Adjust the Ride to the Weather
The days are shorter and colder right now so it's harder to get motivated to get to the barn, tack up your horse, and ride. Then you have to cool them down and put them away. This is when I really need a plan to ride my horse so I can get on, get warmed up, get the exercise in and get done. Sometimes I even feel my whole ride is basically a warm up since I can’t feel my fingers and toes! But that's OK, too, actually. This is where I try to keep the basics in mind – simple walk, trot, canter with clear and easy transitions and moving the horse forward and back in the gait after the warm up. As I move the horse around I work to be be cognizant of their soft tissue in the arena and in the cold, so I don’t push too hard and potentially cause an injury. I may or may not try something new. Sometimes just working on moving the horse around and doing some other things is great bonding and confidence building for the both of you. If you have time to go out and ride in a field and just enjoy your horse, even if only for a short period of time before dark, it's OK. They need a good mental break as well.
I also like to give my horse some down time. When I travel to see family between Christmas and New Year’s my horses usually get some good time off. They need it, and I need it. I can spend my riding time reading and planning my next year's goals. My horses can spend some time just being horses. When I get back and am greeted with pricked ears and soft nickers at the stall door, I know they enjoyed the time off. Some of my horses need to have their grain reduced when they get time off. Some need a little fattening up, so I leave it the same. It's best to do what *your* horse needs. As they go back into work I increase their grain over a period of time. Or, the horse that needed a little meat on their bones feels great when I throw my leg over and I don't feel like I'm straddling a toothpick! I like to adapt my training to the darker days and weather instead of fighting it. There will be in a short period of time with the occasional longer and warmer days when I can get a few extra minutes in, but I enjoy this time of year when there's a little more rest time and my training rides are focused on being short, sweet, and to the point. Trust me – if the weather is cold and miserable, your horse feels it too. Let them tell you what they want to do during the winter.