Thursday 8 December 2016

ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, Location, Location

Sarah at A Soft Spot For Starts started a blog hop about location.
(And it is one I can actually participate in, I have nothing to add to the unofficial bloodlines blog hop with my mystery grade horse lol)

This is a great blog hop as learning about various locations and their horse-keeping differences is a reason I love reading horse blogs. For instance, until I read blogs, I had no idea that anhidrosis, outdoor stalls, or covered (as opposed to indoor) arenas were things that existed.


I live in Southern Alberta, Canada. The major city and center of equestrian pursuits in Southern Alberta is Calgary, but I live fairly far away from there (about 3 hours). The landscape is prairies with coulees. Major industries include agriculture and oil & gas. Culturally and politically I'd say my area is similar to the rest of Alberta, but we have some differences in climate and the equestrian scene.

Prairies and coulees


(All costs in CAD, multiply by 0.75 to get USD)

  • Trim: $40-50
  • Shoes: $110? Kachina is barefoot so not sure. 
  • Average monthly pasture board: $100-200 - out here, pasture board generally means just that, a large chunk of fenced but undeveloped land for you to put your horse. Likely there will be no barn, no arena, no place to store tack, etc. Water is about the only thing provided. It generally does not include hay, the only feed is pasture grazing so you generally have to move your horse in winter (or in summer if it's a dry year). Some self-care is required as nobody will be checking on your horse for you. I know some people who use this type of board to save money if their horse is retired, they are too busy to ride, etc, but it's not what most people who ride regularly do. For what some of you call pasture board, see next bullet...
  • Average monthly outdoor board: $400-450. Outdoor board is by far the most common type of boarding in the area. Your horse is in a pen, paddock or pasture, either alone of with other horses. They get fed and checked twice a day. Your board includes the use of the stable's facilities which usually include a barn, tack room/locker, indoor and outdoor arenas. If there isn't an indoor arena then the price will drop to ~$250-300.

A giant pasture, but counts as outdoor board, not pasture board

  • Average monthly stall board: ~$600?
  • Hay:
    • Round bale: ~$125
    • Square bale: ~$7
    • (both of these numbers are very approximate, it varies a lot based on size/weight/type of hay/quality/how good of a year it was)


Weather is so incredibly relative. I know that within Canada, the place I live is generally considered mild. I used to live in Northern Alberta and coming down here meant that temperatures are an average of few degrees warmer all year, with more frequent warm stretches, more sun, less rain, and less snow. That said, I still live in Canada.

My part of Southern Alberta is classified as a cold semi-arid steppe climate. Semi-arid = almost a desert. We are very dry here which means lots of sun and not a lot of precipitation (either rain or snow). Trees won't grow here unless they are planted and watered. The natural land is open prairie with some desert additions like cacti and rattlesnakes. The humidity is very low. You don't have to worry about mold or mildew on tack (I didn't even know this was a thing until recently), and your hair will stay fine, but you will need to have a good stock of lip chap and hand moisturizer.

At the barn, if you say you're going on a trail ride to the trees,
everyone will know exactly where you mean. These are the only trees for miles.

Prickly pear cactus

We are a place of extremes. I have personally experienced temperatures here from -46C (-51F) to +42C (108F), and that's actual temperature with no wind chill or "feels like" factors. We also experience large swings in temperature. It's quite common to have the temperature change by a difference of 20C (36F)+ in less than a 24 hour period (or occasionally 2 hours if a chinook blows through). I have to watch the forecast like a hawk in the winter to make sure that Kachina is wearing the appropriate blanket. We are fairly windy and that can make the temperatures feel worse. However, the extreme heat and cold are made better by the fact that we have low humidity. Also, in the winter, a lot of days are sunny even if it's cold, and that makes it feel less miserable.

Our seasons generally go like this:

Winter: November-April (6 months)

  • period that you don't want to commit to anything that involves hauling horses as it might be ugly (e.g. don't sign up for a show or clinic until a week before when you can look at the forecast, etc.)
  • snow will be on the ground for about half of this time total, but in random stretches
  • period that a lot of local riders will either quit riding for the year or bring their horses from home to board them somewhere with an indoor arena
  • For this whole 6 month period combined, the average daily high is about 1C (34F) and average low is about -10C (14F) (those are statistical numbers for the last 40 years)
  • Cold is broken up when we get chinooks (warm dry wind that comes in and warms things up and melts all the snow but makes it super windy)

Winter (though this photo was actually taken Oct. 10th)

Spring: May (1 month)

  • The month where is starts warming up, things start to get green, and then it inevitably snows on May long weekend when everyone is camping (we all go most years even though we know it will turn awful, it's a shared delusion/tradition)

Early spring: warm enough to ride outside, but still pretty brown

Summer: June-September (4 months)

  • Alberta summers are actually awesome. As well as having lots of days with highs in the 20s and 30s, the sun is up for what feels like forever so you can easily ride outside whenever. In my neck of the woods, the majority of the rain that falls in this period happens in the form of nighttime thunderstorms so you can count on most days being sunny. 
  • For this period, average high is 25C (77F) and average low is 10C (50F), which I think is about perfect. 
  • In my lifetime there has been snow at least once in every month of the year, so freak stuff does happen. 
  • There will usually be one period of about two weeks where the temperature is above 35C (95F) everyday and I feel like I am dying of heat, but those are excellent days to go swim in the river or lake, or bathe your horse. 
  • The main show season - any shows outside of this window are indoor shows. 

