grow thicker yet. I feel a lump. A bite? This time of year? Then I feel another and another. Quite a few in fact. How could I have missed these? I search for them. No more. I feel relieved but keep probing. Ah here are more, and more. It requires quite a search, pushing my fingers through the dense hair, brown at the tip and grey underneath (for Ben is officially a roan).
This is his fourth winter here. Winter one: I gave him a chase clip, not yet adjusted to the fact that horses can really regulate their own temperatures rather well. That winter proved unusually cold. I got some great photos and very little riding. Ben spent it in his cumbersome turnout rug and, I had to admit, looked a bit ridiculous, his coat growing about 4 inches proud of the clipped lower half.
Winter two: he was barefoot and woolly with no rug. Another frozen winter and he came through it well.
Winter three: was milder and wet and as I used our neighbour’s exposed winter grazing I put a rain sheet on him despite having no clip. He did not like me putting on that rain sheet.
Winter four: so far a few frosty nights, some sunny days and, since late autumn, a lot of rain. I thought about the rain sheet. But he hates it so much and we have good shelter here. Does any horse like a rug? Ben does not and he so loves to roll, pushing his neck along the ground making satisfied grunts as he does. I left him without the sheet and compromised by keeping both ponies in the stable for a few hours in the evenings to dry. Only of course Ben never dried.
So now outside it is dark and cold and rain is relentlessly falling. I am treating the rain scald and Ben is wearing that rain sheet. He shot his head back to bite it when it was on.
My husband asks ‘but what would they do in the wild?’ Good question. Maybe Ben would be fine. He is not bothered by it and it does not seem to be infected – yet. But neither Ben nor Cloud is in the wild, much as I like to keep them in as natural a way as possible. They do not have freedom to roam as they want, they have different nutrition, different exercise, such totally different lives, despite the wild ponies who so definitely live within. In fact they are in captivity and their generous and cooperative natures allow them to adapt and thrive. But with that captivity comes a duty of care which makes my hesitations over a rain sheet laughable. Except for the fact that it is against Ben’s will.
Cloud from Lithuania has less problem with our Irish rain. Cloud came to us with two rugs – stable and turnout – and I have had to use neither. He has grown a nice woolly coat that is nowhere near as dense as Ben’s and seems to dry much faster.
We’ve had some great skies and wonderful light with all this weather. I love it, I love it all, even the rain. I have to steal myself to leave the warm house but outside is where I feel most alive.