Winters in Canada are unforgiving. We get temperatures down to -25°C (-13°F), several feet of snow, and arctic winds that feel like your skin is being stripped away. Periodically we also get beautiful warm sunny days, which seem like a brief respite but actually melt and re-freeze the good footing into sheets of sheer ice. So what do we do all winter (other than curl up by the wood stove and drink homemade cider)?
We ride! Wildfire Arabians was founded bordering the Larose Forest, which boasts many user groups including ATVs and snowmobiles. This means beautifully-groomed packed-snow trails throughout the forest. We share with the motorized vehicles - Wildfire horses aren't keen on a group of forty stinky, roaring machines sliding by, but will tolerate it - and can go for hours all through the forest. We're pretty spoiled!
What do we work on? In general, we don't. We don't worry about keeping the horses conditioned, or pushing for our goals. The days are short and even our groomed trails are sometimes unrideable. We take this time to enjoy the winter sun and the fuzzy ponies without thinking about the upcoming competition season (in theory!). It's a great time to bring the kids out or take a hubby out for a ride!
This year we're also using the winter to plan our very first Spring ride, set for the end of May (https://www.facebook.com/events/701561253346041/). Wildfire family members are involved in everything from Ride and Trail Management to food preparation and manure pickup. Armed with spreadsheets, rule books, and wine, the Spring Fling ride should be a fantastic start-of-season ride for Eastern Ontario (and Quebec!) riders.
So, we are keeping ourselves busy, and it's startling to think that the first OCTRA-sanctioned rides start in only two months! (Although the first Eastern Ontario ride is a training clinic in three months, followed by our Spring Fling ride). The horses maintain (or improve) their condition with rides through snow, while antsy riders think way too far in the future about strategies for upcoming rides and excitedly plan for the Spring Fling. My next post will likely be about the joys and challenges of being a Ride Manager, for those of you who want to charge down that road!