Winter is the worst time of year for me. Mentally I struggle to cope and find it difficult to stay positive. I find my riding suffers as a result, it's just too cold, wet and dark. With limited or no turnout it also takes its toll on the horses and I find it's even more difficult to keep them happy, engaged and willing. However, I have found this year to be slightly better, I have changed round my routine and the way I do things and although it's not perfect, it is better. So I thought I'd share some top tips to help keep both you and your horse happy this Winter:
- Consider your horses stable: During Winter turnout is usually very limited or sometimes it's not even possible at all, this is where some creative thinking comes in! Try to mix things up a bit to help keep your horse entertained for the hours he's in the stable for. Try some apple bobbing, one in his water bucket could keep him entertained for a while! Carrots stuffed into a small treat haynet with some haylage (this keeps my boy entertained for a while as he tries to pick out the carrots). It doesn't have to mean that all you do is feed him either! Try placing a horse playball in the stable for him to have a kick around. Stable mirrors are currently being tested and so far are helping to eliminate loneliness. Some horses have shown identifiable signs of unhappiness at the lack of company whilst stabled. There are special stable mirrors currently on the market which are a lot safer than the average mirror!
- Shake up your routine: Try to keep things interesting when you do get him out of the stable. Doing the same exercise everyday does not help him either mentally or physically. Trying hacking only at weekends as you'll be limited to do this during the week after work. Try jumping one day, schooling another day then maybe some pole work on the lunge? Keep things interesting or you'll both get bored. Plus varying his training encourages him to use different muscles on different days allowing him to rest yesterdays muscles and develop new strengths.
- Stay positive: I know, it's tricky, but your mindset is everything!! Do all you can to stay motivated, maybe watch some motivational videos- there's loads on YouTube, read some inspirational quotes. Watch your favourite rider and feel inspired. Remember Summer success starts in the Winter!
- Take the time: I know this isn't always realistic as we are all very busy people but, when you can, spend some time with your 4 legged friend. He's waited all day to see you, so if you can, spend a bit longer giving him a brush and a fuss! It's surprising what a massive difference these little things make!
- Enjoy: Remember to take the time and enjoy your time at the yard. This is your hobby, it makes you happy and sometimes it can be easy to forget that during the rough patches. Take a moment and remember why you started doing this in the first place.... because you love it!