The weirdest year…

It’s October next week. October, in my mind, the first of the closing months of the year, which means that the oddest year ever is drawing to a close. Next year may well be challenging, but hopefully it won’t be as shocking, as unexpected.

October is evenings drawing in, it’s open fires and hot chocolate, it’s muddy fields and the smell of damp dogs and horses. It’s cold fingers and finding last years gloves. It’s the leaves beginning to fall and that first chill in the air.

As the nights begin to draw in, we start to wonder what we will do on the those evenings, what we will do with our horses, now that we can no longer stay outside all evening, basking in the glorious rays. We need other things to do on those damp and dark evenings. Activate Your Horse’s Core gives a great set of exercises to help improve your horse’s core, think yoga, pilates, think good stretching and how much fitter you feel if you do this for yourself.

Your horse will benefit just as you do from activating his core. You know those ladies you see gliding around with perfect posture, while you are slumped over to one side? Your horse will be like that too! Improving your core helps your flexibility and can reduce your likelihood of injury, what’s not to love?

Activate Your Horse’s Core is comprised of a book and DVD, so that you can study the exercises at home before using them on your horse. The pages of the book are plastic coated, so it will survive being dropped on the stable floor and slobbered on! (We would advise against dropping it in your horse’s water though!)

Activate Your Horse’s Core is a perfect October present for yourself, in case you need a little cheering up at the prospect of dark evenings and short days.

Confidence – it will return…

The rubbish winter is drawing to an end. Winter is hard work. The short day length combined with the erratically changeable weather so common across the United Kingdom, leaves us rushing and struggling. Our horses, usually a source of pleasure, become another daily battle. As the moments when we do manage to ride become less frequent, the enjoyment of riding can diminish.

Most things become better with practise, and confidence is no difference. On the downside, it is easy to fall out of practise if we don’t keep on performing a skill. It only takes 48 hrs to begin losing muscle, so imagine that confidence is similar to a muscle, lack of exercise over the winter can lead to reduced strength, and nerves can flit in and diminish our enjoyment.

However, there are ways to combat our winter nerves. Reduce your expectation, don’t judge your winter riding against your summer riding, the prevailing conditions are so very different, that it is simply an unfair comparison. There are plenty of ways to enjoy spending time with your horse in the winter that don’t involve riding, so if you are battling with your nerves in the winter, why not spend time grooming or massaging your horse, you hopefully will enjoy the opportunity to bond with your horse in an unpressured way.

Remember we are coming out of the winter now and as we start up again be kind to yourself. Don’t expect everything to click back into place straight away. But as the days lengthen and we get to spend more consistent time in the saddle, you will find your confidence will return rapidly. Just like your muscles, it is possible to build your confidence back up again, by simply working it a little bit every day. And just like muscles – your confidence will be strong again.

I can see the light!

It’s coming, it’s coming! Already you can see the evenings drawing out, already I have been outside after 5pm without torches, walking on the moor in Devon. Already I am assessing the cloud cover to work out how more light we are getting this evening. Already the days are lengthening, already Spring is coming…

I am like a kid at Christmas about day length. Every day I get increasingly more excited, and tell other people how excited I am as well! A little like some people do about the snow…I go round saying, “look how light it is!” as though they haven’t noticed…

But it is amazing as the days lengthen, suddenly you can see all the hours you will have, all the fun you will have, all the evening hacks, the sunny evenings sitting on fences watching ponies, the quietness at the end of a sun-drenched day. Suddenly it unfolds in front of you, stretching out into time like a promise.

The winter is forgotten in a flash. The mud, the wind, the stumbling, sliding ground under foot, suddenly it has all gone, eradicated, disappeared, wiped out from your memories.

So here’s to the lengthening hours, here’s to daylight, here’s to riding in the natural light, after work, before work, after school. Here’s to never being inside, to no more dark evenings, to no more television, to no more watching the rain hammer down your windows. Here’s to moulting ponies, and dry gateways. Here’s to tan lines, and sweaty saddlepads. Here’s to leafy tracks and gentle grassy slopes. Here’s to sore muscles and hat hair. Here’s to summer. It’s coming, you can feel it in the aching stretch of daylight, hanging tenaciously in the air. It’s coming, it nearly here, it’s just around the corner…

(Possibly a little preemptive, but even thinking about it is cheering!)

