Shocker: it’s different in the south than it is in the north, in a whole host of ways not limited to the winter weather. I’m from the Great White North: a place where hand and foot warmers do nothing, ankles shatter after dismounting, snot freezes, and snow balls aren’t just things you throw at one another. The reality of a Northeastern winter is a very cold one – filled with seasonal activities like breaking ice in water buckets, dealing with frozen pipes, and a distinct lack of heat.
We didn’t ride on days when the weather had a wind chill making the air more frigid than the Cold Miser’s cavern. We learned the special discipline of hanging on while sheets of snow slid off the indoor arena roof. Our horses wore at least three blankets at night in the dead of winter, while we begin blanketing them mid September. The winters are long, cold, and ultimately tough when you think about how little the horses can be turned out when it’s 15 degrees and snowing, still, three days later.
And us? While our horses wear several blankets, we zombify ourselves with full body snow suits, Carhart layers to insulate us (even though we all end up bone cold), with heat blasting from one small room in our barns.
The first winter I experienced anywhere but New England was an entirely different season. The temperature never dropped below 25 degrees, the entirety of the season. At first I was a little offended, because how was it winter without the exciting threat of frostbite? But watching new friends and barn members wrap up in more layers than I’ve ever worn proved a point: it really is very different in the north and south.
For one thing, I am completely accepting of the fact that a little bit of snow may excite my horse for the next week. A handful of flakes is associated with the equine apocalypse. I’m ready to give him the day off. To watch him snort with glee in his paddock, and call it an afternoon. When the temperature starts to dip below 40, it’s also understandable if your desire to ride decreases fairly quickly. I know mine does.
I used to hate the idea that people would leave the Great White North to come South for the winter. After a decade here, though, I’m coming around.
Today was the “coldest” day so far, for us. Which in translation, means: I wore a coat. Rarely is there a day I’ll skip the barn due to the weather – that is, unless it’s snowing and the road is bad. Then safety is a factor! However, should there be no ice or snow on the road, you’d better believe I’ll try to make it to the barn. Today, I wore a coat. I when I dismounted, I forgot the way it feels for your ankles to crack when you land.
Whenever you say, “oh, it’s so cold!”, people will tell you it’s cold where they are, too. But I like to think in terms of relativity. For instance, I sat in the tack room, warming my hands over the heater after I rode today (like I’d done millions of times before), and I realized it was 47 degrees. How cold! And after mentioning it to an equestrian friend in the Great White North, I was informed, “that’s not cold!”
We’ll see how she feels when I tell her “that’s not hot!” this summer. After all, it is different in the north and south.