Stay motivated and keep your horse stimulated and fit during the winter months.
Winter can de motivate most of us, but in the horse riding world, that doesn’t mean it’s time to take your foot off the accelerator!

Don’t waste the winter months, it is a great time to look back over your season and see what needs improving! It is essential you stay motivated through the cold months by working on improving any glitches you and your horse might have, it will keep your horses mind stimulated and his body fit! So, when spring does finally arrive, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition. 

Katy Thomas proffessional rider and owner Newfield Livery continues: 

A lot of people find that their riding time is shortened or maybe lacks the quality that it has through the summer months. Winter is long - so even if you can only manage 20 minutes, 4 or 5 times per week, then it’s worth putting the effort in, all of those 20 minutes sessions add up and you will be amazed as to how much you can achieve. 

Use the winter months to break down any problems you may have had during the Summer into small achievable steps and try and tackle each issue one at a time, a day at a time and remember to not put pressure on yourself or your horse to try and resolve everything to quickly, it will only have the adverse effect . 

As I do for myself, I break down the riders problem I teach in bite size chunks as this then gives us time to really think about the problem and gives us the flexibility to make any changes required, it also keeps the winter months fun for both the horse and rider. 

To illustrate this, here is a real life example: 

One of my rider’s horses that I teach had become quite “tappy toed” during the summer season, frustrating, as he always managed to just tap the poles and gain a few faults. 
Katy -jumping
The first thing we had to figure out was why? 

After going to watch them both compete I noticed 2 possible reasons that could be the route of the problem. The canter didn’t have enough quality and this in turn was affecting the shape the horse made over the fence, both of which were making him sloppy in his jump and 'tappy toed'.

So now – we have something to work on in the lessons that were to follow. 

Identifying your problem?

For you to identify your problem, you will need to ask for help from a trusted competent friend or professional, or have somebody video you, so you can watch and study yourself and begin to identify where the route of your problem is. Finding the real cause is always the first step.

Once you have identified the route of your problem, discuss it with your coach or competent friend and devise a step by step plan that will help you and your horse overcome the issue. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or take your problem to your coach. Devising the correct plan and ploughing your time and effort into doing the right thing is important so don’t be shy when asking for help when creating the perfect plan that will give you a solution.

Once you know what you need to do, break it down into lots of little steps and put to good use all your 20 minute schooling and jumping sessions…. They are precious during the winter months so don’t waste them.

The ‘Tappy Toed’ solution 
Katy-criss-cross-jump Katy-polework2 Katy-polework

I decided along with the rider to use a pincer type movement to tackle her problem. 

We worked on improving the horses canter and flat work, which could also be done at home. Lengthening and shortening strides, keeping a bouncy and energetic rhythm and a balanced and round frame using pole work and school movements. 

In lessons we also worked on teaching her horse to make a more desirable shape over fences using pole work and a lot of grid work. 

Katy -jumping
This particular horse is well educated and part of the problem was that he had become lazy. So together we devised a lot of complicated grid and pole work which got him using his brain and thinking again, it wasn’t long before he was well on the way to flicking his back legs up and really picking his knees up…. We have been working on this throughout October and have already seen a big difference and although we still have a way to go, we know the horse is now motivated to learn and enjoying himself at the same time. I also believe that if we keep pressing on through winter, that come spring this horses problem will be behind him and the rider not only would have learnt a lot too but they will also be far more confident in the partnerships jumping ability. 

So, my advice is – ‘Don’t Give Up This Winter’ – even when it’s cold and windy and you’d really rather be sat inside with a cup of coffee, keep going! It will all be worth it when you’re picking up those red rosettes next season!  Read more real life riders stories and be motivated and inspired to achieve more in your riding 
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