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February 23, 2018: Laurie Knuutila: Things Learned in a Winter Horse Corral

Laurie Knuutila is THE NATRC Competitive Trail Ride go-to person in Alaska. Lately we have been corresponding about preparing for a CTR via email. She said she recently read my dispatch about manure management, and then sent the following. I asked her if I could post it and she said yes so here it is.

Things Learned in a Winter Horse Corral
By Laurie Knuutila

I was thinking the other day about horse keeping in Alaska, and I realized that I've learned a lot of things because of keeping horses through an Alaskan winter. These are some pretty important things in the overall scheme of life, you know. After all, if I didn't have horses in Alaska in the winter, how else would I have learned:

1. The claws on a claw hammer work great for knocking ice balls out of hooves.

Life Lesson: Sometimes a little force is needed to get a good result.
2. There's a definite technique to breaking a really stubborn frozen poop pile loose from the ground with a shovel.

Life Lesson: When attempting to coerce a really stubborn person to see things your way, technique is everything.
3. There's also a definite technique to loading the manure sled to maximize its load potential.

Life Lesson: Keep all the things you have to do in life balanced.
4. Braiding forelocks keeps them from freezing to frosted-up eye lashes.

Life Lesson: Advance preparation is key to surviving harder times.
5. Increased hay intake because it's 30 or 40 below is automatically translated into increased poop output.

Life Lesson: You are what you eat.
6. Certain hat/scarf combinations work better than others for feeding at 40 below. Ditto with mitten/glove combinations.

Life Lesson: Use the right tool for the job.
7. Frozen birch logs make great horsey "chew toys".
Life Lesson: The best things in life are free.

8. Certain shovels work better than others for scraping frozen pee off a stall mat.

Life Lesson: When things get deep, make sure you have the right shovel.
9. Frozen horse poop makes great dog toys, with the added "benefit" that the dog can simply eat his toy when he's done playing with it. And, there's a million more where that one came from.

Life Lesson: Take time to laugh and play.
10. You have to start at the beginning of winter to carefully sculpt the manure pile in such a way that you can continue to get the manure sled up it clear through until spring.

Life Lesson: Plan the work and work the plan.
11. One visit from a manure pile-scrounging moose can destroy all that careful sculpting.

Life Lesson: Life can change in an instant.
12. Putting a little snow in your shovel will keep a “freshy” from sticking to it.

Life Lesson: A “thick skin” helps keep the “freshies” that come at you in life from sticking.
13. Certain brands of headlamps work better than others for doing chores in the dark.

Life Lesson: Always let your light shine.
14. Furry horsey armpits are a great place to warm up cold hands.

Life Lesson: Seek comfort when you need it and look for it where you find it.
15. Frosty spots on horse legs and bodies sometimes translate into fresh scrapes or cuts.

Life Lesson: Look below the surface to find the source of the real problem.
16. Doctoring those scrapes and cuts in subzero temperatures and pitch black darkness is a real pain in the rear!

Life Lesson: Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
17. You have about 30 seconds to get those blanket straps done up before your ungloved hands freeze solid. If you don't get it done in 30 seconds, see #14 above.

Life Lesson: Get on with the project at hand and don’t procrastinate.
18. Certain brands of blankets do a better job than others of keeping the herd wimps warm when the temperature takes a nosedive.

Life Lesson: Friends are kind of like blankets. Choose them wisely.
19. Wood ashes - carefully screened with a magnet for any metal - work great to de-slick an icy corral.

Life Lesson: When entering uncertain territory, tread carefully.
20. A trip to the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in February is a surefire way to help me forget - at least for a few days - all the things I learned in the horse corral this winter!

Life Lesson: Sometimes you just need to take a break!
So, you see, I’ve learned a lot because of keeping horses through Alaskan winters. And every winter, I learn more new things. So, instead of dreading winter and wishing for spring, use it as a learning experience! How many new things did you learn this winter?

Next: 55. 2/24/18: When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Write about it

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