The days are shorter, the temperatures have dropped, and your bank balance is dwindling after stocking up on what feels like a year’s worth of hay, bedding and feed. You’ve got rough, cracked hands, chapped lips and although your hair is dry and frizzy, at least it’s under a woolly hat, right?
You rode a grand total of five times last month and even then, you weren’t feeling the love for getting wet and windswept. Motivation is low and the thought of eventing – or even just removing all the mud from your horse -– seems a million miles away. Come November and December I get into this rut too, but there are a few tricks I have up my sleeve to turn this feeling around for the better.
Food for thought
You might not love schooling during the dark, cold nights, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve from the comfort of your sofa. Horse&Rider has some great exercises from riders such as William Fox-Pitt, Charlie Hutton and Lucinda Fredericks that have totally changed how I ride and train Pat. I love reading why and how certain exercises would be good for us and, after half an hour, I’m always bursting to get out and give them a go.
You can buy all the baselayers, thermal breeches and fluffy socks you like, but if you’re standing still, you’ll get cold. The most cost-effective thing to do is move around – do that extra wheelbarrow of poo-picking, give your horse a once over with a curry comb or refold your blankets and rugs. You’ll warm up in no time.
Embrace the outdoors
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be riding in your school or field for most of winter. The combination of a fresh, clipped horse and limited daylight provides the perfect excuse to avoid hacking, but when I do get out, I make sure I have the best rides. So, plan a pub ride or box up for the beach – you won’t regret it and your horse will definitely thank you!
Warm up well
Pat can be a total wally come winter. He’s much spookier and heaven forbid I get on him the day after a full clip. I find using an exercise blanket invaluable this time of year, so after a good groom to stimulate blood flow I’ll throw on a quarter sheet behind his saddle and he’s much more relaxed when I get on. I also take more time warming up in walk, as well as stretching and trotting in a longer frame before I pick him up to work. It might take five minutes longer but you’ll have a happier horse to ride because of it.
Just because it’s cold and dark, doesn’t mean you can’t work towards some goals. There are local winter leagues for dressage and showjumping, so my plan is to do one dressage show a month with the aim to beat my previous score. This means I have to work on my transitions, circles and rather unpolished halts. By March, I’m aiming to have improved our halt on the centre line and I’d like to have Pat more in front of my leg. Having goals and a rough plan means I’m never short of inspiration to get out, get on and practise.
I hope that helps you get out and beat the blues. Before you know it you’ll love the winter just as much as summer – maybe.
Love as always,
Vic and Pat