Tips for keeping your horse moving through winter

As the nights draw in and the weather gets wetter and colder it can be hard to find both the time and motivation to keep riding through the winter months. Freezing toes, muddy fields and icy buckets don’t always inspire you to get going on your horse – if this sounds familiar than read on for our top tips to keeping your horse supple and fit through winter.

  • In hand hacking. Don’t feel you have to be onboard to be exercising. Hand walks are a great way to get moving and improve fitness for both you and your horse. If you’ve not got time to get tacked and warmed up, a hand walk is a brilliant option. You can also work on groundwork too. Implement session to reinforcing their ground manners and take the opportunity to teach them new movements. Getting your horse used to moving away from the pressure of your hand will help them recognise what to do when you are back on board and using your leg in the same position.
  • Pole Work. You don’t need to set out anything elaborate, but a few poles raised ever so slightly are perfect for reminding your horse of balance and for giving their muscles an extra workout. Done at walk, these can be a great tool for higher intensity work with very minimal concussion. In trot, adding poles are a great way of adding a bit of variation to a schooling session and encouraging your horse to lengthen and shorten their stride as required.
  • Hack out. If arenas become frozen or waterlogged consider going for a hack instead. Not only does this add a bit of variety to your horses training but allows for a refreshing way to relax and bond with your horse. You can use the hack to work on your schooling movements such as lateral work and half halts, or simply relax and enjoy the fresh air and countryside.
  • Book different venues to go to. If your arena doesn’t have lights or is badly affected by the weather, and you don’t have good hacking around you, consider booking to go to a new venue. This has the added benefit of adding variety to your week, as well as ensuring your horse hasn’t forgotten how to load and travel. You could go to an indoor school, some all weather gallops or head to a forest for a long hack.
  • Stretch it off. Don’t worry about riding, you don’t even need to leave the stable to give your horse a mobility workout through stretches. Commonly known as ‘carrot stretches’ because you can use a carrot to encourage the horse to reach around and stretch through his muscles. You do this by asking your horse to bring his chin to various body parts, such as chest, fetlocks, flanks and girth.  This helps to improve balance, mobilise joints and works on flexibility. It also creates a perfect chance for your horse to listen to you and focus on what you are asking – useful reinforced behaviour for when you are back in the saddle.
  • Set a plan for the upcoming season. As cautious as we all are to set plans and tempt fate, having a rough idea of what you want to achieve next year and which events you want to go to is a great way to stay motivated through the winter months.

Importantly, remember that winter is tough on us equestrians. Don’t feel bad if you’re spending less time in the saddle – a bit of downtime and reduced workload is important for horses. Hopefully our tips will help you make the most of opportunities available to you and have fun bonding with your horse.

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