For those of you in the Northen Hemisphere you are just about embark on the cold, windy, stay in bed, put on a warm jacket and give your horse a heavier rug season i.e. Winter.
Because Winter is never nice I thought I might give you some tips on making it more enjoyable. Since Auckland doesn't get snow I'm not sure if many of these ideas will work in a place that has a lot of snow, but you can take what you want and adapt it to your own enviroment.
- Get your horse rugs sorted: Pull your winter rugs out from storage and make sure they are clean, mended and waterproofed(hopefully you did this last spring when you took them off). If your like me you'll send your rugs off to be cleaned, mended and waterproofed as soon as they come off the horses so you don't have to worry about it when the time comes to use them again. Store your summer and spring/autumn rugs for the new seasons in a rodent free, out of the way place. Don't be like one of my friends and leave the rugs hanging on the fence throughtout the seasons. She often goes to put them on her horses when its time for the change only to find they are mouldy, rotting and cannot be used. This wastes money and time.
- Be ready for the cold: Make sure you have sutible horsey type clothes ready for winter. I always make sure I have waterproof jacket and pants, warm jumpers, stockings, wooly socks and fingerless gloves ready for my journeys into the elements to ride Red. I'm thinking seriously of investing in some Ear Warmers. Make sure you have a pair of good fitting gumboots. They will save your riding boots from the mud and a good fitting pair means they are least likely to come off when the mud is really sticky (trust me you don't want this).
- Dentist visit: Get the horse dentist out to do the annual matinence of your horses teeth. Horses can have a difficult time retaining a healthy weight when they can't grind their food effectively. If your horse is a hard keeper over winter he may have dental problems.
- Try something new: If your horse is a dressage star why don't you have some jumping lessons? It will be a breath of freash air for your both. Are you an eventer? Try a short competitve trial ride. Maybe go on a hack to the forest or beach with your friends! It will not only be lots of fun, but it might give you the motivation to get out and ride when the weathers cold. Whatever you do don't get stuck in a winter rut.
- Set your goals: Winter is a great time re-evaluate where you are and to make some new goals for the next season. Set yourself short term goals to work on over the winter and also medium and long term goals to complete in the future.
- Get fit! When you can't get out to the barn or paddock to ride why don't you pull out the pilates video or jump on the tread mill instead. Keeping fit and eating healthy foods during the winter will help you stay in top gear for the next season.
- Be a spectator: If your horse is turned out or its just too cold to go riding try to improve your riding skills by watching someone else. Treat yourself to some new training videos or tag along to a friends lesson. We can all learn from others no matter what level they train out.
- Train! If you are not turning your horse out winter is a good time to train without the constant interruptions of shows. You'll have time to work on those small problems that always loose you marks in the dressage test. Maybe you'll have time to finally do that trailer training you've been wanting to do for so long. Winter is also a perfect time to work on ground manners that may have lapsed over the last season.
- Tack room clean up: Winter is the perfect time to clean out your tack room, re-organize it and make sure everything is in tip-top condition. Any tack you don't want you could sell on Ebay and perhaps buy something you've been wanting for awhile.
- Groom to high heaven: Horses that have been turned out still need regular checking and grooming. Daily grooming will keep your horse more comfortable. Hoof care is especially important in winter as foot abcesses, wall cracks and seedy toe are more common in winter.
Hopefully some of these help you get through the dreary winter season. Stay warm, have fun and happy riding to you all.