Even in the temperate South, this winter has been the most frustrating riding season I can remember. All of the paddocks are knee-deep in mud. The arenas are almost always closed to protect them for future riding. The perpetual rain makes turnout, for many horses, rare. On top of the weather, the economy is putting the pinch on everyone. If we are to make it, as a unified equine community, we must put our complaints aside, and hold out a little while longer for the sun to appear. These conditions call for optimism on a unprecedented level.
On days that inclement weather prevents your horse’s turnout, it is a good idea to get to the barn and lunge or ride him anyway. If the arena is unavailable, because of same inclement weather, hand walking will suffice to get your horse out of his stall for a while. Horse’s digestive systems were not made for them to stand around for long periods of time. This is not a reason for you to call the barn and ask someone to do this for you. When the horses are in, stalls must be cleaned more often and the workload is heavier. Go to the barn with your raincoat! It will not hurt you and your horse will be glad for the outing!
If you decide to ride, don’t be too proud to lunge your horse for a few minutes before mounting. Even a generally quiet horse can be feisty when he has been stalled for long periods of time, or when the wind is whipping or howling. It is not a sign of bravery when someone refuses to lunge a horse that has not been ridden for some time. It is a better training decision to get the horse settled in to a working attitude on the lungeline than to risk an adversarial confrontation.
After you’ve seen to your horse’s exercise there are plenty of rainy weather chores that can be caught up on. Tack cleaning can be fun if you do it in a group, maybe watching some horsey videos. I’m sure your tack trunk or closet could stand to be cleaned and organized, as could the horse trailer you keep putting off. Rainy days are a good day to wash and sanitize your horse’s brushes, as the muddy season brings with it lots of fungus that is hard to get rid of later. If you are feeling particularly benevolent, you could clean out the barn’s break room or bathroom. Someone will love you for it.
Remember that the weather and economy have made the job of caring for horses harder on everyone this year. Barn Owners, Barn Staff, Trainers, Boarders, Farriers, everyone has faced challenges this winter. Hang in there and try to stay optimistic for the final stretch. Pitch in and help to get through the last of this inconvenient weather. It’s been a tough winter, but the end is in sight, and soon the same people who muddled through the cold, wet, muddy winter will be the ones riding alongside you while the sun shines warmly on your backs.