5 Tips for Riding Your Horse Early in the Day

The clocks just fell back, as they do for most of us every fall, bringing darkness at an hour earlier than we are ready to fathom. For equestrians with day jobs, this means riding after work can get tricky, especially if the farm is not equipped with an indoor arena or outdoor lighting. The bright side (literally) is that daylight emerges earlier than it used to, so there is more time in the mornings to devote to riding. If your schedule allows, consider waking up early to ride your horse before work, so you can start your day in an enjoyable way and not have to worry about riding in the dark or foregoing your trip to the barn when you are needed late at work. If that’s a new concept for you, here are some tips to help make morning rides a routine.

 

1. Go to bed early. This may seem obvious, but it’s easier to get up and get rolling when you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep. If you make it a habit to go to bed earlier on the nights before you ride, waking up at a new time will get easier. Turn off your screens earlier in the evening before your head hits the pillow, as the blue light they emit is proven to keep you awake, and maybe pick up a book so your eyes and mind can relax and help you fall asleep sooner.

2. Give yourself something to look forward to when your alarm goes off. Maybe it’s your favorite breakfast to eat on the way there or a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop. While seeing and riding your horse may be enough to coax you out of bed, it’s nice to have an extra little boost to get you excited about the morning’s activities.

3. Dress in warm clothes because it may be chilly. Usually the coolest temperatures hit right before daybreak, so if you wake up before the sun has fully risen, you might still be subjected to some pretty freezing temperatures before the sun warms things up. This is especially important if you have to fetch your horse from the pasture or do a significant amount of work on the ground before getting in the saddle. Once you’re riding, your blood will start circulating and your body temperature will rise, so you may need to shed some layers, but you’ll be glad you had them for the beginning.

4. Map out the best route to avoid traffic. Though traffic is lighter now than it may have been this time last year, early morning commuters can often cause traffic jams, so use apps like Google Maps and Waze to identify the quickest routes to and from the barn each day. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic or come across a surprise slow down due to an accident when you know the rest of your day is waiting for you at home.

5. Be efficient so you can get on with your day. We all know riding is time consuming and it’s easy to spend longer at the barn than we intend. There is always more to do and things can come up unexpectedly to delay your departure. Try to stick to a plan and don’t spend any unnecessary time between tasks. If you don’t clean your tack every day, save that for days you aren’t on a time crunch. Don’t lose track of time talking to your trainer or friends. Save the long chats and tedious organizational projects for the weekend. Anything you can do to stay focused and not stray from your timeline is crucial for efficiency.

7 Ways to Keep Warm at the Barn This Winter

Winter is upon us in many parts of the country, and while we would all love to cozy up indoors with a fireplace and a blanket, we have horses that need to be ridden and cared for, so we must face the elements. Here are some tips to stay warm while you’re at the barn on those frigid winter days to come.

1. LAYERS: Picking the right layers for ultimate warmth is an art. Start by choosing the right base layer – something that can eliminate the need for extra layers, since it’ll trap your body’s heat and warm you up better than less effective sweatshirts may. Depending on what level of cold you’re dealing with, plan your next layers according to temperature forecasts. A great middle layer is the Patagonia Better Sweater or a similar quarter zip with a collar. Avoid crewneck sweatshirts if possible, because they allow for more cold air to creep in. Next, pick your outer layer. Equestrian brands have you covered on insulated jackets, but don’t hesitate to shop mainstream brands for equally warm options.

2. Hats or headbands: Your ears can be subject to some serious cold if you don’t properly cover them while you’re riding. While a fluffy hat is great for barn chores, it likely can’t fit under your helmet. Many sporting goods stores offer ear covers that are quite thin but provide a great deal of warmth. Many runners use headbands like these in the winter, but they can also be great for riding since they are just small enough to fit comfortably in most helmets. Just be sure you can still hear well enough while wearing one.

3. Insulated socks: Rather than pile on layers of socks and risk cutting off circulation to your toes, find an effective option that traps heat well. Often just one layer is the best route if that layer is made for cold weather. Additionally, try to keep your riding boots somewhere warm while you’re not wearing them so you don’t start off with the cold seeping through to your toes.

4. Neck scarves: Scarves can be tricky since they don’t always stay put while we’re riding and often get in the way of what we’re trying to do either on a horse or on the ground. The equestrian brand Botori makes very compact but warm neck scarves that don’t fly everywhere while you’re riding and do a great job keeping your face and neck warm. They tuck right inside your jacket and stay in place on your face with a warm, fuzzy side to keep you extra snug.

5. Hand warmers: Because our extremities are often the first things to go numb from the cold, grab yourself a pair of winter riding gloves for those chilly winter months. If even the warmest gloves don’t quite cut it, buy a large box of hand warmers and stuff a pair of them down each glove for your ride. Since your hand will be in a fist, your fingers will feel the heat too while you’re riding. We are much less effective at the barn when our hands are numb!

6. Ski pants: This may sound like a strange outer garment to wear at the barn, but ski pants will actually be life savers for the time you spend not riding. They are baggy enough to be worn over your breeches and will provide serious warmth prior to or following a ride, or while you do barn chores.

7. Hot chocolate: most barns have microwaves somewhere, so pick up a big box of instant hot chocolate to sip on if nothing else can keep you warm!