California needs rain. If you pay attention to the news at all or like to eat produce you probably have some knowledge of this. So while El Nino is bringing beautiful summer-esque weather to the east coast and Texas, Northern California has gotten a few fantastic storms that have put “modest dents” in the drought. Modest they may be, but I will take it!

But that “modest dent” comes with collateral damage: mud, mud, mud. Mud. And mud.

Nobody’s pastures can survive getting 8.5” of a 9.5” seasonal average in 8 weeks, that is simply a fact. The hills have gone green, the creeks are flowing again, and with some sunny snaps in the middle grasses are shooting up at an alarming rate. Much of the area is starting to resemble the vernal pools that existed prior to agriculture and development, circa 1800.

So while all our pastures are underwater my horse — who has lived his entire life to date either in pasture or with overnight turnout in a pasture, and who has never spent more than a few weeks cooped up in his stall — is now going on 12 weeks of weather-mandated “stall rest”. Time travel to pre-agricultural California notwithstanding, this actually hasn’t been especially exciting on the horse front. Murray evidently grew up a lot over 2015, and there have been very few moments of derp on the ground. A couple of times he’s snuck out of his stall when I left the door open a human’s width for but a moment – to grab his feed tub from inside or grab his blanket from the bar outside – but his escapades haven’t gone past the main barn aisle. He hasn’t wanted to run wild laps around the arena or on the end of the lunge line, and hasn’t even tried to throw himself on the ground while tacking up.

In fact, the most remarkable thing is that putting a shoulder guard on Murray seems to have eliminated a bunch of his poor manners on the ground. It turns out that the mid-weight blanket I bought for Murray just does not fit him right, and he’s getting rubs all over his body – across his chest, over his shoulders, over his hips, even on the sides of his belly. To try to help with the worst of his rubs I stuck a shoulder guard on him. A few years ago, when I first noticed Murray getting rubs from a blanket, I thought about getting a shoulder guard, but the idea of trying to Velcro some elastic around the barrel of my already-girthy horse was not something I eagerly anticipated. My friends and I joked that maybe it would work like a ThunderShirt does for dogs and totally fix him! You can imagine my surprise when I found out it kinda does. Murray is way less girthy since getting the shoulder guard, and he happily dips his head through the neck hole when I put it on him. Who would have thought.

What my horse is, other than shockingly well behaved for a former star of “Poniez Behaving Badly”, is glum. And stiff. And unfocused. And bored.

We have the El Nino blues.

I’ve tried to keep boring rides and repetition to a minimum and have maximized playdates with friends whenever the arena is open and allows it. But winter is always filled with some amount of drudgery. Murray’s general malaise is making me more sympathetic to him than his naughty antics ever were, so I’m trying extra hard to keep things fun this year. Unfortunately, my fingers are crossed for lots and lots and lots more rain, this year and in the future. So Murray will have to learn to deal with serious winter blues – half the country does it pretty successfully! – and so will I.