We asked our Anti-Burnout Ambassadors how they prepare for a winter with horses. Here's a fab guide by Toni Clarke (the_cobby_chronicles on Instagram):
The mornings are dark. The weather is cold. You are soaked through to your pants from the rain. The horses are miserable because the field is wet and muddy. Before you know it, winter has arrived and is about as welcome as a fart in a space suit. It comes around every year, yet every year we are never ready for it, right?!
This is what feels like my 400th winter with horses, and I’m certainly not getting any younger (my face ages with a new wrinkle everyday because of it!). I am by NO MEANS an expert… in anything… but I thought I’d write 5 tips for surviving winter and prioritising my well-being when all I want to do is make sure the horses have the best of everything whilst I resemble something the dog has dragged in.
1. Take your foot off the pedal. It’s blowing a hooly outside with sideways rain, it feels like the windows are about to cave in, never mind going outside in it! But you have PROMISED yourself you’re going to ride. I’m going to let you in on a secret…. Your horses don’t care if they’re ridden or not! There, I said it. Unless you're training for an event or show that is a necessity you need to ride for (sorry guys, I feel for you), it won't hurt to give it a miss just for a day… or a week… or even a month! Your horse doesn’t know or care for its potential, as long as they are fed and loved, it is okay to hang the boots up for a while because you don't want to look like you’ve been on a spin cycle for the sake of a 10 minute hack around the woods.
2. Take some time for yourself. How many hours have you spent making the perfect stable? Dithering about feed? Toying with the idea of changing rugs, doing clips, shoes, jabs yada yada yada? Years of your life I reckon! Now, don’t misunderstand me, this one is important all year round, but in my opinion even more so in winter! How about doing something controversial… and spending just a fraction of that time on yourself? Come home early, have a hot bath with a glass of wine and order yourself an Indian takeout whilst you sit and laugh yourself silly into your favourite rom-com. Trust me, you WILL feel better for it. Horses are a priority, but so are you, because they can’t have what they need without it.
3. Try to be organised. We all know that having horses can be about as predictable as a toddler on a pogo stick after a bucket of blue smarties (insert eye roll here). But trying to be organised about what you intend to feed, bed down on, when you’re going up to the yard, can make all the difference. You work 5 days a week, 9 - 6, your horse has no bedding left?! So you spend the next 2 hours trying to source some shavings to prevent the horse coming home to sleep in your bed. Easier said than done… but it is a habit you won’t regret making.
4. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Another one for all year round, but even more so in Winter. You get to the yard to see Mary has been up, ridden and sorted her stable, crocheted half a cardigan and solved world hunger, all before you’ve managed to open your eyes and say good morning. IT DOES NOT MATTER. Maybe Mary didn’t have two kids to sort this morning or didn’t have a night out with the girls, or even heaven forbid… didn’t want a lay in that needs no excuse or validation whatsoever! Do not feel guilty for doing what you want to do or need to do, because Mary will probably feel the same at some point! Stay in your lane and don’t compare your country lane with their motorway.
5. Finally, learn to say no. This one is hard, because a lot of us are people pleasers! Nobody wants to feel like they’ve let someone down! We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve agreed to groom for someone, do their stable because they don’t have time (and nor do you!), bring their horse in for the farrier for the 40th time and you’re doing it on your lunch break that's only half an hour. I’m not saying don’t help anyone, what I am saying is; don’t say yes to doing something that is to your own detriment. We all need a bit of help from time to time, but we can help ourselves by saying no to situations we don’t have the time, capacity or desire to be part of. And that is perfectly okay.
Learning to look after myself has probably been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn, and it came at the cost of my own health. Winter is tough going, and horses are an expensive, laboursome hobby that doesn’t need to be made any harder. Like everything, Winter is temporary and it does pass, but let’s try to make it easier by looking after ourselves too.
Check out Toni's Instagram page: the_cobby_chronicles