A couple of weeks ago Joe drove me to the Farm to ride my assigned stallion, Menessen. I couldn’t get off him properly thirty minutes later. I’d been so focused on learning transitions that I didn’t realize that my toes were in deep trouble. They had very nearly transitioned into Frozen Solid. Fortunately, Joe was close and came to collect me right away. All of me was trembling; I simply hadn’t noticed the incredible cold until I began having trouble holding the reins. Menessen was becoming confused by my uneven signals so I halted the lesson and wobbled out to our car, with assistance.
Here’s the thing: I’m five feet tall and very slim- not skinny, just slim, and the thermometer read 9 degrees in mid-afternoon.
But I hadn’t gone riding without sufficient preparation.
Here’s what covered me:
Two pair of thick wool socks
Big insulated boots
2 long underwear long-sleeved shirts,
1 flannel shirt,
1 thick Guernsey woolen sweater,
1 thick, short insulated coat and
2 pair of gloves,
A headband to keep my ears warm under my
Riding helmet, and finally,
My long, thick Hogwarts scarf.
I still froze. I had to be helped into the kitchen, where I ran cold water into the big sink, sat high up on the counter and placed my flame-red feet into the quite cool water. There they stayed, still in blowtorch-painful mode. Over a period of an hour, I added tiny amounts of slightly warmer water—soooo painful- and repeated the process until the water turned toasty. My beleaguered toes gradually responded, finally moving from flame-red to a more normal cream color.
Believe me, thawing hurts.
It took another 2 hours for my core to warm sufficiently.
This was a major warning. I couldn’t ride again until we’d found a creative solution for this winter’s stubborn, rock-bottom temps.
Two days later this girl was electrified!
I now wore-
1 pair of thin knee socks.
1 Pair of Extreme (#4) long merino wool underwear tights designed for Arctic conditions.
1 pair of nearly knee-high smooth, thick computer-ordered electric socks with battery pouch located at the outside/top of each sock. These socks slid nicely over the two other sock layers.
Next, I eased on my slim jeans.
Then my boots, with their woolen linings. I plugged in the socks and set them to ‘H.’ Ahhhhhh....bliss.
Next, I donned the merino wool Extreme #4 matching undershirt, then layered two more Extreme conditions ski undershirts over the first one. Then I shrugged on my thick woolen sweater, and finally-
My newly acquired electric jacket from Gander Outdoors, whose square-ish flat battery sits snugly in its right-hand pocket, where the built-in cord awaits it. I married plug to battery, zipped the jacket and pressed the button located on its breast. ‘Bright Red’ is the highest of 3 settings. I left it on that flaming ‘H.’ (The directions warned that I might burn on High, but I shrugged. Lawyer talk. Why install a ‘Hot’ setting if one is advised NOT to use it?)
I added a thick ski headband that covered my ears, and finally plunked my black riding helmet over the headband and buckled it on.
THEN- I drew on my electric gloves, with each one equipped with a 2” square battery- flipped the two batteries- to ‘H’- and went riding.
Oh- I forgot to mention the last thing- my Hogwarts scarf, with its burgundy red and yellow stripes. Everything else listed above is black, because that’s the color offered. My scarf provides a fine splash of ‘other.’
I wear one more thing over everything else. Joe ordered a special riding vest tailored for me that weighs not quite two pounds, which should mitigate some of the more awful potential injuries. A little canister of CO2 in a front pouch explodes with a soft pop, instantly expanding the secret ‘sausages’ buried inside the vest designed to shield neck and spine from top to bottom, as well as ribs and chest wall, All of this happens as soon as the connection to my saddle is broken. Two very similar motorcycle vests protect us when we ride our big bikes over the countryside.)
The cool thing: when my riding vest is buckled over the black electric jacket it’s almost invisible.
Plus, Joe feels less unnerved by my shenanigans, and that’s a good thing.
So off I went, suitably attired this time for my adventure, which began, funnily enough, well before I climbed aboard Menessen.
All the horses, blanketed in their warm fleece coats, had been taken outside to various paddocks to graze on the hay laid out there for them.
Menessen, of course, has his own paddock.
Anyway, as we left the barn and made our way out to catch him, Laura commented,
“Menessen isn’t happy about being outside all day. Three hours or so are plenty for him. He wants his big, roomy stall. But he’s also mischievous. When he signals by standing at the gate and I respond and go out to him, he’ll allow me to get just so close before he’ll pull back and gallop off. This game might go on for a while, so we’ll just have to be patient. When he thinks I’ve gotten the message- that He gets to choose when to come to me, the rest is easy. But the wait can be exasperating, especially in snow or rain. You’ll see....”
And then, she paused and turned to me with that ‘I’ve just realized...’ look.
“You know, Menessen loves you. I’ll bet- that when he sees you with me, there will be no games! Let’s see if I’m right!”
And so it went. Menessen was at the far end of his paddock when we entered. He turned toward us, looked hard, and immediately trotted straight to me! He pushed his beautiful face into my chest and made absolutely no objection to being caught. Laura smiled, snapped the long rope lead to his halter, and handed it to me. Menessen was delighted; he knew I would ride him.
We three walked inside together and two of us felt honored, and humble.
I’ve added this gift to so many other horse memories Laura and I have caught- and cherished.
By the way, I was toasty warm during that lesson, and have remained so.