Take the ‘Brr!’ Out of Winter Months

I don’t know about you, but for me it is so hard to make myself go to the barn when it’s below freezing outside. It’s no fun to have to deal with reins when you can’t feel your fingers, or to press your feet into stirrups when you’re not quite sure if your toes are still attached. If all you can think about is hypothermia, it’s tough to appreciate your equine buddy as much as they deserve to be appreciated. So here are some ways of dealing with barn life when the thermometer drops below 32°.

  1. Hand and Foot Warmers– In those brutal winter months, it’s the poor, skinny fingers and toes that suffer the most. Yes, gloves help, but only somewhat because they isolate your fingers. And there are always those expensive, insulated boots, but your wallet won’t appreciate the investment. So here’s a cheap solution: hand and foot warmers.
    IMG_2102The first thing I do when the temp starts dropping is buy these in bulk, and I mean hundreds. I go through every one of them by the end of the winter months. The hand warmers can be stuck right into your glove to provide the warmth that the gloves can’t provide on their own. For the foot warmers, they have trouble sticking to socks, so just stick them right onto the bottom of the boot (on the inside, obviously), and peel them off when you’re done. You’ll find the dread of going to the barn has decreased considerably as a result of using these magic heat pockets.
  2. Change up the routine to stay interested- With horseback riding, there is always something new to try. The standard ‘walk, trot, walk again, canter, walk yet again, change directions and repeat’ can get pretty mundane, especially during winter when it’s already so hard to make yourself leave the house. So create something worth leaving for. Come up with something new to try for every winter riding session. One idea is teaching your horse a new trick—bowing, staying, smiling, kissing, etcetera. Work on whichever trick you choose for five minutes after and before every riding session. You get to have fun and your horse gets treats galore…everyone wins! This winter, I decided to teach my horse, Mixer, to bow. We’re not quite there. Most sessions involve him staring at me with a look that expresses something like, “Are you crazy? Just give me the carrot!” But if/when we get there, I’ll be sure to post some pictures. Another winter idea is riding your horse through the snow. It gives your horse an extra workout as well as changing up the routine for the rider. Just take into account the extra exertion needed for the horse to get through snow, and don’t overwork him/her. Here are some more ideas for you to experiment with in the winter:
    1. Introduce a new skill, such as trail riding (not good for spooky horses or if it’s icy out), bareback riding (once again, take your horse’s personality into account), weaving, barrel racing (not for horses with longer backs, like my boy), or you can even teach some new dressage steps.
    2. Try different routines like fitting as many serpentines as possible into the ring, circle in each corner, ride in spirals (as you go around the ring, spiral inwards until you can’t make the circle any smaller, then spiral back out), work on lead changes, work on stride control (sitting trot to canter, controlled canter to working canter, etcetera), fit as many and as few strides between 2 poles as you can… There are so many more! Check out this link for more ideas:

http://chesnaklimek.com/horse-inspiration/214-things-you-can-do-with-your-horse

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Come back next week for more on dealing with the winter months!

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