By Karen Carlson
I am so excited to be able to join the Ramona Sentinel and to be able to continue to write to all of you. “Manes and Trails” will feature horse-related topics and stories as well as trail information that I hope you find useful and fun. I hope to hear from you from time to time. Just send an email any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
During these winter months I find time in the saddle harder to come by but I do have other things in and around the barn that need my attention.
Winter in our area can be a little strange weather-wise. There are days that it might be 35 degrees all day long and other days that climb from 35 to 80. Rain and mud put a kink in outdoor fun time, too. Lately when I get up, its 24 degrees, the windshield of the SUV is frozen solid, and the heater seems to take forever to get warm enough to thaw my frozen digits.
On many afternoons the temperature climbs up to 75 or 80 and then by the time I get back in the truck to return home the temperature is dipping below my comfort level once again.
Of course the time change — daylight savings or whatever they call it — does not help either. Dark when I leave the house, dark by the time I reach the front door after work. Riding in the darkness doesn’t entice me what-so-ever unless there’s a full moon and even then I have to be pretty desperate to make Cricket trudge around the arena in the moonlight.
I am a wintertime wimp. I can’t stand to be out in the cold weather doing anything. Some of you may not mind the cold, and I know there are those of you who would even enjoy a ride in the snow, but for the rest of us cold weather wimps now is the perfect time to clean our tack and perform other chores out in the barn.
When was the last time you got out there and grabbed the saddle soap, leather conditioner or whatever your preferred leather care item might be and gave your saddle and bridle a good scrubbing? I’ll bet like me, many of you tend to put it off. I convince myself time and again that I’ll get to it, but honestly rarely do. Cleaning and caring for tack is a chore, but a necessary one.
On cold winter days I take a saddle rack into my living room with towels and rags, cleaners and conditioners and scrub away while the television makes noise in the background. I spent a ton of money on my saddle and I love the way it fits and feels for both Cricket and I, so I want it to last as long as possible. With a fire crackling away in the potbellied stove, from pommel to cantle to fender and stirrup, every part of my saddle gets a good rubdown. I use an old, clean toothbrush for the tied areas, tooled or decorated parts and all the little nooks and crannies of my leather gear. Clean white towels are ever ready around my place as my husband has dozens bundled up in his shop and doesn’t mind if I take a few now and then — thank you, Honey. You can also simply use the worn out towels sitting in the back of your linen closet that you never use or want anyone to see. We all have them, there’s no shame. You can wash them and keep them in your tack room from now on. They are also great for the dog after a bath outside when the weather warms up, or to wipe your horse’s face from time to time.
As you clean your tack, you will also be able to notice any areas that have worn out and any items that may need to be replaced like the kangaroo strings that do wear, rot and become unsafe. Many saddles have kangaroo strings and bits of leather for various reasons and if one breaks during a ride it can be extremely dangerous. Those strings and bits of leather are often part of the safety mechanisms of your saddle. What would you or your horse do if your saddle suddenly began to slide sideways or fell off completely during a ride? I shudder to think of the consequences.
After you perform a thorough cleaning and conditioning, allow the leather to just hang out for a day or two.
Since there are so many days that riding is not possible, winter is a great time to wash your saddle pad, clean up the feed room, sweep out the barn and tack room, and remove those pesky spiderwebs that glom onto your face in the wee dark morning hours at feeding time. Reorganizing your tack room and getting rid of the extra or broken, no longer useful items will help clear your mind and de-clutter your tack room. Donating any still usable items you don’t need will lighten your heart and rescues and non-profits related to horses are always in need of donations.
Even when you can’t ride because of weather or lack of daylight, or both, there is plenty to keep you busy and doing chores now will free up more riding time when the weather is better and the days are longer. I can’t wait….