Well, we just had our first snowfall out here in our neck o' the woods, and it got me thinking about the winter season that's looming ahead of us in the north end of the Americas.
While it's true that your clothes will be bulky, and the temperatures will drop, the winter can be a great time of rest, renewal and growth for you and your horse. I'm here to tell you to get your thick breeches on, put on the two extra jackets, grab your hat and head to the barn anyway! Here's why.
1. You don't get nearly as hot.
After the hot, hot summers we've been getting, it's such a relief to get to ride in cooler temperatures. The extra layers you put on when you first get to the barn will likely get dropped onto a jump standard (hopefully not onto the sand) and you'll end up riding in a couple of the lighter layers you've worn underneath.
Your horse will benefit too, as long as it isn't too cold (in which case, the lungs could be irritated, so better not to ride on those days). There is nothing better than a little exercise to warm up the muscles, get the heart and lungs working, pound the feet on the ground for some circulation in the legs, and do the walk/trot/canter that they can't do most of the time in turn-out because of poor footing.
2. Bouncy bouncy energetic horses.
What great fun it is when the horses are happy to move! These are the days when you can really work on your - and your horse's - conditioning, do longer trots and canters without the accompanying foam and soaking wet saddle pads of the summer.
Listen to your horse's heartfelt snorts, feel the spring in his steps, and ride along with all that positive energy!
3. Cozy indoors and good footing.
Inclement winter weather is nothing to worry about if you have access to a comfy cozy indoor arena. It's a special kind of contentment when you can walk into the barn and leave the snow-covered winter wonderland behind long enough to prance, dance and frolic (and ride!) on delightfully clear sand footing on those days when there's no chance for real movement otherwise.
Plus there's the added bonus of being able to stay on a fairly regular riding schedule despite weather changes - something that helps keep both you and your horse physically and mentally fit over the long winter months.
4.Gorgeous outdoors, clear white snow, brisk get-yer-circulation-going wintry air.
Or better yet, keep those many layers on and head out into the the bright sunshine-y winter day and revel in deep snow, and white, open fields. Watch your horse's breath as it lingers visibly in the fresh air. Thrill in the crunchy snow underfoot and the eye-watering wind that stings your cheeks but makes you feel so alive.
Make it even better and go with a friend!
5. Plenty of Time for some delightful "homework"
Did anyone say, "homework?" Not the kind that you hate to do. This kind of homework is the stuff that great riding is built on. The winter season is by far the best time to hunker down, stay at home, and work toward achieving those goals that you kind of glossed over during the summer. Get nit-picky and improve step by step.
Add some laterals, some tempo changes, changes in circle sizes - and you'll find that you might end up doing more over the winter months than you did in the summer.
6. Even when it's cold, you know you'll warm up anyway!
And this is the best part of riding in the winter. The cold becomes less of an obstacle because you get to move - even if you do ground work with your horse, even while grooming and tacking up, and especially if you ride. It's all exercise and you will warm up as you go along.
On the other hand, sometimes there's nothing better than taking time away from riding, or away from the barn altogether (that is, if you aren't the one feeding-and-cleaning-and-turning-in-and-out).
Sometimes it's the intensely cold weather, and other times it might be the holidays or special winter events that keep you away from the barn. But the winter gives you space to breathe and time to slow down and take it easy without feeling like you HAD to make it for that next ride.
And you will be energized and enthusiastic the next time you go out.
Here's to a wonderful winter, full of horsin' around, to come!
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