Pam Stone: The Beauty (And Challenges) of Winter Riding

Blogger Pam Stone shares some of the highs and lows of her winter in Tryon, North Carolina.

It’s hard enough to simply walk through 10 inches of snow, much less push/pull/drag/fall on your butt and backstroke a wheelbarrow full of sodden manure to the pile behind the barn. But after you stop cussing and wiping away tears of vexation, you might glance up at the dawn sky, two weeks before Christmas and take this image in:

And take it in I did, as well as every other person in our small community, 7 miles from Tryon, North Carolina, for the solid week it took to melt. Many friends lost power for days and Cross Creek Farm, where Hokan Thorn trains, suffered a collapsed roof over the arena. Despite insurance, many costs remain and I was compelled to start a GoFundMe for owner, Katherine. You know, it’s a mortifying thing to ask for help, but I can’t think of any horseman or woman, who hasn’t been in dire financial straits from time to time and would appreciate help. As usual, our equine community has been stepping up to help one of its own, but there is still much to do.

Make no mistake about it: this has been a hard, hard winter for us southerners. When it hasn’t been snowing, it’s been flooding: relentless days of rain turning arenas into swimming pools and making turn outs as slick as glass. There’s been lots of hand walking, missed lessons and despair.

But then Christmas week rolled around and the days turned mild and calm. Unseasonably warm. Despite well over a week off, both horses that have been in training with me this month gave us lovely gift-wrapped rides. Locano, the 15-hand Arabian, carried his owner, Jessica, who hasn’t ridden since Thanksgiving, to more than a few lovely moments. He is straighter and more confident in his ability to carry his rider and so has relaxed enormously. And Jessica is learning to ‘carry’ her hands a bit and ‘let go,’ all the while truly feeling when he was connected beneath her and in front of her leg.

The oh-so-willing and powerful Dutch/Draft filly, Lyric, has strengthened dramatically and is offering a far more uphill canter, full of enthusiasm.

The best part of all is that on Christmas Eve I was able to partake in a dearly held, long-standing tradition I began decades ago: taking a late afternoon canter before the early evening service at our church (I love the Midnight service, but that’s a no-go when having to stumble out of bed at 6 a.m. with two hours of barn chores staring you in the face). Since retiring Forrest, I’ve had nothing to ride on Christmas Eve and it’s been a bit heart breaking. It’s more than just a ride. It’s a spiritual meeting with my maker, out in the elements, doing what I feel I was born to do. A sort of private, quiet gesture of gratitude, if you will. And this year, I had not one, but two horses to take for a lovely hand gallop. What joy!

May we all remember in 2019, regardless of goals met with success or frustration, exactly why we love horses in the first place, and indulge in just that. Happy New Year!






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