With the clocks changing and daylight hours getting shorter, keeping your horse fit over winter can become a challenge – unless you are a lady of leisure of course! For those of us who work full time, have families or are busy studying, the lack of light can prove to be a real problem when trying to keep your horse fit. Now we’re not saying it’s going to be easy (it’s not!) but here are a few tips that help us out during the winter months:
- Try to incorporate some lunging work into your horse’s fitness regime. Lunging is hard work for a horse and really should only be done in short sessions. Keep it varied and interesting by building in lots of transitions and pole work. Using pole exercises you can increase the difficulty of the session as your horse becomes stronger, perhaps working towards using some cavaletti. A great way to help keep your horse fit that doesn’t take a lot of time.
- Leave time consuming yard chores until the weekend or your day off (check out our blog on this). There’s no point wasting precious daylight hours mucking out to perfection before you start your working day. Simple changes to routine like making up a week’s feeds and haynets on your day off plus skipping out during the week can leave you valuable time to fit in a quick 20 minute school or hack before/ after work.
- Depending on your job role, see if there is any flexibility to start late or finish early one day in the middle of the week. Use this as a day for a good hack with your horse, repeat again at the weekend whilst combining with a quick school/ lunge and your horse will keep ticking over nicely.
- Remember that horse’s have much better vision than us in the dark! Okay so riding in the dark isn’t great but you could probably consider getting on your horse and starting to warm up as the light begins to come up in the morning. Just remember that horses are less able to adjust to sudden changes of light so don’t go from one extreme to another. This is particularly noticeable when you turn on the stable lights first thing on a dark morning – you’ll often see horses blinking to adjust to the sudden light.
- Use hill work when hacking out to really get your horse working. Trotting up hills can really help with fitness levels and if you don’t have time for a long ride a shorter one with some inclines will be just as effective!
We hope our tips help you manage your horse this winter time. But remember if it’s just not possible then don’t stress. Horses sometimes enjoy and benefit from a break just as much as we do. Keep going, keep smiling and before you know it summer will be here again!