Getting ready takes forever — and 7 other things you’d forgotten about winter riding

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  • As we all know, the British winter weather can be very capricious — tipping down with rain one day, blustery snow the next, not to mention gale force winds, just to spice things up a bit. But there’s something deeply satisfying about braving the elements to take your horse out. And you never know, you might even get a bit of sunshine. Chances are you’ll experience all or most of the following though…

    1. The world has turned to mud

    Your usually leafy green bridlepaths now resemble the banks of the river Nile during flood season. All they need is a few wallowing hippopotami. Your horse is a dead ringer for one anyway by the time you’ve returned to the yard, with legs and belly dripping with the brown stuff.

    2. Where can you go for a good blast?

    The tracks have been too hard to canter on all summer, now they’re too slippery and slushy — that or they’ve turned to icy rock. You can’t win!

    3. Your feet are cold. So cold.

    You’re wearing three pairs of welly socks and you still can’t feel your toes. You’re pretty sure this means you’ve got actual frostbite. Eek.

    4. You can’t find your gloves

    You’re sure you left your favourite pair of winter riding gloves in your coat pocket, but there’s only one in there now. And another in your tack box but – weirdly — it’s the same hand. Why does this always happen? It’s freaky.

    5. There are horse-killing pheasants everywhere

    Forget cascading red leaves and crisp frosty days, you really know it’s autumn/winter when the roads are covered with squashed pheasant carcasses, or the live versions are exploding out of the hedges or grass just inches in front of you. Your horse is convinced they’re out to get him, and you can understand why, as you slip an extra finger inside your neckstrap.

    6. Getting ready takes forever

    By the time you and your trusty steed are wrapped up and ready to go, in brushing boots, over-reach boots, exercise sheet, and high-vis on every available surface (and that’s just your horse), it’s pretty much time to untack and head home.

    7. What — it’s dark already?

    Like, how is 3.30pm an acceptable time for dusk to draw in? You’ve barely finished lunch! But leave it any later, and you’ll be trying to navigate home by the light of the moon.

    8. But it’s really gorgeous out there!

    No, seriously. On a perfect winter’s day, when everything seems brighter and crisper than usual, and it’s you and your horse — maybe some mates as well — making your way across a frozen landscape, you could actually imagine someone taking your photo and using it as a Christmas card.

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