Despite a surprisingly mild winter luring us into a false sense of security the weather is beginning to get a lot colder. This makes riding and yard duties difficult for the best of us, so it’s important to manage your winter training and yard work effectively. North-east brand ambassador Claire Taylor shares her top winter training tips and must-have items around the yard to help you on those frosty mornings and chilly evenings.
Top winter training tips
Poles, poles and more poles
It can be boring schooling all the time if (like me) it’s dark when you go to work and dark when you get back. Poles not only give you something else to think about, but they can be a great gymnastic exercise for your horse. My favourite exercise is having four poles on a circle; this can be made as easy or difficult as you like by increasing or decreasing the circle size.
Similarly to poles I love doing grid work with my horses. A line of four or five bounces can really get a horse thinking on its feet. I also practice straightness by having a line of single fillers on one stride. You can use guide poles to help until with this until your horse gets the idea.
If your horse is up to it go for a days hunting. Not only will you both have a whale of a time, but it can be great education, especially if your horse is a bit stuffy or lacks confidence on his own. Don’t forget your green ribbon in the tail if he’s never been before!
Long lining is an often forgotten training aid and one that I find invaluable. This is useful if you are a bit short of time, or just can’t find the motivation to ride! (Don’t worry – we’ve all been there!) Again, you could use poles and obstacles to keep things interesting, have your horse on a circle practicing transitions, or alternate between the two.
Do something different
If you normally hack or do dressage, hire a school with a course of show jumps. If you only jump, why not book yourself on a showing or sidesaddle clinic? All of my horses do a bit of everything, regardless of their ‘proper’ disciplines. Winter can seem like a long slog and it feels good to try something different. You never know, you might even enjoy it!
Must have yard items
A good warm exercise sheet
A wrap around exercise sheet is great for slower hacks or fittening work where you need to keep warm as well as your horse. I’m very lucky to have received a lovely one of these from Equo recently! A reflective/fluorescent one is even better if you are hacking on the road. For schooling or faster hacks I use good quality wool sheets.
I would be completely lost without my waterproofs. From the day winter starts to the first day of spring my waterproofs are on. I like ones specifically designed for racing, as they are lightweight, hardwearing and don’t rustle… very important if you are riding out babies on a fresh morning! You will be surprised how much warmer even the no-fill ones are. I used to suffer from chilblains on my legs, which were agony, so a decent pair of waterproofs put a stop this.
A leaf blower
You may think our nice tidy yard is a result of hours of sweeping… but that is not quite the case. We have a leaf blower instead of a brush. Simply plug in, blow from one end of the yard to the other and hey presto, an immaculate yard in about five minutes! Yes it’s cheating, no we don’t care.
These aren’t just a winter essential but since my horses are out in summer we only use them in winter. I’m not a big fan of hay nets, for many reasons, but I love hay bars and all of our stables have one. They save a lot of mess and waste while still allowing the horse to eat in his natural position. Plus they are a lot quicker and easier to fill then hay nets when you’re short for time.
A good pair of clippers
I don’t think anybody likes clipping. I hate it. However, the regular clipping of a horse in work can save so much time and keep your horse much healthier in the long run. Remember to keep your clippers serviced regularly and the blades sharp though. Also on this subject, a pair of overalls just for clipping is a must, as well as a wooly hat. Just make sure your partner doesn’t see you sneak them in the washing machine!
To keep up to date with what Claire and her horses have been up to don’t miss her latest brand ambassador blogs.