Dec 24, 2019

Top 10 Tips for Fighting the Winter Blues with Carol Kozlowski

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

When the days get shorter and the temperatures get colder, it can get tougher to get out to the barn to ride your horse, whether it be because the weather is crummy or you're lacking the motivation to leave the warmth of the indoors. Former USEA President and rider and trainer Carol Kozlowski provided her best advice on how to keep your spirits up during the winter months.

  1. Go easy on yourself! Give yourself a break! Use this time to reconnect with your family and do things you don’t do when you’re busy – the rest of the season. I tell my students that it’s about giving yourself permission to have some me-time. It’s actually unfair to your horse to keep that level of focus 24/7/365. They need a break from us too!
  2. This is a great time of year for cross-training. When you’re on a very strict competition schedule you don’t take the time to do it. Put yourself on the lungeline, or play with obstacle courses, do desensitization training, etc. You can do these things mounted or unmounted too!
  3. This is also the time that you have to broaden your education. Watch videos, read books, attend seminars. Learn all you can! There’s plenty of stuff on the internet – go surfing.
  4. Gather your friends for a testing of your knowledge. In my neck of the woods, our local club puts on a hippology course. It’s a fun time to socialize while you see how much you really know. It’s like the horse version of trivia!
  5. On those cold days when you don’t want to put your breeches and boots on, ride bareback! It’s a good way to find out just how good your balance is!
  6. If the footing is safe and not frozen or slick, hack in the snow! It’s not only good exercise, but it’s also incredibly therapeutic – to be outside on a beautiful snowy day is good for the soul.
  7. “Play” with your horse! When the weather is really bad, do things like turn the horses loose in the indoor and play tag, jump over jumps, etc. That way, if you need to keep your snowsuit on, you can!
  8. Even if you’ve not been serious about it before, set up a jump chute and play with your horse in the jump chute. Free jumping can teach you a lot about how your horse moves when left to his own devices. Plus your horse will learn about footwork – it’s amazing to see what they learn when they’re in the chute.
  9. If you’ve been putting off a medical procedure, this is the time! If you’re doctor’s been after you for something to improve your physical well-being, take this time to get it out of the way. That way you have three months to recover and you’re not missing the heart of the season.
  10. Back off on the beautification. Let your horse’s mane and tail grow out. Let them get their feathers. Clipping is dependent on how much work your horse is doing, but your horse doesn’t appreciate having his mane pulled in 10-degree weather.
  11. If all else fails, go south! Seasonal affective disorder is real. Even if you can only arrange a week or two where you can ride outside and have a learning vacation, it will help make the winter pass quicker and it gives you a goal to work towards!
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