If I had a euro for every time I heard an Equestrian say those dreaded lines, “the evenings are getting darker” or “Im not riding its raining” I would have myself a nice sum of money thats for sure! Not many of us are fond of the winter weather, but unlike other hobbies us Equestrian put the head down and carry on with things no matter the consequence.
If Dante could mix his own feeds & exercise himself I’d let him at it…. But what if I told you there were a few tricks for some winter riding balance? Like getting the important things done but on a shorter schedule than normal..
I have put together a list of 7 winter riding survival tips not only to shorten your time out in the cold but to also get some benefits to that dreaded winter riding….
When it comes to shortening up your evening in the yard one word comes to mind… LUNGING.
As much as we make ourselves think we want to ride 5 days a week in the Baltic weather conditions, who are we actually kidding? At least once a week I roll up to the yard forcing myself to brave the cold with Dante to only find myself hopping back in the car to go home!
Well this is your easy way out. If it’s just to stretch your horses legs or getting the freshness out of them after a few days off, lunging is simply perfect to implement into your winter riding routines. What better way to see progress than looking at your horse moving from the ground!
Most of us work 4-5 days a week. If you work any less than that and can still afford a horse please do look into giving me a job!! Daylight hours are so precious racing down to the yard on your day off to ride in normal light is a very rare occasion!
Recently I have tried to incorporate a weekly outing for Dante instead of running around the same arena we work in everyday. Why not try make it routine that you go out jumping in a winter league, or why not treat your horse to a walk on the beach?
Get yourself and your horse out of that yard (if you can!) it will only do you and your horse all the better, think of it as prep for all those spring summer shows, your horse will get used to travelling they will begin to enjoy the weekly treat of visiting somewhere new.
Make sure to also make use of every single indoor arena rental there is available to you!! God bless anyone with an indoor arena in this weather, spot the jealous Hun Over here…
3. Re-Evaluate your Training Schedule
There comes a time during the Winter, normally hits mid November when you start to think to yourself, why am I breaking my back trying to keep up with such a hardcore training session for my horse? Take a step back and think to yourself, are you competing regularly? Do U need to be training this hard?
I have decided to take a step back and cut my riding days down to 4 instead of 5. In doing this, I found that I put much more energy into getting good sessions over the 4 days rather than struggle to motivate myself over 5!
Don’t be hard on yourself, some weeks when I only ride twice & lunge twice, some weeks when I ride even less. But during each session I pick on one thing to focus on whether it be transitions on the lunge or having a consistent forward rhythmic canter on both reins whilst riding. These small things will make massive differences when you go to pick up a full routine in the Spring.
4. Make Use of What You Have
By this I don’t mean that you are limited to supplies whether it be wings poles or fillers etc. Who else hates pulling and dragging poles in the cold? GUILTY!
Just the other day I went to ride in the arena, when I arrived there was one pole. One pole laid out and yes I will admit I was way too lazy to get down, set something up and so on. The point in this is that I am pushing you to make do with what you have. Let your imagination run wild. Have fun in your training schedule, push the boundaries! Make winter a time to investigate the hidden talents your horse has!
Here’s a simple pole laid out in the arena, see below the many different exercises I done with it. See what I mean? Open your mind & start getting creative.
5. Give Your Horse A Break
Hands up who loves a winter city break? Well guess what…. if you deserve one, so does your horse. Give your horse a week off, a few days off here and there wont hurt either. Winter should be a time for them to recuperate, refresh & to evaluate what they have done and learned over the summer.
You would be surprised what a few days off can do to clear the head. You will have an eager, willing horse when they comes back into work.
6. Cooling Down your Horse Correctly
Its all fun and games riding that amazing training session, having your horse moving forward & working Fabulously only to realise that when you finish you don’t have the time to wait around for your horse too cool off correctly before rugging. Winter time also comes with the dreaded cooling off time…. never forget to schedule time for “THE SWEAT”!!!
Walking your horse around the arena after you ride helps cool them down quicker, a walker can also do this for you as you run around tidying up your bits! Be sure to put a cooler on your horse while there walking to avoid them getting a chill. When stabling be sure to remove the damp cooler and replace it with your heavy rug or stable rug when your putting your horse away for the night.
7. Dress Accordingly
Don’t be the hero. Or should I say don’t be that idiot roaming around in the next to nothing T-shirt in the -2 degrees frost bitten weather. I will not pity the cold or flu you get because going around not appropriately dressed to the weather is your own fault!!
Grab your thermals, grab your base layers, winter is not pretty!! It’s hello rosy cheeks & numb fingers goooodbye bronzed skin & bingo wings… Wrap up well & look after yourself. Your limited enough when it comes to time in the saddle don’t let getting sick get in the way too! I always have a spare pair of gloves & socks at the yard incase I ever need them, be sure to do the same yourself, its a blessing in disguise!
And there you have it my 7 winter riding survival tips. Have I left out any important go to ones? Be sure to let me know.
We are based in Ireland, the temperate is currently 4degrees, with a non stop mixture rain or winds that are so cold they would cut you in half!
Do let us know your Winter tips in the comments below, I would love to hear about the fun secretive winter tricks you swear by in the winter aswell, the more the merrier!
As always, thanks you for reading & watch yourself in this weather, don’t be out there catching colds, Wrap up warm!!