It’s cold. Really cold. And it’s only going to get colder. So I’ll likely be riding inside, in the non-heated, not-even-insulated arena for the remainder of winter, which in Canada means well into the time you think it should be spring. Honestly, frozen fingers and toes, ride after ride of going in circles, and dealing with the constant threat of invisible frost loving monsters does not hold a great deal of appeal to me. So how do I keep myself motivated to continue to ride?
I’d love to pretend that just the sheer act of seeing Luc warms me up and inspires me to want to ride. But that wouldn’t be the truth. In fact, on the days when Luc’s whiskers are covered in frost, he refuses to budge from the safety of the shelter, and his blanket is sporting yet another new rip, I’d really rather turn around, crawl back into bed and hibernate. Or take the pony and head south for the winter like those few lucky souls who spend the coldest months showing in Florida, Arizona, California or some other warm destination. Since neither hibernating nor heading south is an option for me, I’m going to have to work something else out. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve me actually going out in the cold.
This week the mercury dipped below -20 degree Celsius. Cold, but not frigid by Canadian standards. I know the worst of winter is yet to come. And that’s exactly what motivated me to actually ride. There will come a time, or more accurately a temperature, when it’s just too dang cold for me, and worse yet is when it finally gets too cold for Luc. Those are the days I’ll put on every single piece of clothing I own just to go out to the barn and feed him, make sure his water hasn’t frozen over, and consider whether or not he needs another blanket – which he usually doesn’t since he has a very full, very fluffy winter coat.
Until that temperature arrives (and I’m naïve enough to hope maybe this year it won’t come), I will continue to ride because I love it and now that I’m actually back doing it I don’t want to give it up again, even if it’s only for a few months. So yes, I may have to start putting on snow pants over my winter riding breeches. Perhaps it’s not the most stylish look, or even the most effective when it comes to engaging my lower extremities, but let’s face it – Luc only listens to my leg half the time anyways.
I know I’m not the only one who suffers from lack of motivation when the temperature dips. A quick survey of my barn mates and other horsey friends tells me the winter riding blues is actually pretty common. Even more so in the over 30 crowd like me who have learned to balance their horse craziness with the simple pleasures of life – like not freezing when the horse , at least in Luc’s case, doesn’t care if he gets ridden or not. After all, it will eventually start to warm up again. Right?
As for the going around and around and around problem that often happens after months on end of riding in the indoor arena, my plan to combat that is simple. Set a goal for yourself for each ride and make sure you achieve it if at all possible (and sometimes it’s not, don’t feel bad). It’s probably something good riders do every time they get on a horse. Maybe that will be my long term goal? It doesn’t have to be something big. My goal for this ride was to have Luc walk, trot and canter past the big scary door like a normal horse. And we did. I even ended up with an unexpected bonus goal when Luc decided the fallen down standard (which was on the ground when we came in by the way), was out to get him. We worked through that as well and even though the ride was short – only about 20-25 minutes – we accomplished something, which I felt good about. And as a very nice added extra, I didn’t freeze while doing it.
So to all you waffling riders out there I say – bundle up and get out there. Right up until it hits -40. Then burrow back under the blankets and pray for an early spring!