Team Half-Ass and How We Survived The Beast From The East

I live in a very mild country. Our wildlife is fairly tame, we don’t get big natural disasters (well, apart from flooding), we’re a generally mild-mannered populace, and our weather is wet but samey. However, every winter we lose our minds. We just can’t handle snow. It disrupts everything.

For the past few days, we have been experiencing “The Beast From The East”, aka Snowmageddon, aka The Big Freeze, which is a polar vortex that has descended upon us. I mean that sounds pretty cool, right? Actual temperatures have been as low as -7 in my area and -11 with the wind chill, which is cold as far as we’re concerned (I’m sure my Finnish friend will be reading this and laughing her head off). Elsewhere in the country they’ve seen six foot snow drifts and roofs being blown off stables, but I’m in the south and we’re as tame as it gets.

Even so, it’s been hard work looking after the herd in this weather. Everything takes twice as long and I’ve been in a constant state of paranoia about whether they’re drinking enough. Although I love having our horses and mules living together in a group, on 24/7 turnout, I am beginning to think that coming in to separate areas for a few hours a day is not such a bad thing; for example, with the stabled horses at work, we grooms can tell right away if something’s wrong because we can see how much or how little the horse has drunk and whether there’s as much poo as normal. The field water is being drunk from and there’s definitely plenty of poo to collect, but I can’t be absolutely sure that everyone is contributing equally.

The boys coming in for breakfast, with Xato carrying the night nets for me.

On Tuesday we hadn’t had any snow yet, but at -7 it was bitterly cold and the metal trough in the day field had a thick layer of ice. I spent a long time boiling kettles to thaw out the tap on the yard, sourcing some squidgy plastic buckets that wouldn’t be trashed if a certain mule got hold of them, filling said buckets, and boiling more kettles to warm the water. Not wanting my hard work to go to waste, I carried the first bucket out to the field and immediately put fence posts through the handles – our standard prevention. Both Iris and Xato have history when it comes to knocking buckets over (Xato kicks them, Iris picks them up in her teeth and flips them) and Xato is used to drinking between posts, but this time he took a tiny sip and immediately started trying to pull the posts out. Every time I turned my back on him, he’d make another grab for them.

Eventually I gave up and put the second bucket out without anti-theft devices; I figured I could just stand guard, and hopefully everyone would at least be able to have a little drink before someone ruined everything. Xato immediately took a big drink and looked at me as if to say, “What? Didn’t you trust me?” You’ll note in the video that he still has to try and shove his head in the first bucket when Cash Pony comes over for a drink, however. Honestly! Mules!

I’ve actually had to use a spade to break away the ice from the trough, which I don’t think I’ve ever had to do before – usually the heel of my boot is enough. Yesterday it was so cold even the plastic buckets required a spade bashing!

Considering how much of a walking calamity I am, I’m impressed that I’ve survived this far without injuring myself.

I’ve also been giving the herd sloppy breakfasts as well as a sloppy lunch (if I’m in the area) in order to try and keep them hydrated, plus extra hay to fuel their heating systems and loose straw to pick at when they’re peckish. I wasn’t going to rug Xato as both mules are a bit rotund, but Ben thought it would be kinder to give him additional protection. Of course, Marty has since ripped holes in Xato’s only “heavyweight” rug (we call them the heavyweights, but what we really mean is that they’ve got fill and aren’t just rainsheets. I think it was only 100g). Marty is awful and the reason why we can’t have anything nice.

The mules waiting to be let out of their pens after breakfast.


Boys at the bar.


Enjoying some ground nets.


Alas, poor rug; you were valiant til the end.


Marty is well insulated, as you can see.


Xato is the only one of the herd who has figured out that he can just put a foot on the net and that makes it easier to pull the hay out. As a result he finishes his net nearly three times as quickly as everyone else … luckily for him, he can just go and chase Marty off his and eat that one as well. This is why he’s fat.

It was also Marty’s 8th birthday on 1st March! Unfortunately I didn’t do anything to celebrate, as I was working and trying to get things done in a blizzard, and that left precious little time for fooling around. Not to mention that the bag of carrots in the stable had frozen solid, too.

Once the roads are safe I’ll get him some nice snacks and the herd can enjoy a proper birthday party!

A lot of that is fluff, honest…


Cash Pony seems shocked. No one knows why.


Now that he’s eight-years-old, Marty is experimenting to see what he’d look like with facial hair.

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