Equestrian · Equine Article

A Winter Survival Guide for the Avid Equestrian

Winter Equestrian Blues..

November finally hit and the cold weather has started to strike Northern Utah, in fact it even snowed last night! Daylight savings time has also approached upon us and for all of us who work until 5pm we get off work while it is getting dark outside. Even though I am a barrel racer, I think all Equestrians can agree with me that winter causes us horse enthusiasts some case of the blues, well.. unless you live in a warm place like Arizona, California or Texas perhaps? Still winter is our down season, there are usually less competitions during the winter for most equestrians who compete. Plus the weather makes it harder to ride and travel and the cold makes us cautious about how much we actually work our horses. Simply put, winter is most horse enthusiasts enemy.

In this post, I decided to create a winter survival guide, which has helped me in the past cope with winter blues. Enjoy and let me know if you have any other survival tips!

The Winter Survival Guide for the Avid Equestrian:

  1. Look for indoor arenas/boarding facilities that you can haul your horse in to ride or if you can afford it, board them at the facility for a few months during the winter.
    • Since I moved to Utah I am forced to board my horses. I am boarding my horses at a facility with a small indoor arena and a large outdoor arena. In the past I kept my horses at my parents farm and would board 1 or 2 horses at a local boarding facility with an indoor arena. I found it easier and more cost effective to keep them at a boarding facility than to haul back and forth each evening.
  2. Prepare goals to accomplish during the winter months
    • This is important because it gives you more of an incentive to ride, especially when it is chilly outside! For example, I want my 3 year old filly to be moving comfortably and fluidly at all three gaits and have a good start/concept of leg pressure. Keep your goals simple and pertinent to your horse. Once your horse has accomplished the goals you can always look for something else to improve!
  3. Look for winter competitions or schooling events that you can attend
    • Finding winter competitions, schooling shows, or even playdays, gives you something to look forward too during the long, dark and cold weeks. Even though hauling can be tough during the winter, I try to schedule winter barrel races that I can attend. It helps keep me going and I can get a feel for what I need to work on before show season starts in the spring.
  4. Spend time grooming your horses and working on groundwork
    • Everyone has days where you do not feel like riding, it’s part of the sport. After tough days at work, I sometimes find it hard to get my butt out to the barn, and colder weather makes it harder. If I don’t feel like riding or can see my attitude starting an unnecessary battle with my horse, I will usually try to spend time simply grooming and working on groundwork.
      • I don’t know what it is about grooming, but it can be very therapeutic. Not only do I like my horses being “somewhat” clean during the winter (it really helps especially if your horse likes to cake itself with mud), grooming is a time where I can feel and check my horse over to make sure no injuries or splints have occurred. I try to be very familiar with my horses, so if any odd bumps or scratches occur, I can notice them instantly.
      • Groundwork can be a great tool to use on your horse when you don’t feel like hopping in the saddle. Groundwork helps you accomplish respect from your horse which will help you with your riding. Trust me you are not wasting time working on groundwork, every horse and rider can use it. 168441_499336274424_4260119_n
  5. Dress warmly when you are out at the barn, always keep track of temperatures 
    • I don’t know about you, but my weather app on my I-phone is my best friend! While I’m riding, I do not like having a bunch of baggy clothes on or even gloves for that matter. It’s nice to get a feel for what kind of temperatures you will be experiencing so you can plan your attire. I always get warmer once I’m riding so I usually dress in layers. My favorite combination is a Thermal shirt, A fleece North Face or Columbia Jacket with a slim shell type coat and of course a stocking cap! If it is really cold out I will wear my Carhart jacket and thermals have been my best friend! I even use leggings as thermals, and those work pretty well a little bit less expensive too! Wool socks are also a must!
  6. Go riding in the snow
    • You might think I’m crazy but seriously bundle up and take your horse out and go riding in the snow! Trust me it’s fun! Be sensible about it, I usually pick warmer sunny days when the snow is not too slick, lots of powder is the best! I usually ride my horses in a big empty pasture or take them out in a large field. It’s a blast to play with your horse in the snow!
  7. Create/update a spreadsheet of your accomplishments and earnings for 2015
