Horse Life

Discussion Board: Winter Vacation

I saw this thread on the COTH forum and that got me interested in what everyone else does during the winter. So let’s talk!

We have a lesson with Trainer J tomorrow, then this Saturday will be our last show of the year. We’re going to do a CT at Hillcrest, probably with some XC schooling after, if I can coerce blackmail persuade BO to participate (she’s doing the X-Rails CT division). P & I entered BN, which will be a first for us.


After that, we have another lesson scheduled with Trainer J next week. While we’re staying local for Christmas this year, instead of going to Chicago to see family like usual, we ARE taking the family, along with some friends, on our first-ever cruise from Dec 27th-Jan 3rd.

I’m in Area II with most of Area III super close by. Aiken is less than 3 hours away, and the Georgia venues are between 4-5 hours, which provides a lot of showing opportunities, both recognized and schooling. So while for many areas, competitions are over until the spring, I’m next door to the winter season that’s just beginning. And it’s oh-so tempting.

But ever since I brought P home from being sold, we’ve been going nonstop. I’m still in the data gathering stage of breaking down 2017, but I think I remember writing down 5,000+ miles hauling in the 9 months since P’s been home. We’ve worked super hard the last 7 months and I don’t want P to burn out. He’s not showing any signs of it- he still meets me at the gate, hops willingly on the trailer, puts the work in at shows and lessons, etc, and seems no worse for the wear. But I’d like to keep him that way.

He’ll definitely get vacation the week I’m gone, but I’m curious to know what everyone else does. Even if you compete through the winter, do you change your ride frequency/intensity up? If you don’t compete, do you just go on hacks/trail rides vs schooling? Or take the off-season as time to work on all the little things and school harder?


P would like to know your thoughts!


28 thoughts on “Discussion Board: Winter Vacation”

  1. So my trainer goes to Florida from January – March (and she pretty much starts fazing herself out once the season ends here in KY). I wouldn’t say May gets a full vacation of doing nothing because I would be afraid she would lose too much fitness. However, our rides do change. They’re not as challenging, often not as long, and we typically* jump less. I try to add more rides just wandering around the property, doing easy stretching work, or playing around bareback.

    I do think most horses get fried if they are in competition mode 12 months a year, but I don’t think a break necessarily has to mean you don’t ride them.

    *not sure if we will jump less this winter given that she had a 6 month vacation from jumping this year. We might keep things small though and work on getting our rhythm and accuracy back.


    1. Yeah, I don’t think I could just not ride. P is the only horse I have and the more I get to do, the better. But I definitely foresee a period of less intense rides as well.

      I wish I could ride him bareback but holy withers. I’m going to try some bareback pads out though.

      I don’t worry too much about P and fitness (a pro of the TB) but fitness for me is another story!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Amanda C uses her Ogilvy pad for bareback rides… I have very little experience with even being able to locate the withers on my horse.


  2. You need to go ride with Sally sometime this winter! that is a definite. I think P will enjoy his vacation off while you go on a cruise (Jealous me!). I get to go hang with my 82 year old father at husband is going home to UK for his Xmas. SOOOO not so exciting! 🙂

    Remus every day is a vacation for him….so I can’t really tell you much about that part on will or wont P kill you when you give him time off 🙂 HA!

    GOOD LUCK at your last event (BN no less YAY). You bad ass you 🙂


    1. I really do. I haven’t contacted her yet because this month is sort of a wash, but it looks like from her schedule she’s up north pretty much every weekend anyway.

      You can always come here for the holidays! Scope the area, ya know 😜

      It’s just a CT this weekend (I’m trying super hard to resist entering the schooling H.T. in Aiken the next day), but that’s enough of a heart attack as it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think its good to give them mini breaks most of the year but typically I train all year round living in Sunny California. We usually don’t compete through the winter because of the rain. Ramone dealt with me being in Grad School so we’d throttle back in the summer so I could attend class, and he would also get a week off in December since I’d have time off from work and usually go somewhere anyways. Dante had a week off at Thanksgiving and an easy September while I was traveling around Japan. He’ll probably get another week off around Christmas too.


  4. i wish i had my own place. if i did, after a strenuous season of competing non stop i’d just turnout from thanksgiving to new years and let them get fat and wooly and pull their shoes off.

    baby horses dont lend themselves to large gaps of time off though, and the old lady i used to ride got creaky and cranky if she was out of work. but i’m imagining once im running prelim (SOMEDAY??) there will be some ‘vacation’ built in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man, I’d love my own place, too. I’d do the same thing.

      Baby horses + extended time off definitely do NOT mix. 🤯 I don’t think P could even handle it. After a few days of no riding P starts to get antsy and practically runs to the gate when I pull up.