January is rubbish!

Nobody likes January, so at least you don’t have to feel alone in your dislike of the worst of the winter months. Everyone is fed-up, tired, skint. The days are short and gray. The fields muddy and windswept. Horses are skittish and spooky. Everything seems like hard work. The summer seems like a distant memory or an unimaginable future.

But all is not lost! There are ways to cope! Remember, is really isn’t that long until the weather gets better, the days get longer. February can be lovely. In no time at all you will be complaining about flies!

Take the time to sort out your tackroom, you don’t want to waste a precious sunny day on doing it. Pick a cold (not raining!) day and drag everything out, sort out rugs to be repaired, or binned! Sweep out all those little corners, make sure you have everything in the most convenient place. Think about what you use the most, what would be better on that high shelf?

If the weather is too miserable to ride, why not spend time with your horse on the ground? You can spend some time grooming, or massaging him. You can teach him tricks. You could sit in your stable (safely!) and draw him. There are endless ways you can build on your relationship with your horse without having to actually ride. Take a look at our book and DVD Horse Massage for Horse Owners for help in learning to massage.

Remember the days are getting longer, Spring will come, the grass will grow, the mud will recede, the days will get longer, your horse will settle down, your toes will stop hurting with the cold, and quite soon you will be wandering along a track on your horse in the sunshine and you will have quite forgotten about the misery of the winter.

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!

Winter blues

The winter can be a hard time for many of us. Our positive energy seems to leech away with the sunshine and things that were once easy can seem very hard. Trying to pull a heavy rug onto your horse can seem dispiriting and arduous when you know that on another day you would be able to do it without a seconds thought. Life can seem like that sometimes, as though you are wading through treacle, and the winter can be a tricky time of year.

Here are some top tips to help you cope with the winter:

Accept it. Accept that it is harder, you will find it more difficult, have less energy, feel more overwhelmed. Acceptance helps us deal with things, as we are no longer fighting against them, but rather using our energy to find solutions.

Remember it doesn’t last for ever. It can feel interminable as you are sliding around in the mud with sharp horses pulling on your arms, but actually it is only for a few months and then the tips of the daffodils will appear.

Be kind to yourself. It’s natural to be more tired, less enthusiastic in the winter. We live in a society that is always driving people forwards. It’s not always helpful. It is okay to take time out, to not always strive to achieve.

Enjoy the good bits. Some moments in winter are glorious. The flip side of the shorter days is that we get to see sunrise and sunset, and watching the winter sun rise over frosty fields has to be one of the most wonderful views. If you didn’t have horses you wouldn’t get to be out in the beautiful winter landscape.

The winter isn’t all doom and gloom, and remember the days are ticking along, and it won’t be that long till it’s spring again!

5 things we love to do in the Autumn

Summer has slipped away and left behind a trail of golden leaves as we move into Autumn. As with all seasons, there are both good and bad points to this part of the year. Here are our top five things to do with your horse in the autumn.

1 – Look back at this year and look forward to the next one. We are so busy doing and being, and paying bills, and working, and riding and, and, and that we forget to take a moment to pause and reflect. Autumn is a great time to just take a moment and think about your achievements throughout the year, and maybe to consider some goals that you have for the forthcoming year.

2 – Learning. As the evening begin to draw in, and daylight hours start to slip away, it becomes harder and harder to spend hours in the saddle. However, it does become much easier to sit inside and read a book or watch a DVD! Take some time to improve your knowledge, not even necessarily about horses, expanding your knowledge is fantastic for your brain and yourself in general. “Understanding Horse Performance Brain, Pain, or Training?” is our highly recommended book and DVD.

3 – Massaging your horse. One of our favourite things to do with our horses when we cannot ride them. Massage is enjoyable for both horse and owner, and can really help improve your bond with your horse. Horse Massage for Horse Owners is a great place to start.

4 – Enjoy the Autumn colours. We love Autumn, the changing leaves and landscape can be startlingly beautiful. Make some time to get out in it and enjoy it. If you can’t ride, take your horse for a walk with you.

5 – Carrot or baited stretches. Another lovely way to spend time with your horse, both improving your bond, and helping him to stay flexible and mobile. Check out the brilliant book and DVD “Activate your horse’s core.” Remember carrot stretches are not appropriate for all horses, and stay safe.

Enjoy Autumn with your horses!