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Sometimes, time is against us. Whether it’s shorter daylight hours in winter or you simply got caught up at the office, there are days when you only have 30 minutes or so to go for a ride. Is it worth all the effort of grooming and tacking up?

“Yes, definitely,” says endurance rider and coach Rachael Claridge. “It doesn’t seem like long ago we were all managing the luxury of a 90-minute ride on summer evenings, but there’s plenty you can do in winter if you use the time right.”

Rachael recommends kicking off by carefully picking your route, and being realistic about what you can achieve in the time available.

“Put it into perspective — how far can you go in half an hour?” she asks. “How far can you go in walk, and then work out how much further you could go if you spent some time trotting or cantering too.”

If you are unsure, practise during the weekend and track how long the ride takes with an app like Hack 1,000 Miles sponsor Enduro. The last thing you want is to head out only to find that you haven’t left yourself enough time to get back and you have to race against the fading light.

“You don’t want to overexert your horse and get them too sweaty, or risk them tying up if they’ve been stabled all day,” cautions Rachael. “The last thing you want to do is to incur an injury by doing too much in a short space of time.”

And don’t forget to factor in elements that are out of your control that could add on time.

“I have a 25-minute loop that I take my horse out on during the winter and it has gates that take us past cattle grids,” says Rachael. “It’s great practice for opening gates, mastering turn-on-the-forehand, and getting my horse to move away from the leg, but it does add on time.

“You’ll also want to pick a route that isn’t your local rat run. You might be pressed for time, but other road users will be too,” she adds.

Make the most of 30 minutes

If you have limited time at your disposal, you don’t want this eaten into with an extensive grooming routine. While it is important to give your horse a good brush and check them over for any lumps or bumps, as long as their legs, face and areas where the tack sits are mud free, then you should be good to go.

“Our horses are all more grubby at this time of year, but if you’re set on riding then don’t worry too much about what they look like. You can always use a high-vis quarter sheet. That way you are more visible and no one can see the mud,” says Rachael.

Once you have mounted up, it can also help to have an idea of what you want to achieve from your brief outing.

“You can focus on the contact and get your horse listening to you by asking for simple lateral work, like leg-yield or half-halts,” says Rachael. “If you want to get your horse fitter and have good hills nearby then definitely utilise these.

Interval training is also beneficial when you’re short on time.”

To get started with interval training, Rachael recommends walking for 5-10 minutes to warm up, then doing 10 minutes alternating between walk and trot, and then walking again for 10 minutes. Build this up to include canter if you have a suitable bridleway en route.

There’s also nothing wrong with taking time to relax and catch up with a friend at a more relaxed pace.

“You could get together with friends, or go out as a yard for a group ride,” says Rachael. “Sometimes it’s nice to just have a bit of a chat, and the camaraderie of going out with others can keep you motivated.”

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Horses are hard work, and if the thought of squeezing in a ride is causing stress, don’t force yourself into the saddle.

“If you’re lucky enough to get out in the week then that’s great, but don’t worry if you have to wait until the weekend to ride because of a lack of time or the light fading,” says Rachael. “It’s much better to do that than forcing yourself to ride and not enjoying it because you rushed.

“You can still enjoy time with your horse without riding. Perhaps take them out in hand, pop them on the lunge, or take longer to give them a good groom.”

Meet the expert: Rachael Claridge is an endurance rider and UKCC Level 3 coach who has represented Great Britain in European and World Championships. She is based in Gloucestershire, and now coaches riders from Pony Club and Riding Club to Mongolian Derby competitors and international athletes. Visit rachaelclaridge.com

This content is brought to you in partnership with Equisafety, high viz clothing for horses and riders.