Your Turn: Advice for Your First Trip South for Winter Training

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

If 2022 marks your first trip south for the winter, we tapped into a few members of the EN hivemind for their best advice for the trek. While not every rider will spend the entire winter (really, if that’s the case you should already be down there!) away from home, many will make a long weekend or spring break work with their schedules. Read on for some advice from your fellow eventers, then join the conversation in the comments with your own experiences!

What topic would you like us to tackle in a future Your Turn? Email [email protected] with your suggestion.

Go Eventing.

Helen B.: Once the horses are loaded and you are driving south, let go of everything happening at home. You’ve made your excellent plans, trust that home will take care of itself, relax, enjoy yourself, learn lots, and take your reinvigorated, renewed zest for eventing, and everything you have learned, home with you. The enthusiasm you share both in the south and at home is infectious and helps your friends and family share in your love of the horse. Whether they are horse people or not, the energy you share uplifts them too. The nice thing then is that everyone is willing to repeat it next year….!

Kathleen B.: Embrace the chaos. It’s a whirlwind and there is so much to do. Pick a few goals and go with it. Plan at least a day to hack around Hitchcock Woods. Gallop around the Vista. Get lunch at New moon. It’s my favorite time of the year

Kaitlyn L.: Bring fly gear with you — we don’t have winter to stop the bugs. Bring a mask with ears and full coverage fly sheet. Even if your horse doesn’t have a problem with flies, we have more bugs to give them a problem like “no see ums” and fire ants. Buy fly spray and Show Sheen by the gallon, as you’ll use a lot of it to prevent blanket rubs and bug bites. Our dirt is different and has swamp cooties in it, leading to high risks of skin issues. Plan to use something like Head & Shoulders or other medicated shampoo if you notice said skin issues or even as preventative (I always wash legs and pasterns extra good after trail riding or cross country, to get all the cooties off). If you are a rider who enjoys trail riding or hacks, you have all kinds of places to ride and fun activities to do outside of the show ring, take advantage of that, mix it up — you’re in horse country! Depending on where you board and how they source their hay, sometimes “local” grown hay is lower quality than what you will be used to further north, be ready for that change unless you are hauling your own stock with you. As a human, you’ll still want to wear summer type riding clothes most days so be sure to pack different fabric weights and outfit options in case we have a weird “cold” day or rain.

Jennifer R.: I have been making the trek to Aiken from the Chicago area for the last 20 years. (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) I am a career Lieutenant with the Fire Service so scheduling can be tricky. The number one piece of advice I can give is allow yourself some flexibility in your travel plans to avoid severe weather. Nothing can make an already stressful trip (particularly for first timers) more daunting then encountering hazardous conditions while hauling your treasured cargo. Last year we did two trips in three days to facilitate shipping seven horses and LOTS of hay. We still allowed the flexibility in our dates to adjust if needed. If it is your first time and you are intimidated by the thought of the long haul and mountain roads, consider hiring a professional shipper. There are trips headed to South Carolina and Florida on a regular basis. This will allow you to pack your personal trailer with all the amenities from home as well as hay and feed. Happy travels!

Nan S.: Build in flexibiltiy with your departure dates. An unexpected snow storm may necessitate a change in travel.

Courtenay T.: I have some Florida tips that could be useful to some…

  • If you’re storing several bales at once, put an old sheet or towel over your hay to save them from getting moldy when low fog rolls in.
  • Speaking of hay, don’t feel like you need an open-bed truck to buy your hay at Larsen’s, they are adept with the forklifts there!
  • Wash between your horse’s legs religiously after each ride to avoid tail rubbing
  • Hose your horse after each ride/before turning out, even if you ride early and have to wait a few hours for it to be warm enough to hose. Otherwise you will quickly wind up with a very tidy saddle-shaped sun bleach mark. It’s called the sunshine state for a reason!
  • If you work a full time remote job and ride in the early mornings, don’t be embarrassed/lazy about throwing studs in for your trot sets, it can be slippery here.
  • Non-chlorine bleach is good for daily bucket and feed tub scrubbing (which is essential), and it won’t endanger your #ROOTD.
  • If you don’t already own a 100g turnout, it’s a very versatile weight for this climate.
  • The further away from Ocala you do your grocery shopping, the less likely you are to find large bags of carrots!