When I think about riding in the winter, some version of the following comes to mind:
Close down my computer around 4:30 and head out to the barn, watching the sun go down as I’m pulling into the driveway at 5.
Fumble my way out to the turnouts, try to discern the bay from the dark bay (all with blue blankets on, naturally) in the dusk. Finally locate horse and bring to the barn to get ready.
Groom (muddy, hairy) horse (that’s never really clean) and debate how worthwhile scrubbing mud from hairy legs really is. Decide to curry them clean because I’m a good horse mom, after all.
Tack up, head to the indoor arena that can fit approximately half of a crossrail on one long side, give myself a pump up talk and a reminder that I can always shed layers when I get warm (ha ha).
Give myself what feels like a good warm-up, walk trot canter. A few circles. Feeling good.
Check watch, thinking surely at least 30 minutes have passed and am dismayed to see that it’s barely been 8 minutes. Horse cocks one ear back to ask if we can be done yet. Only because I dread the knee/ankle shock that comes with dismounting on a cold day, I soldier on for a few more laps before giving in and finishing my ride feeling less than productive and very cold.
As a former resident of a region well on the receiving end of winter (the Midwest), I understand well the trepidation that accompanies impending season change.
This time of year is tough for horse people. Motivation wanes, and you find yourself hovering somewhere in between end of year burnout and start of year resolution mode. You wearily scroll through Instagram and see your horse friends and professionals you follow making the mass migration to Florida. Your horse is a wooly, static-popping mammoth that feels more like riding a camel hump than a horse after a week with no turnout because the snow won’t stop melting and making mud.
It’s funny, though, because on a recent phone catch-up with Equestrian Masterclass coach Laine Ashker (check out her most recent Guided Rides in the Equestrian Masterclass app! [Apple] [Google]) I lamented about this and she gave me a different perspective.
“You know, I actually don’t mind this time of year!” she chirped, reminding me that she spends very little time in Florida. As a pro who also runs and pays for her own facility, it’s hard to leave for several months at a time. So she chooses certain periods to go to Wellington or Ocala, but stays north in Virginia for the majority of the winter. I immediately found myself readjusting my doom and gloom attitude to meet her more in the middle. “Oh sure, sure,” I stumbled, not wanting to be the downer. “I mean, it’s also a great time to practice!”
Laine went on to explain how she enjoys having this period of time where she can practice things that need work or introduce new concepts without the constant looming pressure of competition. As a professional eventing and dressage rider, Laine’s got a full calendar of competitions and clinics each year, and so this “off season” gives her the opportunity to slow down and work on the things we all need eternal practice with.
I thought about this point of view, and how it applies to the scenario I wrote about at the beginning of this article; what I discovered is that most of the winter, what I suffer from is lack of motivation and planning. Most of my winter rides felt unproductive because I didn’t have a good plan for what I wanted to work on. I would drag my feet to go ride because it felt like I wouldn’t “get” anything out of the work, and neither would my horse.
I left that conversation with Laine thinking about how I could bring some of these thoughts into the materials I create for Equestrian Masterclass. I wanted to build something that would resonate with my fellow amateurs who dread the winter season and all that comes with it, while also giving us a positive goal to keep us motivated.
In early January, I’ll share our newest offering from Equestrian Masterclass in the form of a unique, 12-week training program designed to help us all get through the winter months. I wanted to give equestrians the opportunity to brush up on foundational skills, strengthen their bond with their horses, and learn some new skills. It’ll also provide a chance to bond (commiserate?) with other equestrians in similar situations – isn’t that where the strongest bonds are made, after all? We’re looking forward to sharing this with you!
Existing Equestrian Masterclass members will automatically gain access to this Training Program – and right now you can get a full membership for $100 off during our Holiday Sale!