Let’s be honest, horse riding is a fair weather sport. We tend to live for dry days and daylight, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who have the use of an indoor arena. As we slowly move from long evenings after work spent at the yard, into the dreaded darkness and chilly air, we find the love for our sport starts to wane. Once those clocks go back our joyful summer days are over and we are left in a world of darkness. Oh winter, how I loathe thee.
To some, winter signals the start of their horse’s time off but most decide to muddle through until the bright evenings return. With few competitions on it’s hard to find the motivation to keep working with your horse through the winter months. So how do we stay motivated when Monday to Friday our daylight hours are spent working the job we need to keep our horse’s looked after and all we have to look forward to is a dark (and probably wet) evening of riding? Well here are my 5 tips for keeping yourself going this winter…
1. Make a plan for the upcoming year
Winter is the best time to start thinking about what you plan to do with your horse in the year to come. You can reflect back on what you’ve achieved this year and decide where you want to be in another year’s time. Think about what competitions you’d like to enter, what goals you want to achieve or what new places you’d like to visit. Identifying what you want to achieve will give you just the boost you need to push yourself to keep going during these hard months.
2. Set yourself a focus every week
While knowing what you want to achieve in the long run can be great motivation, sometimes setting smaller goals can be a bit more effective. At the start of every week, make a decision to improve one aspect of your riding. Whether its working on your leg yielding, improving your position, or perfecting that jumping exercise, all the little achievements lead to the bigger goals and make riding in 1 degree weather worth it!
3. Plan fun activities when its bright at the weekends
If you’re anything like me and you can only ride in the dark from Monday to Friday, then opportunities to ride in the daylight cannot be missed. Weekends become too valuable so why not give yourself something to look forward to? Whether its heading out to a local competition, going for a hack or shipping out for a trip to the beach, just make sure its something that you and your horse will both enjoy.
4. Be Prepared!
Winter riding will test the resolve of any rider. Between strong winds, heavy showers and freezing temperatures, you’re bound to find yourself faced with all the elements at some point or another. One of the best things you can do is prepare yourself to face whatever winter throws at you by loading up with the winter necessities. Invest in some good quality rain gear – waterproofs and a decent pair of gloves are a must for yourself while a rainsheet for your horse can save you hours of drying off time.
TOP TIP: I seriously underestimated how much I would end up using the walker this year so if you have a walker, USE IT. Don’t spend an extra 10 minutes in the saddle walking your horse off. Finish up your session and bring your horse straight in, untack and stick them on the walker. While they’re cooling down and drying off you can do all the extra bits that take some time; prepare the feed, muck out, put your tack away etc.
5. Give yourself a break
Sometimes no matter what we do, we just don’t feel like riding. We give ourselves a hard time and think things like “Oh I really should ride tonight, I haven’t ridden Coco in two days!”. We guilt ourselves into doing a half hearted ride for the sake of being able to say “At least I gave her 20 minutes” knowing that those 20 minutes haven’t made a world of difference. We need to remember that our horses don’t give a shit if they miss a day or two of riding. If there’s ever a time when you can give yourself a break, its during the winter. Generally there aren’t many big competitions on so getting a bit slack with your riding isn’t going to be the end of the world. So if you’re leaving work tomorrow and its pitch black and lashing rain outside, don’t feel bad about giving your evening ride a miss. Your horse definitely won’t care.
And there you have it, my 5 top tips for keeping yourself motivated this winter. Personally, I’ve found this year particularly difficult so far. It seemed to get dark so quickly all of a sudden, I really didn’t have any time to adjust! How have you been finding it so far this winter? Let me know in the comments if anyone agrees or if I’m just being dramatic!
Thanks for reading,