    • Last year I started a Google Doc Spreadsheet of my horses earnings and accomplishments from 2014 and earlier. It is really nice to see how much your horse has earned or accomplished in years past, especially if you are considering offering them for sale. It also helps you get a feel for how many events you went too. I record every competition I go to throughout the year, even if I don’t win anything. This helps you get a feel for how much you are spending on competitions verses your earnings, etc. You can also write in notes about the facilities or record events that you enjoyed or did not enjoy, so you have a better idea for planning next years events.
  8. Create a scrapbook/photobook of your events from 2015
    • When the weather is really crummy out, scrap booking is always a fun past time. It’s always fun to look through photos from the competitions you attended. Websites like shutterfly, makes it really easy to create photobooks that capture your competition memories from each year.
  9. Start planning and scheduling  your competition events for 2016
    • I really enjoy searching for dates and creating a calendar for next year. Not every organization has their 2016 dates completely set until January or February, but it is nice to start a calendar with events you are interested in. When I create spreadsheets, I write down the dates, time, location, entry fees, stall/RV/parking fees, and entry deadlines. I also sync them to my google calendar so I receive reminders of when everything is due. If you work, then you can start planning vacation days and request time off ahead of time. It really helps beat the winter blues when you have a tentative schedule planned out so you can look forward to events once show season hits!
  10. Start planning and setting up goals for you and your horse in 2016
    • Once you have a tentative competition schedule planned out it is easy to start planning on goals for your show season. It is never to early to start setting up goals for you and your horse. I like setting up realistic goals and fantasy goals. For example, my realistic goal would be to have my Barrel Futurity horse running in the 1D by the end of March, my fantasy goal would be for him to win the a big maturity race in April.
  11. Set up a competition Budget for 2016
    • Yes, the dreaded budget. It is always fun to plan a tentative schedule of events you want to attend, but keeping them on a budget is a different story. This is one thing I have struggled with in the past. I tend to get overly excited about events once the schedules are out and try to go to as many as possible. But reality hurts, fuel and show fees are expensive and when you have student loans to pay off, it can affect your horses competition budget. That is why I like keeping records of events I’ve went to in the past, so I have a better idea of which ones to plan for in the future.   Set an entry fee budget, fuel budget and remember that there are always other additional costs like food and training. 165086_386495624775478_773242549_n
  12. Research bloodlines and current trends in your discipline
    • I’m a huge pedigree junkie, allbreedpedigree.com is amazing! I like keeping up to date on current trends and bloodlines that are winning barrel races all over the country. When it’s cold outside, look up current and past horses that are successful in your discipline. If your into Quarter Horses books like Western Horseman’s “Legends” are my favorite to research foundation lines. I also love looking up famous Thoroughbred racehorses. Trust me I can spend a whole evening looking up bloodlines and racing statistics on horses, oh and stallions webpages of course!
  13. Watch horse training videos to help educate you
    • Horse Training videos/DVD’s can be expensive, but if they are from a trainer that you like they can be very helpful and informative. I’m a visual learner so it helps if I have something to watch instead of just reading. Look up websites that might have videos that you can buy a subscription too. For instance training barrelhorses.com has a huge library with a monthly subscription where you can have access to multiple videos from different top trainers in the industry. You can even find helpful videos on Youtube, just make sure you research the author if it is an unknown name. For western riders, I strongly advise you to buy a subscription to RFDTV.com (if you don’t have TV). It is only about $40 a year and you get access to all their episodes. If you get it through your Dish provider I believe it is free, anyways it is a great resource! Who doesn’t love cuddling up with a blanket on the couch and drinking hot cocoa while watching movies?
  14. Read horse training books, magazines, online articles to help improve your knowledge
    1. Even though I mentioned I’m a visual learner, I do love looking through magazines, reading inspirational books and researching articles on horses. As an equestrian, you can never know too much about horses, you can always broaden your horizons. No horse is the same, so it is always a great idea to be knowledgeable of new techniques that might work on certain horses.

I hope you enjoyed my Winter Survival Guide! Let me know if you have any other ways of coping with the winter blues! I will try to add more posts that are horse related, so stay tuned!

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