In The Saddle column: We've had enough of winter, roll on spring please!
It’s been a really strange winter this year.
We seem to have had so much rain and hardly any frosts. Our paddocks currently look like lakes.
It’s tricky to keep horses going over winter when you don’t have an arena at home.
When I used to be in livery, I’d always make sure it was at a place with a menage to ensure off safe road riding through the darkest months.
That way I didn’t always have to take my horse on village rides and could at least practice some schooling in circles.
With the weather being so wet it’s been really tricky to ride at home.
The ground is so soggy, we just sink.
I’ve managed to find a fantastic arena about a ten minute hack away so my daughter and I have been able to ride down together and have a play, jumping and cantering - all the things we can’t currently do at home.
Since moving house to a bigger equestrian property, we’ve found we’ve been fortunate to be able to turn our horses out all day.
It’s saved massively on our haylage and shavings bill and has meant the horses are much happier too.
The ground is sandy soil so it naturally drains well, much better than the clay soil we had before. However, the constant rain has meant we’ve had to put in some underground drainage to our hay field.
There are still two other paddocks to do this with and more ditches to dig out on the property to ensure land drainage is much better. It’s all a case of money, we’ve been renewing all fencing, digging ditches out and cutting back overgrown brambles.
The arena we want won’t happen just yet, but when we can afford it it will change the way we ride. There won’t be any more winter hacks having to exercise the horses on the roads or bridle paths.
We will be able to safely contain their exuberance in a dedicated training area. That will be amazing.
As soon as spring is on its way, the ground will much better and hopefully start to dry out. In the summer we can set up jumps and play about at home. It’s lovely.
Hacking is more of a pleasure too when the weather starts to warm up. Plus our horses, which are all the most ridiculous colours such as grey and leopard spot, look much cleaner without being covered in mud looking dip dyed.
I’m obsessed by riding and I don’t believe in giving my horses a winter off. For me real riding is getting out in all weathers and I teach my daughter that we ride in wind or rain regardless.
There’s always a superb feeling returning in from a cold ride, having watched the horses breath as we trot, in having a lovely cup of tea or hot chocolate to warm up. One day we will have a log burner in the house too, like our last home. Now that will top it off beautifully.
Roll on spring and lighter nights. Until then we will be the ones wearing ten thousand layers trotting by you trying to keep warm.