Summer with our typical blue skies

Fall: October (1 month)

  • The last couple years our fall has actually stretched from October-November, but some years it will immediately switch from hot to snow and fall gets skipped entirely. Trying to rake up leaves before they have snow on top of them can be a challenge. 

Riding Demographic

I've spoken about this before, and it's why my blog name is what it is: there is barely any dressage here (though I'm hoping to gradually change that). The nearest recognized dressage show is about 3 hours away from me. There are about 6 recognized shows within 4 hours of me though (which is the farthest I like to go). There is one dressage trainer about 2 hours away, and then several in the Calgary area which is about 3 hours away. My town has zero dressage instructors (of any level), but we've gotten a few clinicians in recently.

The most popular english discipline is hunter/jumpers. We have three facilities with hunter/jumper instructors though they don't have any big qualifications or competitive history.

Local hunter/jumper schooling show

The majority of riders in the area ride western. There are pretty large groups of pleasure riders, reiners, team ropers, and barrel racers. There is also a small but active community of people who compete in APHA and AQHA breed shows and do many of the included events. Finally, quite a few people around here actively use their horses for ranch work which I think is pretty cool.

Kachina and I helping to move the cows to the home pasture

There are a few facilities in the area that hold semi-regular barrel racing and team roping jackpots, but for the most part, people from any discipline accept that they will have to travel for 3+ hours to go to any major competitions.

For tack, the place to buy horse supplies is the local western clothing store. Three quarters of the store is clothing, but the other corner is actually pretty well stocked with the necessities: halters, treats, sprays, blankets, grooming, etc. They also have western tack, but their english section is tiny. There's a few farm supply stores where you can buy horse feed. For any actual tack, or riding clothes, I can either go to Calgary or order online (usually with super expensive shipping).

Most Frustrating

The lack of dressage instruction is my number one for sure. Also there are few enough barns that all of them have some major drawback (my barn's is the lack of heat and plumbing, but the care and riding availability are good).

Other Notes

A lot about where I live is related to the fact that it is a sparsely populated area (my census area has a population density of 3.8 people/square km). On the negative side that means fewer riders, fewer instructors, fewer tack stores, longer distances to get anywhere. But on the bright side it means lots of open land to ride in (when it doesn't interfere with crops or cattle), more wildlife, essentially zero traffic, and cheaper house prices (though still expensive enough that I can't afford an acreage).

Agricultural land, but I have ridden for miles in this direction and haven't hit a fence yet

My area isn't a place that many people come. Unlike other parts of the province it doesn't have dramatic mountains or pristine lakes. People don't stop on the side of the highway to take photos. It's a place where you have to look a little harder to find the beauty, but the beauty is definitely there. It's not perfect but this place is my home and I don't see myself leaving anytime soon.

Edited to add: Today is -28C with a windchill of -36C, so maybe I should leave? haha 


  1. I would not have imagined cactus in Canada, so I have learned something here. Also I learned to never move to Canada because that's way too fucking cold.

    1. Alberta is basically cold Texas in a lot of ways haha

  2. I am WAY too acclimated to warm weather to live in Canada. You're hardcore!

  3. Holy crap it gets cold. I've been in -20 F but dang you have that beat. I'm learning so much from these.

  4. That's just way too cold for me.

  5. You guys, it's seriously not that bad. Yes, this morning was cold, but it got up to -18C with sun this afternoon and felt fine with layers on. Plus this is a cold period but it's not like this all the time. We had a lot of beautiful weather the last couple months.

  6. I was just talking with my friend's sister this weekend who moved from Hawaii to Alberta 4 years ago. I can't remember if it was the whole province or just the area she lived in.. but she told me about how everything, EVERYTHING is recycled and explained all the processes etc for reclamation because she works in Sustainability, it was utterly fascinating!

    1. That was probably Edmonton (the capital). I used to live there and they had a world class waste diversion facility. At the house or apartment level you could sort between garbage or recycling yourself, but then everything you put in garbage was further sorted at a special facility and 90% of that gets further removed to greatly reduce what ends up in the landfill. The program originated primarily because it would cost too much to open a new landfill, but has ended up to be really great. My sister used to work for the city, and my brother had a temp job for a while doing some of the garbage sorting (not a lovely job). The rest of Alberta has recycling programs (they're run at a municipal level), but I don't think anywhere else is as good as Edmonton.

  7. I love Southern Alberta. We have family in Calgary and I want to go back and visit. I want to do a long ride in the foothills!

    1. Let me know if you do! I would love to join you :)

  8. I like how you describe the weather like "cold Texas" haha -- that's actually a really good description for me.