As I write this, it is that time of the year. The clocks have just gone back here in Ireland. It is dark by 5:30 pm each evening. It is still dark at 7:45 am each morning… And we have close to two months left until the official shortest day of the year. Meaning things are only going to get darker between now and then.
In the top half of the world, Winter has come! And with it, a complete lack of daylight, warmth and ‘perfect riding weather’. This means that riders have to begin changing their approach slightly if they are to still keep moving forward with their riding.
Couple this with upcoming holidays and the Christmas season, flexibility is the name of the game for riders this time of year.
So how do you keep your riding moving forwards when your riding times are shorter? And when your actual number of days in the saddle each week possibly changing week on week? Taking a different approach is the answer. I am going to give you 4 different options you can use to work with your horse, that take either lack of time or bad weather into account…
1 . Lunging
I personally believe that every rider in the world can benefit from learning to lunge correctly and well. It is something that is so easy to get started with. And, even better, your riding skills do not have a whole lot of sway over your lunging skills.
Meaning you don’t have to be a ‘great’ rider in order to have a huge positive impact with lunging.
This is a topic that we have covered many times here on the podcast and I am going to give you links to all the relevant episodes and resources I have created for you.
2 . Groundwork
The true bookends to every ride you will ever have. Groundwork is worth investing time into improving as it is something you do every single time you interact with your horse. It is also great for when the weather is less than ideal for riding. When you are confined to a smaller space, even if that space is a stable or barn.
I am going to suggest starting with something you do every time you’re in the saddle; halt.
The quality of your halt can be dramatically improved before you ever get into the saddle. Work on the pressure and release concept on the ground. This then allows you to refine something that is the foundation of how you apply your aids in the saddle.
I have spoken about groundwork a lot in previous episodes. Here are the links to those episodes and other resources I have created for you about groundwork.
3 . Massage or Desensitising
Wet, cold weather often makes us want to settle in. Get nice and cozy and leave the weather outside! Well, you can do this with your horse as well, kind of! Massage is a great way to really bond or connect with your horse. It helps to build trust in your relationship with each other.
Massage is also a great way of using rhythm as you prepare to ride to improve the ride itself.
It promotes relaxation. You get to really learn what every inch of your horse’s body feels like. And, your horse gets to do something with you that doesn’t require any effort from him. He truly gets to enjoy the interaction between the two of you with little to no demands on him.
Here are some resources I have created to help you get started with this.
4 . Long Lining or Long Reining
This one is probably the most challenging to get started with if you have never done it before. The reason is that two lunge lines double the chances of you becoming knotted up! However, I also feel that if you are confident on the lunge with your horse, you can potentially begin looking at long reining or long lining your horse.
Long lining is great as you see things from a completely different perspective. It allows you to really see if there are issues with straightness, over or underdevelopment and suppleness.
The other great thing about long lining is that you don’t need a huge amount of space. And, assuming you’re not into running, it is all done from a walk. This cuts down on the chances of having a slip in wet weather and heavy impact on legs in dry, hot weather.
Again, you can find a ‘getting started’ guide for long lining at this link:-
Lack of Time can be an Opportunity
The change in season and scheduled does not have to spell the end to work with your horse. It is simply a matter of becoming a little more strategic with regard to what you are doing in the yard. Use this as an opportunity to try something you have not tried before.
Remember, a change is often as good as a rest when it comes to routine. It is up to you to make that happen.