THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL

Isn’t winter the pits? I guess you wouldn’t mind it if you were a polar bear or you could escape to a tropical paradise. None of us like it because we’re not polar bears, we don’t ski and Mom is way too poor to ship us off to some nice warm, place.

If we were wild horses we’d live outside 24-7. There’d be no electric lights to brighten our nights, but that wouldn’t bother us. We can see everything, even when the moon is hiding and the sky is as black as licorice. If humans could see as well as we can they wouldn’t have bothered to invent light bulbs. Although we’d have to search for shelter and huddle together for warmth, we wouldn’t stay in Sherman all winter. We’d head off to Florida where there’s plenty of sweet grass and warm sun. Since we are domesticated horses, we’re not free to escape the bad weather or search for the sweetest grasses that only grow in secret places. We’re at the mercy of our owners. Luckily, we live in the NEIGH-borhood where we’re always sheltered and fed. But that still leaves the problem of the ice and snow.

Trinity and Cherokee don’t wear shoes, but the rest of us do. This presents a problem when the ground is covered with ice. Can you imagine if your shoes were made out of metal? I bet you’d spend more time on your backside than on your feet! Thankfully horse owners have a solution to this problem.

In late November or early December, the blacksmith puts special shoes on us that have little spikes on the toes and heels. These sharp metal points dig into the ice when we walk, which prevents us from slip, sliding away—most of the time. The blacksmith also inserts a rubber pad with a bubble in the center between our hoof and the shoe. These pads are called “snowball pads”. When the snow gets packed into our hoof, it depresses the bubble until it suddenly pops up, pushing the snow out. Without this handy invention, we’d be walking on giant snowballs until the spring thaw.

I looked outside this morning and saw that everything was covered with a new helping of snow—including the paths leading to our paddocks. We can easily tromp through deep snow, but ice is dangerous in spite of our handy dandy winter shoes and snowball pads. Neither Mom nor I knew what evil lie waiting under that fresh coating of marshmallow fluff as she led me out of the barn. Mom is cautious of her footing and encourages us to be as well. She said, “Be careful Plats. It’s veeery slippery. Walk slowly and don’t do anything dumb. You don’t want to fall.” (She thinks rearing up when she’s leading me is dumb. I don’t. Sometimes a horse just has to be a horse.)

I took cautious mini-steps and didn’t even think of playing, “Hey, look at my belly button!” because she’s right; I don’t want to fall. I’m petrified of breaking a leg. The next time you see a horse, I want you to compare the size of his body to the delicacy of his legs. One wrong step and they could snap as easily as a dried twig.

We were inching our way to the back paddock when all of a sudden my legs started skittering, slipping and sliding. My left front leg went right; my right front leg went left, and both back legs collapsed. I crashed to the ground. Both of us were stunned. Mom’s face crinkled up with concern as she watched me struggle to my feet. Luckily my winter shoes did their job. I dug the spikes into the ice and hoisted myself upright.

After Mom got me safely into the paddock, she headed back to the barn. I guess the ice was still having fun with us because she took about three steps and then began wobbling back and forth like an over-sized Weeble before landing in a heap. Now it was my turn to crinkle my face. Her legs are twig-like too and I was afraid they would snap.

She spent the next three hours shoveling snow and spreading salt and dirty shavings all over the paths. After settling into the melting ice, this lumpy, smelly stuff provides skid-proof footing for all of us. She never gave up working until she was sure no one would fall again.

Florida might be nice and warm and I bet the sweet grasses that grow in those mysterious places are tasty, but there’s a lot to be said for living in a place like the NEIGH-borhood. Nothing beats having good friends and a mom who will take care of you no matter what.