After a Frosty Night
He needs a lot of food to stay warm, so these days there is unlimited hay in front of his nose. Luckily he is born with an attitude and the ability to acquire a fine homegrown mass of body fat. However, with these temperatures the extra mash serving, repeated later in the day, will help him through the night.
I feel for him. Sure, he has a shed, but Stella and I have a much warmer home, we have beds and blankets. And a wood stove, that grumbles away non-stop. I feel I could apply for a job on a working steam wheeler, the way I am throwing logs into the stove. It is a huge stove, and the huge logs, unsplit, keep burning all night.
He makes it through the night. Through every night. He is not happy, but he is also not shivering cold. His body looks like being powdered with frozen icing sugar. When I come again, still before dawn, he waits for me. His soft neighing grabs my heart, as it always has done. All his life, all my life with him, all our years together. He is my first and only horse, I raised him from a colt, trained him as well as I could, and spend millions of magic hours on his broad back exploring the Yukon’s hinterland.
Another bucket of mash, welcomed beyond words or whining, gets dumped into his feeding bowl, a dark-maned head pushes eagerly into it, and I hold myself back from disciplining him for being too pushy. There are days for discipline, and then there are days to eat.
When the sun is up, around 11 am, Amigo stands broadside in her wintery, but already warming rays of gold. The deep brown hairs of his bear-like fur stand straight up from his body, arranging themselves into the best possible insolation. His eyelids are ice-cysted and the head covered in hoar frost. He does not move, for hours, just soaking up the warmth. One hind leg slightly kinked, a sure sign of peace and relaxation.
I approach with the hammer in my hand, stand beside his shoulder with my face turned to his tail. Slowly, I slide my hand down his leg, tap the hammer slightly against his hoof and pick up his foot. The fresh snow from last week accumulated underneath his feet. Makes him stand on it as if on tennis balls. That his hoof walls have grown long and need to be trimmed only makes it worse. If one thing, Amigo is a calm horse, obedient (most of the time) and relaxed. I chip away on the hard packed snow underneath his hoof with all my might. A hoof pick would have been useless. Finally, the ice breaks and falls off. Three more times. I walk around the big brown hairy body, lift each hoof and clear it from the snow. “Now we can stand closer to the ground again“, would be something my farrier would say.
My dog is jealous. Jealous of Amigo, or my attending to him. Without reason, because I love her more than anything in the world. But nothing convinces her of this other than I leave Amigo alone and take her on a walk.
In the afternoon, the sun has wandered from behind my house to the horse corral. Amigo changed his position accordingly. Soon, she will sink from her low trajectory behind the dense forest and disappear below the horizon for more than 12 hours.
I check Amigo’s water. It is still ok, but I feel I should top it up. His big water trough is heated through an electric sinker and in the winter YUKON Energy can hear my dollars clinking their way. But I feel no shame, have I not a wonderful outside hot tub sitting in the back, which adds to the horrendous power bills in the winter, but which also gives me tremendous bliss, when I sink into it down to my chin, tenderly massaged by the numerous jets, letting the stars and the Big Dipper walk across the firmament. One has to choose one’s financial battles.
To fill the horse trough I extend a hose from the shed – where the water comes in from my well – to the corral. In these temperatures, I have to be fast. With the length of 30 meters looped around my arm, I dash for the corral. I leave the hose already slightly dripping, creating a winding carving behind me in the snow. “Flupp!” – the hose end flies over the fence and lands in the trough. Then I run back to fully open the tap.
And it’s done again! 15 minutes later, I drag the hose back to the shed and coil it up on its hook. The heat in the watershed will thaw all parts of the hose that might have stated to freeze.
Dusk paints a pink horizon where the sun had disappeared. Straight across the sky where we expect the sun to mount another day again, tomorrow, a violet-bluish tint tells us this will be another arctic night, dark and freezing cold, but not full of terror.
I have learned to not worry, not too much at least. I learned to sleep through the night without fear.
Tomorrow is another day and if we all wake up again we will be graced with the wonder of living in the best place I know.