It’s hard after weeks of bone-chilling cold and inconveniently heavy snows this winter to keep a happy outlook on your riding progress. The days of being in the saddle become few and far between, and when you do happen to get a day that allows you to ride, the chill of the arena and fresh(one may say spicy) mounts may make it seem more like punishment than a delayed pleasure. However, unless you’re planning a move to a more all-season riding-friendly area of the country, you can’t escape winter’s harsh reality.
In moments like this, it’s easy to let the winter blues get to you. Riding is inherently connected to weather, though indoor arenas help to offset some of nature’s wrath. But for many riders, the temptation to think “if you’re not in the saddle, you’re not working” becomes overwhelming when coupled with a growing bitterness toward the season at this point in the year. That is a big mistake.
First of all, not training is frustrating, sure. But just because you’re not able to ride doesn’t mean the time will be wasted. This is a perfect opportunity to do some incredibly important projects you’ve been putting off, and what better time than now, before the next riding season starts. Here are a few wintertime projects we recommend.
1) Show Season Planning
For those interested in showing, it’s a great chance to take a look at the upcoming show schedule and figure out your plan for the season. Which shows are priorities? Which are optional? What level(s) will you be showing? When are vacations compared to shows? Getting all your ducks in a row will make the hectic race to prepare for and sign up for shows so much easier! Don’t act like you don’t know what we’re talking about. Figure out how much time you have to prepare for your first show. Then figure out how much time you have until the next. And the next. Mark it down, and then go on to project number two.
2) Time to evaluate!
What better opportunity to spend some quality time doing an introspective analysis of what you did well last year, and what you need to work on for this one. We’ve created some training and first level evaluation forms that can help you start that process. However, even if you’re not interested in showing, it doesn’t mean you can’t use these forms. Knowing where you and your horse are in the dressage levels helps you recognize what aspects of riding need developed, what needs honed, and what just needs practice. These are important steps in the training process. Plus, it will hopefully serve to remind you of all the progress you’ve made over the last year!
3) Spend some quality time looking at your riding inventory.
This includes gear for both horse and rider. Best to figure out now if your boots or breeches have sprung holes, or notice that your show pad from last year has yellowed, or finally admit that the velcro on your polos has seen better days. A little extra time cleaning and closely inspecting your tack will also help prevent any emergencies or accidents by reminding you now what condition everything is in (were there always that many cracks in your billets?). Don’t treat this lightly! You’ve been meaning to do this for months now(years?), and an ounce of prevention is worth avoiding the headache, hassle, and danger of an unexpected break, rip, or missing piece of gear.
Those are just a few big ideas that you can easily supplement in when your lessons get cancelled due to inclement weather. We know, we like to be in the saddle too! But channel your frustration into productive projects, and get ready to work once spring finally decides to shove winter out of way.