Remember my lovely winter board setup? Yeah. It didn't work out. Which is a huge bummer in some regards, but I'm at peace with my decision to leave. It's what is best for me and my horses right now.
Stan will have the winter completely off most likely. Q and Griffin will be worked minimally between now and the new year with hope to ramp up a little more as the day length grows. Between daylight wasting, my work schedule, my side hustle winter jobs, and my commute, minimal horse time is just my reality. Not the reality I'd hoped for, but c'est la vie!
I could set the bar higher, hope to ride more, lesson once a month, do all the things, but I've learned to be a lot easier and kinder on myself this year. Part of that is introducing more flexibility to my hopes/plans and trusting the process/journey and not creating so much of a to-do list or discrete goal list for myself. I'm certain I'll fit in some lovely rides and a lesson here and there, but it's best I don't plan for it from the get-go.
I'm happy the horses will have 24/7 turnout in a huge pasture with free choice hay for the winter months. They are very happy and will maintain a fair level of fitness just from having so much turnout and playtime. And when I do work with them this winter, it will be on foundational strength-building and suppling exercises, nothing earth-shattering!
Reflecting back on this summer with the horses in Canaan makes me smile though. It was amazing. I enjoyed so many wonderful rides solo and with friends across beautiful landscapes. In fact, sharing the horses with friends was one of the best parts! There are several horse ladies who are adept riders but simply don't have the time and/or finances to have their own horses. This sets the stage for the perfect mutualistic relationship: they get horse-time and I have help keeping all horses fit!
Beyond the riding and the friendship, my favorite part about this past summer was finally getting to take a more active role in my horses' care. Prior to this, their turnout situation was such (and is such again) that they don't require much human intervention. They're on 28 acres of some of the best pasture in the area complete with a stream that has enough flow to never freeze over and free-choice hay in the wintertime. I've never had to worry about them having enough to eat!
This summer though, with much smaller turnout areas and poor grass, I finally had to figure out a good recipe for proper nutrition to keep weight on them. It was a bit of a learning curve at first finagling things, but they're easy-keepers all things considered and once I got it right it was easy enough. Seeing them and caring for them daily in this way was so good for all of us. The three of them are closer than ever and the relationship I share with each of them has grown stronger. There is nothing better than seeing them march across the field to greet me, even after a hard ride the day before. (Sure, they know I feed them, but knowing that in the past hasn't stopped them from ignoring me following a big workout.)
While winter plans weren't what I hoped, I'm grateful the horses are in a place they will be happy and well cared for. With any luck, it will be their last winter in Elkins as big changes are afoot! 😉