It’s easy to feel down in winter, especially when dark nights and wet weather limit riding time and can make being at the yard feel like a chore. Horse&Rider has 40 great ideas to lift your spirits and make the most of your time with your horse
Here are some of our favourites to get you started…
- On some days, see whether a friend on a similar schedule can bring your horse in or even tack him up so he’s ready to go as soon as you arrive at the yard. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a horse walker, maybe they can put him on for 10 minutes before you arrive so that he’s warmed up, too. Come to an arrangement where you’ll do the same for them on another day, turn their horse out in the morning in exchange, or offer to do the evening feeds after you’ve ridden.
- Try something new! If you and your horse are stuck in the same dull routine, have a go a something different – for example, hunting or horse agility. Read more about how to give these different activities in December Horse&Rider. It’s a great way to meet new people and improve your partnership with your horse. You could also look for yards that offer lessons in polo, side-saddle or Western riding – you never know, you may get hooked!
- If he’s on limited or no turnout over winter, ditch riding for an evening in favour of taking him out for some hand-grazing. Not only will he appreciate the grass, it allows him a chance to get some fresh air and stretch his legs, too. Doing this with a friend and their horse will also give him some social interaction, which he’ll be lacking inhis stable, and you’ll have somebody to chat with, too.
- Go through your human and equine first-aid kits. Make sure there’s nothing missing and that all products are within their use-by dates. If your first-aid skills are a little rusty, practise the different types of bandaging or putting somebody in the recovery position, and read up on how to do common tasks such as poulticing and taking your horse’s temperature. Get together with some friends at the yard so you can quiz each other – there are some great videos on the Horse&Rider YouTube channel to get you started.
- Get your Ordnance Survey (OS) map out and plan some new hacking routes. Horses are permitted to use bridleways, which are marked with long green dashes, and byways, which are marked with green crosses. Riding on footpaths is only allowed if you have the express permission of the landowner. You can download OS maps onto an app on your phone, which also allows you to plan a route, and gives you an idea of distance and the length of time it will take to complete.
- It’s hard to feel blue about winter when you’re galloping down a deserted beach with the tide lapping at your horse’s hooves, so go on a day trip to your local beach or plan a horsey minibreak somewhere further afield. The British Horse Society have a downloadable guide to beach riding on their website, including a list of beaches that allow horses. It can be found at bhs.org.uk
For more ideas to beat the winter blues, get your copy of December Horse&Rider, on sale 20 October.