How your partnership with your horse can help you stay optimistic this winter.
After a poll on social media this topic came out on top amongst those of my friends, followers and readers who expressed an opinion, which suggests we all need a jolly good cheering up right now. Let’s be honest there are not many better ways to cheer ourselves up as time spent with our horses, so lets look at a few suggestions for getting the best out of the winter months.
Challenging times and challenging situations
I don’t think many people would argue that we are facing a difficult winter as we head into the latter stages of 2021. I know that I for one have had my share of ups and downs like an awful lot of other people have. Somewhat unexpectedly I have found myself busier than I have ever been with the horses, which may in part signify that more people than ever are having problems as the enforced and long break for horses and riders takes effect. However, whatever our situation we can always rely on our horses to be a rock for us. Horses possess such humility and although they can be demanding in terms of the cost and time we spend on them sometimes just being with them can provide us with a huge lift. Winter is a good time for this.
Have an Autumn clean instead of a Spring clean.
If riding opportunities are less and hacking out is limited I always think Autumn is a grand time to have a good clear out. Think about the equipment or things you do not use or need and get them on e bay or in the bin, you will either gain a few quid or some extra space, win win. A good example of turning things to your advantage is getting rid of stuff which can be just as rewarding as buying stuff which you may not actually need. It is also never too soon to plan for Spring so get things started and start to dream of lovely days and nice weather, thinking nice thoughts is good.
Interact with your horse in a hands on way that gives you both a feeling of togetherness and mutual support. A regular and thorough grooming during cold spells is a great way to promote good circulation and well being in both horses and humans. Also interact with social media, I do not see many people giving their horse a good grooming and posting about it, so maybe not many people are doing it.
Leg stretches and similar straight forward activities.
Again if you do not have access to weather proof riding facilities do some leg stretches and the like with your horse, get to know a bit more about things like a well balanced foot, or how to spot strong or weak ligaments and tendons. This will all help with general health both physical for the horses and mentally for you as it is rewarding to know we are doing our best for horses ourselves not just picking up the phone and ‘getting someone in’ to do something basically easy to do yourself. As everyone knows by now I am a very strong advocate for proper long reining. If you do this on a road or firm ground track it is also a grand way to tighten up ligaments and tendons in horses’ legs.
Maybe help out a friend
The current epidemic aside from Covid 19 is one of poor mental health for a lot of people. Not everybody can afford to have access to horses but it may be the case that as a horse owner or somebody with access to horses you could give a non horsey friend or friends a real boost by taking them to the stables and having them help you out. They do not need to ride just spending time with horses can be a really uplifting experience for anyone. I know how wonderful it can be to introduce people to horses for the first time. As long as it is safe they can share time with our non judgemental sentient heroes and get a boost when maybe it is just what they need. I like this in particular because it spreads the joy of horses to new people and that can only help establish horses firmly as a credible mental health option for many people who would not otherwise consider it. Give it a try.
Take a break from social media and do some real socialising
Social media has its positives but it can also be actually socially limiting, plan some things like hand grazing your horse with somebody on the yard who might be lonely or in need of some real support, if riding opportunities are restricted grazing horses in hand can tick a lot of boxes but can be a grand way to just have a chat with someone else and stretch the horses legs. Here is an unusual one but there are some people I know who actually take a chair in to the stable and read to their horses, maybe this sounds a bit unusual to some people but why not give it a try if it is safe, some horses love it apparently, my motto is judge nothing until you have experienced it yourself. Another good idea can be to share days when you do the horses with somebody else if you are on part livery or diy. Do alternate days perhaps, we all know winter can be difficult but this will also be a good idea for making connections with people. We all like to do things our own way with our horses but this can leave us a bit isolated from others and that can be stressful, give yourself a break.
Winter can be fun with horses if we give it a chance and go into it with some ideas and a positive mental attitude, have good days all and remember every day is an opportunity that we will not have one day, so make the most of things if you can.