Winter can feel like a long season especially when facing short dark days, cold miserable weather and mud… Read our guide to thriving with your horse this winter so you are ready to achieve your goals.

Top Tips to Combat the Winter Blues

Understand Your Motivation

▪ What do you enjoy doing with your horse? Decide how you want to spend your time with your horse this winter. Give yourself permission to rid yourself of the “I should ”. For example “I should hack out every weekend whatever the weather …” Reframe it to “I would like to hack out at weekends, however some weekends the weather might get in my way”. Or “I’ve got plenty of wet weather gear so I will be able to enjoy riding out if I choose to!”

▪ What are you aiming to do with your horse this winter? How will you spend the next 3 months? Are you aiming for a particular competition challenge or is there something you would like to prepare for?

▪ What do you enjoy most about winter? How can you make this winter season productive / enjoyable? This can be a tricky question to answer when you are bringing muddy horses in from the field or cleaning tack; reflect on this with a pot of tea or coffee! Winter is a marathon so pace yourself and pay attention to the positives. Time in the saddle or time spent hanging out with my horse always cheers me up.

▪ Set your own agenda for the winter season. The key to maintaining your motivation is to be clear about what you want to do and how you can make winter work for you.

Explore Your Goals

▪ Ask yourself what you want to achieve. Setting a target boosts motivation and having clear goals will help you navigate winter. Focus your energy so you can develop your strengths as well as improve areas that challenge you.

▪ Consider why you want to achieve your goals. When you look at the commitment, self discipline and persistence you will need to train in winter, appreciating what success means to you will help you to keep going.

▪ It’s important to review your goals regularly to determine if you are achieving targets or falling behind. Surround yourself with positive people because a great support network will have a positive impact on your winter outlook.

▪ Invest in a notebook, journal or app to review and reflect on your progress. Track your observations from each ride and make sure you include 3 positives from each session.

Adpapt Your Plans

▪ Accept that you can’t control the weather and that it is likely you will need to change your plans from time to time. You can control your attitude and readiness to rethink your plans.

▪ Be prepared to leave your comfort zone and try something new, perhaps you could share indoor school hire with a friend or sign up for a clinic to freshen up your training plan.

▪ There are some days when it’s easier to work from the ground. Revise your lungeing and long reining programme and talk to a coach about how to school your horse for variety.

▪ When you want to compete but travelling your horse is complicated why not ask a friend to video you riding a test in your home arena. There are several online competition websites offering test riding and training feedback.

Find The Feel Good Factor

▪ Make winter more bearable by planning your wardrobe. Lightweight layers will keep you warm; plan to have spares of everything especially on wet days. Choose waterproof bags to carry your spare clothes then you have half a chance of changing into dry clothes. At this time of year when laundry feels like a production line consider investing in a heated drying rail to turn around your clean clothes quicker!

▪ Remember to feed yourself with the same care and attention to detail as you feed your horse. Planning your meals and your shopping removes one winter headache. Make use of online shopping services to save some time and invest in a slow cooker so you can come home to hot meals.

▪ Chores seem tougher in winter. Make yourself playlists or choose audiobooks to help pass the time. I really enjoy Audible and find tack cleaning way more fun with a good story. Play your music selections or listen to the radio on a wrist speaker. Horses can often be less spooky when the pair of you are listening to music.

▪ There is likely to be a packed winter schedule of spectator events and lecture demonstrations. Prepare yourself a comfort pack including a flask and thick fleecy blanket so you can keep warm and focus on the topic.

Prepare For Your New Season

▪ Find a 2019 year planner and write in key dates that you know, such as work and family commitments then look at any key qualifying periods enabling you to map out when you will compete. If you prefer to focus on training rather than competition or of you are building a fitness programme divide the calendar into 12 week blocks.

▪ These blocks of time will help you to plan your time and give you a clear idea of how much time you have to prepare for your milestone events.

▪ Remember the key to training is to be flexible and to allow time to adapt your training goals when needed.

▪ Read the 2019 rule books and competitor handbooks for your discipline so that you are aware of the requirements for your competition pathway. Familiarise yourself with schooling movements and figures as well as gymnastic jumping exercises or pole work patterns if you prefer not to leave the ground so that you can create a varied training plan.

▪ Look out for local training opportunities for clinics and unmounted events so that you gain fresh insights into training for you and your horse. Use the longer evenings to read equestrian magazines and to settle down with online training videos.

▪ Remember to enjoy time spent with your horse and please share updates with Northants Horse Trader Magazine. We want to know how our readers beat the winter blues!

By Alison Kenward - BHS APC, Stable Manager, Senior Coach & UKCC3