It would seem that Winter has well and truly arrived with a wet muddy bang! Although down here in the South West, it’s still pretty mild with day temperatures around 12 degrees – however the rain just won’t stop!! The fields are so soggy and the horses are loving the mud, and seem to take daily mud baths regardless of the fact that their rugs should keep them clean! How do they manage to get mud on the top of their bums whilst wearing a turnout rug? It’s beyond me!

For me the winter months are the hardest – there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done AND spend time with my hubby!! Thankfully at the moment he is in the final stretch of his qualification to becoming a chartered surveyor, and is spending most nights working at the pc, so any free time we both have, we try to make the most of it!

For me Sharp’s routine hasn’t changed much, he is still out during the day and in at night (the same all year round) I am sure though that soon our yard will ask us to have them in 24/7 like last year (which both Sharp and I find tough) The horses at work are now on their winter routine, which means they are now stabled at night and out during the day rather than out over night in the summer and in for a few hours during the day. The Winter routine at work is hard – mainly because I have 4 horses to work as well as muck out, poo pick, keep the yard tidy and all other jobs that crop up – and I can tell you that these  horses are the dirtiest horses I have ever met, and I thought Sharp was bad!!

With the darker evenings and dark mornings, I find it so hard to motivate myself to ride Sharp especially if it is cold and raining too!! So I thought I would share my top 5 tips to surviving the winter blues with your horse!

Tip 1 – Take the pressure of yourself and your horse – Throughout spring and summer I have so much more time to work and train Sharp and as we compete, I Tend to work him 6 days a week – we have the light for it so why not… however in Winter I try not to compete and just stick to training and having fun – for this reason I drop Sharps work load down to 5 days a week – sometimes 4 depending on the weather and if I feel up to it – I just keep him ticking over and if there is a day that I can’t ride, for whatever reason, then I don’t let it get to me and think “as long as Sharp has some time out then he is happy!” Come late February I shall start to up his work load again, but for now we are enjoying lots of hacking, and fun pole work in the school!

Tip 2 – Layer up to keep warm! – I don’t know about you, but I feel the cold so much – not sure if it’s because I spent the last 12 years in South Africa, but the cold wet weather really gets into my bones, so I have learnt to layer up! I have some fleece lined winter breeches, that are amazing, but when they are in the wash, I then wear some fleece lined waterproof chaps over my normal jods – and this keeps me toasty warm! I also have mastered the art of layering my top half – usually it consists of a long sleeved base layer, then a t-shirt, followed by a fleece lined Hoodie, or a jumper, with a nice Gilet to finish it off – then if it’s really cold I add a jacket to – that way whilst I’m riding or mucking out I can take layers off and still stay warm! Finally, I also have some neoprene wellies to keep my feet warm – Cold feet = Cold unhappy Shelly! 😊

Tip 3 – Make sure you eat enough calories! – Not one you usually hear, but if you have a fast metabolism like I do, then you will burn off everything that you eat and more just trying to keep warm. My job is extremely physical in the Winter, and if I am not careful I drop too much weight – so I make sure that I take lots of food to eat throughout the day from Fruit to chocolate bars! Last winter I kept Cadbury’s Crème egg boxes in the glove compartment so that should I need it, I could grab a quick sugar boost to keep me going! The great bonus was that I burnt it all off – however I did have to stop the Cadbury’s Crème Eggs in Spring so that I didn’t get fat!

Tip 4 – Get enough Sleep! – With a physically demanding job, as well as my own horse to look after throughout winter, I find that if I don’t get enough sleep then I struggle for a few days until I have caught up! As I get up at 5:45am 5 days a week, I try to get to bed by 10pm most nights, so that I can sleep and my body can rest ready for the next day! If I don’t get enough sleep then you will see “Grumpy Shelly” plus it tends to follow you around for the rest of the day!

Tip 5 – Surround yourself with a good support team! – We all days where we get overwhelmed with everything we have to do, or just down right depressed because of the relentless rain and wind, but try not to shut yourself off from everyone... talk to your friends & family, so that you don’t bottle things up and then have a meltdown (like I have done in the past!) A good support team will also help you out when you finish work late and are worried that your horse has been left out in the dark wondering where his dinner is. I feel very lucky that I have friends and my husband to call on should I be running late and need Sharp bought in or fed. They never complain about it and know that I will return the favour as and when they need it! We need to be there for each other through the dark cold winter months! 😊

So, there you have my 5 top tips of how to survive the cold dark winter months – what are yours? Do they differ from mine? If so, I would love to hear them, as they may well help me get through this winter too!

Until next time – stay warm and dry, and enjoy your horses everyone! xxx

 Snowy Morning