Oh my gosh - how hard is it to stay motivated with your horses in the winter? With the cold, the wet, the wind, the frozen taps, arenas and fingers it's miserable to say the least!
Over the last few years, I’ve started giving my horses a holiday in December. It’s such a busy time with parties, family commitments, shopping, wrapping, nativity plays and school concerts, not to mention all the winter bugs that do the rounds, that it’s just proved impossible for me to maintain any useful work with the horses so it makes sense just to give them a complete break. I let them get hairy and completely wind down at the start of December and normally pick up the reins again between Christmas and New Year.
I'm running a little later than planned this year as we've been hit by a nasty virus over Christmas and New Year but I'm in the process of getting them clipped, trimmed and re-shod then it's time for the dentist to visit, a return-to-work massage and a tack check before I can finally get back on board.
Now, if I were an eventer with a very strict fitness plan to stick to in order to be ready for my first event of the season in the Spring, I’m sure I would be climbing the walls by now but I have the privilege of only having my own horses to worry about so no extra pressure to be making progress. There are however, lots of things we can all do to stay motivated during the winter months……
Enjoy the extra time you have with your horse on the ground. So the weather stops you riding but rather than getting your yard work done as quickly as possible so you can get home, why not you spend a little extra time grooming your horse, chatting to them and connecting with them a little?
Keep your energy levels up by eating well. The cold weather in the winter often has us reaching for comforting, stodgy and filling foods but they can zap our energy and make it increasingly difficult to get going properly. Fresh food, plenty of water and a ‘clean’ eating diet will ensure we still have the same amount of energy to get all our jobs done and more.
Make up for the lack of exercise riding with another form of exercise. So in the warmer months you ride more often and for longer and when winter hits and you stop riding so much (along with the comfort foods mentioned above), you can end up feeling heavy and lacking in energy. It’s a good idea to replace your riding with another form of exercise to keep your fitness levels up. There are a thousand different exercise classes you can sign-up to these days to suit all tastes or maybe you prefer to hit the gym, go for a swim or go for a run. Whatever you chose to do, your increased exercise will help keep the endorphins flowing.
Make action plans and task lists for the spring and summer months when the weather is better. Staying committed to your summer goals and feeling like you have a path to get there will help keep you excited about what’s to come and give a reason for all the hard work just now.
Enjoy the things that winter brings that you can’t do at any other time of the year. When else can you go sledging, build a snowman, take a walk around a frozen lake, enjoy a mug of hot chocolate after coming in from the cold or cozy up in front of the fire with your loved ones.
Learn something new! So the down time can be spent up-skilling - read a new book, watch a vlog series, read a new equestrian blog or do what my friend has just done - head off to Portugal for 3 days dressage training in the sun!
Give yourself little rewards, the winter is hard, there’s no denying it so when you’ve worked hard and deserve it, be kind and reward yourself with whatever takes your fancy.
And finally, when the weather or illness stops play, rather than dwelling on the fact that you’re not progressing as you should, accept what is, take a deep breath and enjoy the down-time. It’s an absolute given that Winter will turn to Spring, Spring will turn to Summer and we’ll be bathed in warmth and sunshine once again. There will be plenty of time to enjoy our horses then so if winter drags on for another few weeks, it’s not the end of the world.
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