If you are over winter, like me, then here are some tips to stay motivated to ride and work with your horse!
Many equestrians focus on the care of horses during cold and icy winter months, which leaves little time to rider. If you are fortunate enough to have a full-care facility the chances of riding are much greater. Still, waking up to ice on the ground and freezing temperatures make it difficult to leave the house and spend time exercising outdoors.
For me, winter has always been the best time to ride. My bodywork clients are quieter because show season is suspended and my pony moves more forward.
Remember, a longer warm up is not only good for your horse but for you as well.
Get up, get dressed and get out.
Waking up in the cold and dark makes me want to hide under the covers. Still, I usually put my clothes out the evening before to make things a little easier. Shower, get dressed and ready for the day. The nicer I dress, the nicer I feel. During the time of COVID (ugh) it has been difficult to not wear my pajamas all day every day. Dress for the mood you want, not necessarily the mood you have. Save the pj’s for when you come back from the barn.
I know from experience, the hardest thing to do is make that first step into the biting air. How many of you regret ever going to the barn? Not me. But I do regret NOT going. The first step is the hardest but I always make the effort to at least leave the house. Once I do, it’s a no brainer to go to my favorite place .
Dress Yourself Appropriately
Dressing in layers is ideal. As you exercise you will increase your body temperature and begin to sweat. Make sure you have a moisture-wicking base layer so you don’t lose heat when you do. I work outside and there is a big difference when I come prepared.
- Redingote. These coveralls are designed for all day warmth and comfort in and out of the saddle. I honestly use them while massaging horses, riding, and shoveling my driveway. They keep my body insulated and warm so I know that I’ll be comfortable when I venture outside. I always keep them in my trunk for easy access.
- SSG Ten Below Thermal Waterproof Winter Glove Touch Screen: These are my go-to when it’s below 25 degrees. They are so warm and cozy and yet I can feel the reins and most importantly, my phone if I want to listen to music or take a selfie. Highly recommend.
- LLBean Crampons. These are a new product I just purchased and they arrive soon! I can’t wait to use them with my boots to gain traction in the snow and ice. I’ve been slipping and sliding all over. Did you see the video evidence? The great thing is that they snap on and off, so I can take them off to ride.
- Ovation Winter Boots. My daughter had these and I loved them so much I bought myself a pair. They are adjustable in the calf and perhaps not the most fashionable, but I have terrible circulation and they keep my feet warm on the ground and in the saddle.
- Arctic Riding Skirt. I love this product because it not only covers my lower body but also covers my horse. Is your horse clipped you will need to keep them warm with a quarter sheet BUT this keeps you and your horse warm together.
- Sheepskin Seat Cover. Use a sheepskin seat cover for a little extra warmth. Honestly, I love the feel of sheepskin cushioning all year long but winter most of all. There is nothing worse than sitting on cold leather. So why bother? This cover from Hufglocken is so luscious and fits beautifully, sometimes I even forget it’s there.
Don’t forget your horse! A bit warmer to increase overall comfort really goes a long way.
Play Games in the Snow.
It’s easy to lose motivation when you are just doing the same old thing, ride after ride. More, hard ground is difficult to ride and the jarring can be detrimental to your horse’s body.
Flatwork: Keep it slow at the walk. Work on bending, leg yields, and slow, balanced work. These are foundational exercises that will help to maintain muscle tone, balance out your horse, and keep them in shape for spring training.
Bored of flatwork?
Liberty Play or R+ Training: Do some research on YouTube or in Facebook groups about tricks and games at liberty on the ground or using clickers and positive reinforcement. We always focus on our time in the saddle, but that is only part of our relationship with horses. Even better is that your enhanced communication will translate to the saddle when you ride again. Delight has been back in my life for about six months and I haven’t ridden him yet. Instead, we work on trust exercises, communication, and trick training so that when I do ride him we’ll have established trust. Not to mention, we have a lot of fun together!
Keep up your at-home exercises.
Snow storms are great for watching movies or reading books and curling up in front of the fire. They are also a great excuse to stretch and condition YOUR body so that when the weather improves your horse also benefits. Plus, the more you move the more motivated you’ll stay. An object in motion stays in motion…
And I speak from experience because I love a good couch snuggle!
There are some great rider exercises in our new book, Body Conditioning For The Horse and Rider. One example:
Lie on your back with knees bent. There are many variations, beginning with just your legs march- ing in place. Once you master the alternating legs, you can increase the intensity of the exercise. Raise the left arm over head while tapping down the right leg. Repeat on the opposite side. Foradditional resistance, loop a band or lead rope around the leg of your sofa or bed and hold in your arms while tapping your foot down.Body Conditioning for the Horse and Rider
Meet up with friends for a ride in the snow or make a trip to an indoor arena together. One of the fun things I did recently was cattle sorting. I first tried it in Arizona and loved it. Western horses, hollering at cows, and being loud are perfect for this timid rider from New Jersey. We kept warm in our riding gear and had a blast chasing cows. It was NOT fun to be disqualified quickly my first few runs (because I’m a total newb!) but each run was better than the last and most importantly, it was something new and different. Plus, it was social!