Well here in the northern hemisphere, the seasons are changing. Depending on where you live, the weather may be getting cooler and the days are getting shorter. This means you probably don’t have as much time to spend with your horse as you would like. Well that is if you are like me, and don’t have access to an indoor or lit riding arena. So you need to be able to make the most of the time you have with your horse during the short and colder days of winter.
And I thought I would share with you a few ideas of different things you can do to make the most of the time you do have. Just because winter is here doesn’t mean you stop spending time with your horse. It just means you need to plan a little bit more.
Work On Manners
One of the first things I like to work on when I can’t ride is my horse’s ground manners. If your horse has great manners when you are working with him from the ground, usually this will translate when you get into the saddle.
You can work on training either in your horse’s stall or in your alleyway of your barn, if you have one. Make a list of different things you would like your horse to be able to do. If you don’t have any ideas, here are a few to get you started:
- Lowering his head
- Picking up his feet
- Stepping to the side
- Backing up
- Standing still
- Bending his head from side to side
- Accepting the bridle quietly
- Leading from either side
Not a complete list, but just some things you can work on with your horse from the ground. Once you horse is able to accomplish all of these “skills” you can come up with a new list.
You don’t need a lot of space for grooming your horse. And if it is too dark, or too cold for you to be riding, spend that time grooming your horse. Ideally, you will be able to keep your horse tied while you are grooming him and if you have to do this in his stall you can use a tie ring. I love my tie rings. I only have 2, but they are portable, so you can move them easily. Just add a screw eye to a safe place in your horse’s stall and then you can add a tie ring to keep your horse tied while you are working with him in his stall.
And then spend some extra time really grooming him. In my opinion, this is an important step that should not be overlooked, especially in the winter. You want to check over your horse and make sure he doesn’t have any new cuts or scrapes. You can check his condition, and just spend some extra time with your horse.
I will typically spend 2 or 3 days a week just having more involved grooming sessions with my horses during the winter. I don’t know if they like it, but they seem too. Again, this kind of goes into teaching manners. You are teaching your horse to be accepting of having to be tied, while you are working on him from the ground.
Planning Your Riding Time
If you are like me, and have limited time to be riding, come up with a plan. I like to try and plan my month in advance. I print off a blank paper calendar, fill in the month and then get to writing. For the month of November, my calendar looks something like this:
So every day I have set aside some time to do something with my horses. It may change, depending on the weather, or if something comes up. But by having a basic outline of what I would like to do for the month, I don’t find myself wondering “What am I going to do tonight with Ethan?” All I need to do is look at my calendar, and I know what I thought about doing.
Small Barn Improvements
But what if you don’t have lights in your barn? Then what can you do? Something that I did this past year was add some lighting to my small barn. I was tired of coming home during the winter, and not being able to see my horses, or seeing them with a flashlight. I would dread the shorter days of winter, because Monday through Friday I would see my horses in the morning, and that was about it.
And last year I had the “bright” idea to add some lights. I started with Christmas string lights, you know, the ones you hang up on the outside of your house. And even though this was a huge improvement, it wasn’t quite enough. So I did a little more research and I found some mechanic type lights that are meant for a garage, or more industrial application. They were very affordable, and I added some LED 100 watt equivalent bulbs, and now my entire barn (and tack room) are lit up. I cannot believe something so simple took me so long to do! But out of anything I have done in my barn, this is the best investment I have done so far.
Maybe one day I will have a huge barn with electricity and running water, but for now I am making due with what I have. But seriously, if you don’t have any lights in your small barn, and need lighting, this is a fantastic option that is very affordable.
Organize Your Barn and Tack Room
And if you have extra time, and just want to be with your horse, why not get your barn organized? If you can’t ride, you can still clean right? Organize your tack room, and go through your stuff. When was the last time you organized your grooming tote? When was the last time you washed your brushes? How about an inventory of what you have?
Even if you took one day a week and spent that time organizing and cleaning your tack room/barn, you will find that you love being at the barn even more. There is just something special about a barn with everything in it’s place. And even if you board your horse, you could sweep the aisle way (if you are allowed to do so) or organize your tack locker. When I boarded my horses, I would sweep the aisle way, and clean cobwebs from my horse’s stall. It made it look nice, and I know the property owner was happy to have their barn looking nice.
Focus on The Positive
Winter is my least favorite time of the year because I don’t have as much time to ride. But instead of dwelling on that, I try and think about the positive. I have more time to work with my horses on the ground, I can get everything organized, and I have more time to work on other projects that will benefit me and my horses when the days get long again.
By using my time wisely over the winter, I will be able to really enjoy the time that I do have to ride. I will appreciate the riding time more, and I will be keeping a solid relationship with each of my horses. So even though the days are short, winter time isn’t really that bad after all, especially when you have a plan.
About Lisa Goodwin
I am horse crazy and love DIY projects, and finding great deals on everything horse related. When I have a new idea, or find a great deal I love sharing this information with you.
You can find me over on my website, Budget Equestrian or catch up with me on my YouTube channel, The Budget Equestrian