      You might have to start with prelim to give Indy something to jump with those ridiculously long legs 😂


  5. Down here we technically have two “off” seasons – the dead of summer and the dead of winter lol. For me, I actually try to switch it up a lot. I haven’t had a “full” show schedule in terms that many eventers do – showing from spring to fall, but last year after a 3 show campaign, we had 3 summer months off and then another 3 show campaign to wrap up the year. I liked to take at least 3 days off after the show – super light riding and having a good time because obvi Amber gets herself into trouble if I make her take more days off lol. But usually, I’ll do the light rides whenever – keeping a bit of a break everywhere. If we had a tough week where she was learning lots, we were getting a bit “drilled” but she was trying really hard I’d spend the weekend hacking out or doing something fun to change it up for her. I think it helps reset the both of us, and then when we keep going we’re refreshed. Granted this is doing lots of dressage work (and for the past few months adding western in there) so we haven’t been able to jump but I have a sense that I’d do the same thing if we were pursuing jumping too. Plus, I know those long hacks help loosen any of Amber’s sore muscles – like in her giant butt lolol. But I don’t like going completely “off” because then Amber (and really, mostly me lol) get complacent and then find it hard to get back into work lol. So, uh…..I think I answered your questions for the discussion LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’m the same when it comes to showing and rest days. If it’s a one day show he usually gets one day off, and if it’s a weekend one, he gets 2.

      Also same about ME having time off. I like my schedules and too much time off makes me lazy 😂.


  6. Since I don’t compete, my experience really isn’t the same. I’m also in CA, where the weather almost never impacts riding. Even less if you don’t have a barn that prohibits riding when the arena is wet. So Scarlet goes whenever I feel like it. I make sure he gets at least one day off every week. More often than not he gets 2 days off. And he is fine with it. I think P wouldn’t hate some time off but it’s really up to you. Maybe schedule one show for the next three months, just to keep you guys ready to go?


    1. We’ll probably end up doing a H.T. in Aiken in Feb and possibly one in March but I’m going to scale back some of our rides for sure. Usually we have one hack day, one rest day, 1 jump lesson, 1 jump practice day at home, 2 dressage schools, and then either an additional rest day or something light. He’s not exactly in UL eventing training, but I’ll probably scale it back a bit more anyway

      Liked by 1 person

  7. our show season ends for the winter (tho with the occasional fun schooling show in an indoor) so we step back from that. but our weather isn’t so severe that we need to close up shop altogether. before i boarded at an indoor we would haul out a couple times a week to stay in some semblance of regular work, but since having an indoor i foresee no interruption in our regularly scheduled riding.

    first and foremost i ride for my own self, and see no real point in not riding just bc there aren’t upcoming competitions. it’s not like my horse is exactly worked to the bone and in desperate need of a break lol — carting my butt around 4-5 hours a week barely makes a dent on his typical routine.

    tho from a perspective of pressure, not having anything on the calendar does make it easier to focus on enjoying the ride, filling in the holes, and taking care to make sure the fundamentals are in good order. all the while, it’s nbd if the weather is super crappy and i don’t feel like it on any given day. or if we just wanna hack out on nice days when the ground is good.


    1. Agree with all of your 2nd paragraph for sure- I need/want to ride, and am not so demanding that it really makes an impact on P.

      And we ALWAYS have holes to fill in, so extended time off would be pretty counterproductive. Seems the better we get, the more we have to work on 😂


  8. I feel like it depends on your horse, level you’re riding, and your own schedule. When I was competing and riding a lot in high school we never took a month long break as far as not riding goes. Sure around Christmas and other holidays my horse would get a week or so off and definitely when it would snow the 1 or 2 times over winter. But all in all the riding didn’t stop nor did the lessons. As for showing it was pretty limited to Spring and Fall. There weren’t really any summer shows (other than Pony Club Champs) that my trainer would go to until the Fall season started (which usually was end of Aug/1st of Sept). I kept this schedule competing through Training level and my horse at the time seemed fine with it.
    As for now though Chimi does get a good month or more off a year for his own comfort b/c he has major back issues and for some reason my life in the past 4 years has had moments of time where I couldn’t ride consistently for a moth or more (like planning a wedding, people dying, hurting myself, etc). I did give Chimi and myself a mental break last year b/c we hit the show season pretty hard and I was starting to burn out. Chimi seemed fine but I needed a break. We never stopped form April to September in 2016 b/c I was trying to qualify for the AEC’s.
    So overall I think the “off season” just depends. Some horses don’t do well with an extended break and others for sure need one! And that goes for the riders too 😉

    HAVE FUN ON YOUR CRUISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    1. Definitely depends on the horse. I don’t think P would even particularly enjoy extended time off, and I definitely wouldn’t.

      Maybe it’d be different if I had more than one horse to ride but sorry P, it’s all on you 😎.

      Back in Chicago at the barn I worked at there was no indoor, so any horses that didn’t go to Florida got off from Thanksgiving to April, besides hacking around the property randomly. I much prefer NC and our 60 degree Decembers!


