Instant Winter: Instant Worries as Horses, Barns, Pastures and Owners Are Put to the Test

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by Fran Jurga | 20 December 2009 |The Jurga Report at

When it finally stopped snowing today, a thirty-year-old horse was found down in his pasture in Connecticut. It took a local fire department's energy, manpower, equipment, persistence and ingenuity to get him up again...but they did. Photo from a slide show at the Hartford Courant web site.


It snowed today. And last night. And the wind blew, sometimes up to 50 miles per hour. Winter came in one icy blast to the northeastern quadrant of the United States. While the news on television only seems to tell us about people stranded in airports, it fails to remind us that those people are safe and warm, even if inconvenienced and late.

But on farms from Kentucky to Maine, there was a special test held this weekend. Let's call it the "Ready-Or-Not-Here's-Winter" test: Does the new gate open and close when it's frozen? Can last year's water tank heater make it another year? Are those new fence posts in deep enough? Should you have added borium to shoes this year, or can you get by without it? Who can I get to plow out to the pasture?

And on a larger scale, particularly in areas not accustomed to snow, there is the danger of collapsing roofs on barns and outbuildings. Of horses stepping over fences buried in snow. Of power failures. And frozen pipes. And so much stuff invisible under the snow that the riding ring and stableyard are like minefields. You meant to put everything away. Now you can't even see it.

Winter came early this year. This was a freak storm--winter doesn't officially start until tomorrow! Here on the coast, the wind is still blowing snow into artistic drifts, and there are flood warnings because the storm is out at sea now, but sending swollen tides back at us.

It's especially difficult when these storms hit over holidays. Many owners are traveling, and leave the horses in the care of horsesitters who may or may not make the right calls on which horses should be out and which ones should be in. Which paddock she meant when she said "the little turnout". Where on earth these people keep a snow shovel. And do they have someone plow the driveway? A little snow is one thing, but no one was expecting a foot (or more) this early in the year. The owners may be incommunicado on a sailboat somewhere off Greece and you're faced with a near-riot of six fit horses that want out of their stalls. Now. More hay? She only left these five bales--how long will that last if they're cooped up like this?

The text of the story of the 30-year-old horse in Connecticut that went down in his pasture during the night is probably not typical of the emergencies encountered this weekend. Connecticut is, of course, the wealthiest state in the USA and when I read about the airbag and sling equipment the town's fire captain had at his disposal to help this horse, I was amazed. How lucky this horse and his owner are to live where they do, although I am sure they pay plenty of taxes toward their town's equipment. How different if this horse had needed help in a more remote location, in a poorer community, in a less affluent state.

Maybe while you have the oven on, bake an extra batch of cookies this year and take then down to the fire station in your town. Make a date in January for them to come out to your place and have a look around, see your layout, pat your horses. A fireman may be the best friend your horse ever had, whether you live in the snow belt or the sun belt.

Just ask that nice gray horse in Connecticut, who's standing safely in his stall tonight, if you don't believe me.