Why we love our animals…

We love our animals, they are always so pleased to see us. Our dogs bark manically spinning in excitement and rejoicing in pleasure at seeing us again. Our horses wicker, snuffling against our cheeks, their whiskers tickling us. Some say; animals only love us because we feed them. I don’t agree. They love us in a much more straight-forward way. Our bonds with our animals is so much less complex than our bonds with people.

Relationships with people are more layered, more convoluted. Often we are related to them, some we chose for love, but our lives are clouded over by the stress of work, money, illness, so the love is pushed down, hidden over. But with our animals it doesn’t matter. Stressed? Hug a pony. Bad day at work? Hug a dog. Boss shouted at you? Stroke your cat. Works every time.

Animals are also the best outlet at Christmas. I love Christmas, I love seeing my family, but it can get a bit overwhelming, you can need a break. Popping out to walk the dog even for half an hour can give you a vital break from the festive fun. Christmas day hacks are delightful, especially in the morning when the roads can be wonderfully quiet.

Exercise is also the perfect counterpart to the endless eating and drinking that goes on over Christmas and can leave us feeling grumpy and lethargic. Even in dismal weather, wrap up warm, and get outside, you will feel better. And the best thing about animals is you have no excuses they have to be exercised, cared for, hugged, chatted to. So when the world is getting a bit much, when you long for peace and quiet and the wind in your face, rain on your back, get outside, take your dog for a walk, your horse for a hack and then when you come home again you will relish the warmth, the company and the cheer.

Christmas dilemmas…

Christmas should be magical. Roaring fires, too much food, nice drinks, bad sweaters, presents, Christmas trees, hats, mittens, family games, the list goes on… Sadly in reality that magic has to be generated and managed, often (I’m not trying to cause a row!) by the “mum.” As always the potential for arguments is high.

Our household argument is over whether the kids have too many presents. I like to give things that are useful, clothes, books, games, rather than endless plastic tat that gets broken, thrown away ignored. I also like to give experiences, lessons, days out rather than things. When people ask me what my children want, I generally ask for clothes, or money towards something that they actually really do want. Some people would consider this boring…but you can have fun without money. We make stockings for the animals, so that they can join in. We make gifts for people, and enjoy the time we spend together doing this.

When you are thinking of presents to buy for people, why not consider a book or DVD? Learning a new skill appeals to everyone, and is a great idea for those who are tricky to buy for. And if you are really stuck for present ideas for your horsey friends, why not make them horse shaped biscuits!

There are some great subscription gifts that will be really well received, like Intelligent Horsemanship which for a surprisingly reasonable price gives you great magazines throughout the year, discounts and free online access to brilliant resources. If you think this sounds like a great gift – click here!

But remember that the most important thing you can give this Christmas is your time. Time spent with your loved ones, time spent chatting, sharing, laughing, time spent playing and eating, and when it all gets a bit much, you can always escape to the stables!

Five top tips for coping with our horses in the winter.

Let’s be honest, most of us would rather not have to deal with winter with our horses, and probably wish that Santa would bring us endless sunny days for our stockings. But, sadly, winter is something that we have to endure with our horses, so here are some top tips to help you enjoy the winter time with your horses.
1. Don’t think that you have to ride. There are many times in the winter when the weather is simply not good enough to ride, but don’t regard this as a missed opportunity. Instead spend that time doing something else with your horse, such as grooming or massaging him. That time improving your relationship is never wasted.
2. Do be flexible. If the weather goes mild and you can get out and ride, make the most of it. Being adaptable with our days over the winter is vital to hep us react in a non-stressful way to whatever the winter weather brings us.
3. Use the time to organise your tack room, or sort through your boxes of old tack. Anything you no longer use can be donated to many of the horse rescue charities, who are always willing to receive donations. Then, when the sunny days appear, you won’t have to waste those precious hours searching for your favourite numnah.
4. Spend some time learning. We are so busy always that we forget to make the time to improve our knowledge. But the winter is the perfect opportunity to spend some time learning. There are many great online courses, books and DVDs available to help you increase your understanding of your horse.
5. Work on your groundwork. The key to all that you do with your horse lies in your groundwork. Can your horse stand quietly at the end of a 12ft rope for up to 10 minutes? No – well why not use this winter as an opportunity to teach him.

And remember, that Spring will come!

It’s beginning to look like…

You know the rest! Whether you love it or hate it, Christmas comes round steadily every year, and every year brings with the same conversations, the same choices, the same frenzied consumerism which many people strive so firmly to avoid. It is this time of year more than any other that it is hard to escape the relentless need to spend, spend, spend. The rest of the year I find it relatively easy to not buy, but Christmas can feel overwhelming.

I try and stick to the maxim of; buy from small businesses, buy something useful, or make a gift. I try my hardest to stay away from mass produced plastic rubbish sold in mega stores, after all if there is anything you want along those lines, you can usually find it in your local charity shop. But I find myself beset by the ‘have I bought enough’ question, which isn’t a reflection of my own feelings, simply a reflection of society.

Everyone is different, everyone has different financial obligations and priorities. Some people save all year to buy their children masses of presents, other prefer to buy random presents throughout the year. I like the random present approach myself, buying things as they take my fancy for people I love at varying times of the year, seems a much more personal gift than an obligatory gift bought in haste for a certain day, but we are all different!

So whatever your views are on Christmas, just make sure they are yours, that you are not guilted into spending more than you can afford by a society that has confused love with presents. A carefully chosen thoughtful gift will always delight. Buy them with love and kindness and the size or the quantity doesn’t matter, but the love does.