Sam Goss entered the following article for the recent Hereford Equestrian blogging competition and won the runner up prize jointly with Ceri Belli. Here is Sam’s entry which was written before Christmas. Sam will regularly blog for Hereford Equestrian during 2019 and I’m sure you will find her articles very useful.
Getting ready for the lighter Evenings.
It is difficult to keep motivated at this time of year. The weather is damp, cold and the nights are drawn out. Mud is the horse owners’ best friend and everything you touch seems to have mud on it. Below we have 5 points to help you get through the darker damp days.
We take comfort in the fact that it is only 8 days to the shortest day [Editors note: this post was written in December 2018] and then the evenings will be getting lighter. For some reason, this year horses have grown their coats thicker and clipping has been a lot more necessary. We are thinking about Christmas just around the corner and then the new season will pull us along and allow us to get going.
Quite a few competition horses will be having a rest, the hunters will be out and about and other horses and ponies will be ticking along and keeping their hoof in work. Dressage and jumping horses will still be out and about, with hopefully several qualifying for different regional finals and second rounds. The thoroughbred mares will be starting to get ready for their foals not long after the beginning of January next year.
Things used to calm down around Christmas time, but now several of the equestrian sports have a small break and keep going. With a wider group of owners and riders, there are longer seasons and not all horses get such a long break. It depends on the sport but some, like the event horses, manage a break at this time of year.
It all depends on the owners and riders and the different sports they are involved with. So, whilst some are having a slower time now, other horses and ponies are getting ready for the Christmas holidays and children home from school.
If you are thinking of getting your event horse fit for the beginning of the event season you might be looking at starting before Christmas if your horse needs to be fit for earlier events and the weather could hinder you. If you are just ticking along it is a time of year where you can try and keep your horse or pony going with four or five riding sessions a week.
Some of these could be a lunging session and if possible, a ride out at the weekend or a day in the week you are around in the daylight. If you have to stay in the school, working over poles on the ground, flat work, grid work, and jumping can be different ideas through the week
Whichever you decide to do, keeping it different allows the horse not to get stale and he or she will be happier. Spending some time working the horse or pony from the ground also helps and allows you to get a better bond with your horse.
Remember to ‘be seen and be safe’ when you are out and about, it is amazing how the weather can change. Also, do not be hard on yourself, it’s is very easy for us to be negative when we are tired and it’s dark all the time.
Here are some points to remember:
- Give yourself time to get ready in the damper, wet and muddy weather.
It’s not great getting out of bed on a cold, wet, damp or frosty morning but, if you allow yourself time you will be able to get to your horses and ponies and get the mucking out done and the fields checked. If you get into a good routine, you can get things organised and working for you.
- If possible, change around your schooling and riding, so that your horse doesn’t get bored and remains happy and enjoying his or her work.
It is a good time of year to have a coach or trainer to help you with different ideas on your schooling or training. You don’t have to have a lesson each week, you can have a session once a fortnight or once a month. This will give you different goals to work towards and allow you to have someone that will be able to help with different ideas on training. i.e. exercises you can use, possibly using poles with your flat work to add a different aspect to your work.
- If riding out, make sure you have some fluorescent and reflective kit on.
The British Horse Society (BHS) has been able to get equestrians recognised as vulnerable road uses in the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS). If you are riding out it doesn’t take a couple of seconds to put a fluorescent tabard on so you can be seen. We tend to ride in dark colours and they can’t be seen against hedges and trees on the road.
- If possible, give your horse a chance to dry out and check legs for lumps and bumps in the daylight.
Try to get your horses out of the field and somewhere light and dry so you can check them over every day. At this time of year some owners have to see their horses first thing in the morning and after work. Make sure you have an area to check over their legs and body, with a torch if necessary and double check for lumps, bumps and cuts. The light at this time of year isn’t always great so be vigilant.
- Enjoy yourself! the nights will soon be lighter.
I always remember counting this time of year down when I was at school and had to ride after school with no arena and lights. I always remember that as it got to the end of January, after Christmas, we were able to have time to do some schooling or get out on a ride.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, don’t get cross with yourself when you don’t get a chance to exercise or work your horses. It is not long now, and you will be able to get going again. Enjoy working with your horse and keep them ticking over ready for the Christmas Holidays and the New Year.
Enjoy being with your horse and ponies and when possible get out and about for a great ride. Soon it will be lighter in the evening again and we will all be enjoying the light and better weather.