We’re one week into British winter and if you’re a normal citizen, that might mean indulging in cosy nights by the fire, a fashionable cold weather wardrobe and copious amounts of festive Starbucks coffee. But if you’ve got a horse (or seven), the cold months still require the same amount of dedicated horsing hours put in during the summer.

Even though you said in July, ‘I’ll be ready this year’, here are six things we always forget happen during winter at the yard…

1. The darkness

Gone are the days of 6pm hacks or evening lessons. If you want to get your training in this winter so you don’t fall behind come next season, that means early starts catching the morning rays before work. At present, it gets light at around 7am so you need to be tacked up and ready to hit the road or arena early doors if you want to be in the office for 9am. I’m tired already…

2. The cold

No matter how many years you muck out in winter, the first morning on the yard when it’s below freezing will still knock you for six. You still haven’t found the perfect gloves to see you through the next six months and you’ll spend the same part of the year up at night worrying if you’ve aptly rugged your horse for the protection against the elements. In sum, he’ll probably be fine, you’re frozen fingers probably won’t.

3. The mud

Snow/ice/sleet/rain + grass = a muddy disaster. Hosing and drying legs is a foreign concept in the summer, but come winter and most field outings will conclude in a dramatic battle with a frozen hose pipe and thrashing back legs. While you promise this year you’re going to let your horse go au naturel, turnout boots and mudguard creams may become weekly purchases in the attempt to protect from the dreaded brown stuff.

4. The lack of human contact

Your other half will have probably forgotten what you look like by Christmas, given the creature-like habits you develop during winter. Up before sunrise and home well after darkness sets in, you become an elusive nocturnal being seen slopping around in the murky night. At least you have your like minded yard buddies to keep you (relatively) sane.

5. The winter fixtures

If your horse has been hitting the circuit in one discipline over the summer, it can be fun to mix up their winter outings. Fun being the operative word. Hunting and arena eventing are popular choices for many, but the motivation found a few months ago is quick to fade when you realise you haven’t jumped a cross pole in months and have forgotten how see a stride…

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6. The festivities

Halloween, bonfire night, Christmas followed by New Year; winter time if filled with multiple celebrations. But for the horse owner — while decorating stables and tuning into Christmas songs on the yard radio are absolute musts — the festive period brings with it an array of stresses for both horse and human, including fireworks and your farrier going AWOL for a few weeks. Not to mention the cash flow dilemmas.

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