Every day at the ranch has the same basic outline: feed the horses, clean paddocks, turn the horses out, clean the barn, bring the horses back in, feed them, go to sleep, get up and start again. P1000797By now it is a familiar and comfortable routine. It’s tempting to hunker down into the routine, turn inward, turn the lights on and wait out the dark and rain of the northwest winter. The short days invite us to postpone our expectation to the springtime. And that’s ok. If that’s the way you are feeling, roll with it. Because even in the midst of routine, you are bound to find some surprises.

Take last week. We had a couple swing by the barn to check us out. They liked what they saw and decided to add to our holiday cheer by joining the herd. Surprise! Our new member is Marissa. She has a hunter/jumper background but is excited to expand her horse experience to include all the other things you can do in addition to bounding over fences. She’s been researching topics in “natural horsemanship”, practicing groundwork, and getting to know her new equestrian pals. She took Shazam for a spin around the arena on Sunday just to remind some out of use muscles that they once again have a job to do. Her arrival has lightened up our weekends and we are so pleased to have her with us.

Then there’s Alison and Sparty. 001All Alison’s patient communication with ol’ “Fabio” is starting to come together in the riding partner she dreamed he would be when she first met him. Watching her canter around on him, or whatever the heck that gait is, has been a fantastic dark days of December surprise.

Yesterday Seth, our farrier, was out trimming and shoeing. He’s been taking care of us since July, so he’s familiar with our horses and has a 012routine of his own. Part of the routine has been to avoid being kicked and bitten! He got the best kind of surprise yesterday when he met with a bunch of willing and cooperative horses, no fears, no worries. Just relaxed yawns, light feet and droopy heads. If this is what our horses think of routine, bring it on.

A couple nights ago Donnell heard a commotion down in the barn well after dinner time. Donnell often steps out on her back patio in the late evening to listen for anything unexpected from the barn, but usually she is greeted with the comfortable sound of silence from that quarter. On Monday though, she heard one of the horses calling out and making a fuss. She went to check on what had them riled up. She hauled open the barn door, flipped on the light and: SURPRISE! A giant rat went scurrying down the barn aisle. Apparently he had been snuffling about in Dolly’s stall 003and she was none to happy about it. Critters are part of barn life everywhere. They aren’t doing any harm, but we still take measures to make it a less hospitable place for them. Specifically so we don’t get exactly THAT surprise. The next big surprise is for the rat :-).

So let winter do its winterest. Hot chocolate is as good a treat as iced tea, and the company of friends and horses is an undeniable pleasure no matter what is going on outside. We welcome the surprises ahead, big and small, that startle us out of our routines and into the delight of everyday things.