Winter can be a difficult time to find the motivation to even get out of bed, let alone get to the yard. That isn’t including the stress of Christmas, which comes with all sorts of added pressure from outside avenues, as well as that main negative force — my own self.

Wild weather

The main drawback of the season is the lack of good news from the MET Office. It’s cold and unforgiving to both you and your horse, and that’s before you even tack up and look at your weather app to see that snow and minus numbers are forecast.

With the shorter days and longer nights bringing less hours of daylight for riding in, the booking system for the arena at my yard is at breaking point. Not everyone is blessed to have the joy of floodlights, but riding in the early morning or at night means the temperatures are much colder.

I’m thankful there is so much available on the market for horses as well as riders, so that we can light up even the darkest of days. On the very rare times we can hack out, due to the roads being icy, we resemble a traffic cone!

Horse owners with fields often exchange Christmas pudding for mud piece. If your horse doesn’t have a stable or hard standing then the flooding will soon have you shouting up the chimney to Santa for someone to come and build you something to at least keep their feet dry for a few hours.

We all face large bills, especially in winter with minus temperatures. Many of us seem to be adding in more and more roughage, hard feed and supplements to keep our pampered ponies going through the cold season.

The impact of illness

Christmas also brings around feelings of reflection as we look at the year behind us, as well as memories of those we have lost who aren’t here to celebrate with us, be they animal or human.

Some suffer more than most, with many struggling with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly nicknamed SAD.

Physical, as well as mental, illnesses keep us from doing as much as we’d like over the festive period. Coughs and colds, flu and now the coronavirus, being added into the mix.

Keeping safe becomes even more of a priority, and perhaps means we miss out on a few rides — but your horse will still be there to greet you tomorrow.

Sometimes you want to roll over in bed and have a few more hours sleep, or snuggle up in front of a box set with your dog and claim it as a duvet day. If you miss a day riding, your horse won’t turn up at your house and knock on your door to say so.

During the season of goodwill, we can often feel pressure from all around us to attend events that don’t include our animals, and it can be difficult to add this into an already busy schedule.

Friends and family love seeing you, and if we can’t make the time to sneak in a quick visit at Christmas, when can we? Covid rules allowing!

We’re all human

Comparing ourselves to people we admire is human nature, but some of us take this too far and it can ruin our lives.

Watching our heroes ride at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year was an incredible experience, and makes me admire them even more. But then the little voice in my head says, “Lee Pearson wouldn’t be taking a day off” and I need to remind myself that I am, in fact, not Sir Lee Pearson, and my horse is not Paralympic champion Breezer.

Though I’d love to be in his position one day, I know that Lee, who is also my coach, takes things as they come and would hate for anyone to be so serious about their riding that they forget to have fun as well.

It can seem like some of today’s influencers online share nothing but riding their horses or going out competing, but they don’t show you the days they stay in bed with a cold or rewatching a TV show they love so much. We’re all human, even those we put on a pedestal.

Words of wisdom

That little voice inside your head is always going to tell you that you’re not doing enough for your horse, that you haven’t got the latest gear, you’re not training enough or competing at the highest level. Instead of listening to that little voice, look at where you are at right in that moment.

At my first lesson with Olympic eventer Jonty Evans, tears stream down my face from anxiety that I’m not good enough for my horse -— I haven’t even gotten on yet!

“What is this horse made for?” asks Jonty.

“Riding?” I respond.

“No,” he says. “Eating grass. It’s us that made them into riding animals, they are quite happy chilling in the field and we put this pressure on ourselves.”

From this point onwards, the stress has vanished from my riding life. I know that as long as my horse and I are happy together, and that she is happy and healthy, who can tell us what is important and what should be done?

There are so many routes for an equestrian to take these days, and so many ways to get to your dream destination.

Have fun getting there, enjoy the extra hour of sleep, and ditch the stress — it’s overrated.

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