Little Things Mean A Lot
Cold hands. The bane of any horsey person’s life. British winters with strong winds, driving rain that hits you at such an angle as to go straight into your ears, and bitter cold that penetrates right through to your marrow, no matter how many layers of high-tech thermals and waterproofs you are swaddled in. Trying to lead horses who are prancing and turning sideways to put their backs to the wind, carrying water buckets that spill onto your legs and leave icy water running into your boots, peeling mud out of your hair after leaning on a muddy horse to pick out feet, and fumbling with icy fingers to undo buckles and straps. This is winter as a horse owner or groom in the UK.
There are of course the beautiful crisp, frosty mornings, when the sky is ice blue and a watery sun rises over fields where horses snort plumes of steam from their nostrils, the smell of boiled barley and hot bran mashes for tired horses, the sounds of horses peacefully munching hay in their boxes, tucked up warm and safely out of the elements for the night, and the feeling of a hot bath after a long day out in the cold. These things do help to ease the sting of winter, but sadly as anyone who has worked as a groom will know, they are few and far between, and the reality of winter is the cold-clumsy fingers and soggy feet.
My last yard-based job was on a large equestrian centre, with over one hundred horses on site, fifty-four of which were full liveries, hunt hirelings, and riding school horses that we cared for on a day to day basis. In the depths of winter I would be faced with a barn full of thirty horses in filthy turnout rugs which needed changing.
One particular day stands out in my memory – it had snowed heavily in the morning, and then over the course of the afternoon the temperature steadily plummeted until it was the sort of cold that takes your breath away and leaves your eyelashes feeling heavy. I was the last person working, teaching a lesson at 8pm in the indoor school. Before the lesson began I popped into the house to make a cup of coffee, and by the time I walked to the school and got my rider on board warming up, there were icy crystals forming around the inside of my mug! That night, I had to go and change rugs after I finished teaching, swapping now de-frosted turnout rugs for duvets and lovely dry stable rugs for a barn of about thirty horses. My hands were so cold that no amount of flailing, star jumps, armpit hugging, or hot breath would bring back the feeling in my fingers. I scrabbled with buckles and wrestled with clips on the first ten or so with useless, freezing fingers, until I came to a horse whose owner had purchased a WeatherBeeta Ultra Cozi turnout rug. Now I’m sure that this horse’s owner bought this rug because it has such fantastic features – 1680 denier ballistic nylon outer, waterproof fleece snug fit in the neck cover to ensure mud and rain don’t get down inside the rug, shaped “cozi guard” to ensure no part of the horse’s chest is exposed to the elements, and a whole host of other things – however, the “Quick Clip” front closure was so appreciated. My cold fingers didn’t have to faff with a buckle, they merely had to work two clips – much easier than a buckle when you feel as though your hands are in a bowl of cold candy floss, being operated by someone else!
WeatherBeeta regularly use the hashtag #LittleThingsMeanALot, and I think this perfectly sums up the way grooms all over the country feel about those little Quick Clip front closures. It is clear that WeatherBeeta products are designed by horse people, for horse people. Designed by people who know the frustration of cold hands fumbling with buckles, the WeatherBeeta ComFiTec range is a game changer. Since I first saw the Quick Clip front closures on an old WeatherBeeta Orican rug in the early 2000’s, I’ve been hooked. When a product is designed with such care and thought for the people (and horses!) who will be using it, it shines through in the way that these small things can turn a day around on a busy yard.
Nowadays I only have one rug to change with my frost-bitten fingers in the depths of the British winter as I no longer work on a yard and only have my own horse to do. However, that rug will always be a WeatherBeeta, because I still remember those days of small mercies in the glassy mornings and gloomy evenings of Cotswold winters, and appreciate that little things really do mean a lot.