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With all the snow that has been piling up in the northeast, turnout has been a challenge. Thirty inches fell at a rate of two inches per hour during the first of several storms. Plunging temperatures, more snow, and cloudy skies prevented much evaporation and no melting at all. Spring remains a hope and a dream, but not a current reality. 

My horses have a small plowed space in one of their fields, and that is about all. Fortunately, they have pens attached to their stalls, so they can move around a bit in weather like this when turnout is not safe. 

On a sunny day after the big storm, I thought I’d let the stir-crazy horses out to play in the snow while it was still soft and safe enough for them, though there was no grass was in sight. The coveted greenery lay deep below the chill of several strata of whiteness. I was delighted to observe them run and romp in the deep snow, excited to be out to play and just be horses. Each horse went as quickly as they could, walking would be boring and more challenging in deep snow, so they were off, one, two, three, canter, trot, pace! I’ve seen many horses turned out in snow over the years, but the way these three approached the excitement of a fresh challenge made me smile and marvel at the wonders of nature, breeding, and training. 

My paint horse has a quarter horse frame, a strong stocky body and a smart forward-moving disposition. Accustomed to trails, hills, water, varying terrain, rocks, he decided that the best way to maneuver through this and to keep up with his race horse companions was to canter. He could thus use his hind legs to propel his body forward through the thickness of powdery snow. 

My two Standardbreds have different gaits. Both will automatically revert to their known, bred, and trained gait, increasing the speed to create power. They were off to the races that day although they are long retired and served in rural communities for many years. My trotter glided through the snow with grace and speed, cutting a clean line, making a wake. My pacer lifted his feet higher before putting them back down to push off the ground with alacrity. He mostly wanted to roll, kick up his feet, and scratch an itchy back. What a spectacle! 

The scene made me reflect on the thrill of getting out in fresh, deep snow after having been cooped up inside for a few days while mother nature laughed, displaying her powerful grandeur, reminding us of our vulnerability. It did not take long for the small herd to become tired, ready for a rest, frustrated by the lack of grass, real grass, not just hay. 

There are many brief moments of joy and awe on a horse farm. A romp in the snow done three ways captured my attention and mesmerized me for a moment as I pondered the three different approaches to play. Ever too soon, I had to return to my chores, but I was very grateful for that time to experience the thrill of the first snow from three equine perspectives!

 
Katharine MacCornack
Published on 02-03-2021
I started riding as a child and have always loved everything equine. I've been involved in training, breeding, and several disciplines over the years. I live on a small farm with my horses. I am a teacher and a writer.