  9. This conversation is such a great idea! Before I share my reply I have to note my work, horse, and board situation because it seems to be rarer than most. I work four 10 hour days and have 3-day weekends. My day starts before the sun comes up and ends as it is going down from mid-Nov until sometime in January. Additionally, I pick up a second job through the winter months ski patrolling two days of my 3 day weekend from mid-late December until early March. I have three horses, two of which I have full-time competition goals with and one horse is half-time competition. They’re on 24/7 turnout on 28 acres with 7 other horses year round.

    So, horses and vacation…

    From an endurance standpoint, the longer I compete, the more I become a fan of significant time off. More wear and tear on their bodies = more microtears that have higher chance of building into something worse. Providing ample time off after a competition (one day off for ever 10 miles raced) and after a season (season is april-oct for me, so i usually give a solid 6 weeks off in winter) is more and more my preference. My endurance horse has shown me that she really benefits from time off more than constant riding.

    From an eventing standpoint, time off is different though. Grif is definitely getting rest these past few weeks since I’ve been out of town, but at the same time, I’m not writing off all work for the winter. Instead, I’ve refocused our time between the beginning of Nov (DST) and the second week of Jan to be mindful short rides where I’m doing work with ground poles and other things that make us both focus on minutia that will strengthen us later. After the second week of Jan (when sunset starts to get more reasonable), I hope to get out 1x a month to some dressage lessons.

    From a personal standpoint though, it’s hard for me commit to riding in the winter. I don’t have an indoor of substantial size and it’s hard to commit to doing anything in the dark and cold. I will fit in some trail riding a few weekends before ski season and mental ground pole sessions some evenings, but it’s really hard to do more than that! Accepting that 8 weeks of my year are pretty much trashed due to work schedule and daylight, hasn’t been easy to do, but it’s just the way it is. I’ve always been told that fit Arab will hold conditioning for 6-8 weeks and other breeds will hold fitness for 4-6. So taking 8 weeks mostly “off” really won’t hurt in the long run, and I’ve gotta say, I’ve never come into spring feeling like I had to work too hard to catch up on their fitness! …24/7 turnout definitely helps though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The 24/7 turnout definitely makes a difference! I love the barn I’m at lets P stay out that way. I’ve never done endurance and know nothing about it, but can see your point about the microtears and needing time off after long distance rides. I’m pretty sure P would die if I tried to ride him like that 😂


  10. Winter vacation makes the opposite of sense in Texas, since it’s the only time of year when we aren’t melting. Henry actually gets a summer vacation… never more than a couple weeks completely off work, but a much lighter/easier schedule for sure. We start cranking back up in the fall and keep going all the way through to early summer. I do think that mentally it’s important for horses to have a bit of a break if they’re showing a lot, hauling a lot, or in hard work. Granted, most amateur horses don’t really fit that description. Some horses don’t really do as well physically without regular work too… like mine always feels like crap if he’s off for too long, and much better when he’s at least in some kind of work. Probably because he’s fairly sedentary in turnout and kind of turns into a blob. So I think what’s best for each horse kind of depends on them, their circumstances, and their mental/physical state.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here in NC in regards to summer vs winter vacation. This summer was the first time we consistently worked and it was miserable (but we were so out of sync we needed to). It’s December and in the 60’s/70’s.

      P definitely doesn’t work hard enough to need months off, and I couldn’t go too long without riding anyway!


  11. I think it really depends on your personal situation.

    For example, my area isn’t necessarily horsey, so we lack certain things (like boarding facilities and indoor arenas) unless you want to haul 45-60min away. Which, is fine, but once the roads become an icy mess I’d rather not haul at all.

    And so, we typically become land-locked and forced to hack on the roads around the rural subdivision my horses are in from November – February. Of course, some years are much more mild than others and I can haul out to lessons in January or even get over to the outdoor arena if there isn’t much snow.

    From the job stand-point, I work in construction which means 10-12hr days (typically 7 days a week for 3 weeks at a time before I get time off) so by the time I get off of work, I have no daylight left anyways. Couple that in with our dreadfully wet winters and sometimes it just isn’t safe to hack out or ride on the roads.

    *shrug* We do what we can. I don’t set a schedule for the winter, but if we can hit up some lessons or hack around the neighborhood I’m happy with that.


    1. Yeah, hauling on icy roads definitely isn’t worth it. It’s nice that you get to have your horses at home but with a work schedule like that + getting home after dark I can see where that’d be tough!


  12. I agree with all Liz said above with regards to endurance. I always gave Gem a week off per 25 miles of competition. I’m still trying to figure out what she needs now that we are doing other things and it seems like she needs consistency more than anything.

    I’m not sure most amateur horses really physically need an entire month of sitting in pasture or stall doing nothing, but I also believe it doesn’t hurt them either.

    I do think horses benefit from periods of less pressure though. Times when you just have fun with them and not push them for more. A week or two of just having fun spread throughout the year probably does just as much good as a big chunk all at once.


  13. Since the local and rated shows in our area are luckily indoors, we pretty much continue things year around. That said, my work schedule tends to dictate a “lighter” schedule during certain travel stints, which I think actually works out really great. Less stress for me, less stress for pony. At least for a little while.


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