Winter Wonderland

By Tayler Melin

Hello friends! It is that time of year again! Rodeo season is just around the corner and I have found myself unprepared. My master procrastinating skills have defeated me; I am just now beginning the mad rush to prepare for the upcoming rodeo season.

Every year I tell myself; ‘this winter will be different’ – but it never is. I started the winter with good intentions but found myself often sidetracked by injury, illness or the unrelenting cold. That being said, it is now down to the wire and unless it is -20 or colder, I am going to be bundled up in my insulated coveralls, winter boots and toque braving the weather.

Originally my plan was to ride through the winter and maintain my horse’s condition from the fall, until my good mare Cacao fell ill with a blood infection. I spent most of October through December doctoring and very little time riding. At the beginning of December, Cacao began to come around so I began hauling to local arenas to ride. I was doing great too, until Christmas came. I again got sidetracked with all of the craziness that often surrounds such holidays. So by January 1st I vowed to begin the battle again…but the weather had other plans. In Alberta most of January was stormy and bitterly cold. We received ridiculous amounts of snow, making riding around the hay field or pasture impossible. It is now well into February and I am no better off then I was in December! Thus is life. I have learned some very important lessons this winter though.

Up until this year I was fortunate enough to have a place to keep my horse’s where I had access to an indoor arena and round-the-clock care. In other words, I was spoiled. I had no idea how much work was involved with wintering horses, never mind trying to keep them in shape! The first lesson I learned was that shod horses and snow do not mix. Shocker huh? Well after my last jackpot in October I didn’t get a chance to have the farrier out to remove the shoes for several weeks. So twice a day I trudged out through the snow to catch Cacao and try to hammer, yes literally hammer, the frozen snow out of her feet. It was an endeavor neither of us particularly enjoyed and she often reminded me of that by putting her just cleaned foot in the only bit of unpacked snow she could find. I swear she thought it was hilarious.

Lesson two; running horses and round bales are not a good combination. In attempts to lessen the work load I turned my horses out with the mares to feed on round bales for the coldest part of the winter. The horses often eat holes into the bale and continue to feed from that hole, breathing in the fine particles and dust. Now I am feeding a lung flush to try and battle the cough this has caused. Some people roll out round bales onto the ground to avoid this, but in turn the horses are eating hay off of the ground next to their feces, which increases their risk of consuming worms. There is also a lot of hay wasted when it is all laid out. Trade off; throw hay four times a day, or shove a giant syringe full of what I’m assuming to be disgusting tasting lung flush down my horses very ungrateful throats. Is there a lesser of two evils?

As a result to our place being flat and bare, the yard drifts something awful. I recently had to dig out 12 square bales and drag them through the drifts in our pathetic little hay sled. The sled is really only made to haul one bale at a time but there was no way I was making twelve trips! So I haphazardly stacked them two at a time and struggled to pull the heavy load across the yard. While all of this was going on the horses decided to come check out the situation and stayed to enjoy the show. I’m sure it was quite the scene.

I have developed a plan to get myself and my horses rodeo-ready; suck it up and continue riding outside. In May, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to accompany my father down to the States for a series of National Senior Pro Rodeos. We will drive down to Oklahoma, then Texas, followed by New Mexico and finally Arizona. I will be bringing both of my horses with me so I can continue to ride and build up their condition. During the rodeos Dad will rope off of Black, my all-around horse, while I chase stock out of the arena on Cacao as well as ride in grand entry. I will return home at the end of May with fit, sleek horses and a sun-kissed tan!

I am eagerly awaiting everything this year has to offer and look forward to seeing you all in the spring! Until then, stay warm and ride hard!