As we head for the winter solstice, we find that we are pressed for daylight hours in which to drive our horses. Thursday, December 21, will be the shortest day this year. The sun will be up at 7:32 am and it will set at
5:23 pm, which will only give you nine hours and fifty minutes to get up, go to work, and drive your horse. Really, not much time when you figure that most of you work an eight hour job.
When you become pressed for daylight, what can you do to fit your passion for driving into your somewhat small leftover time in your day.
The first thing one needs to do is to be organized, both in their lives as well in their barns. A well organized barn and tack room will make it easier to minimize pre-driving activities, such as grooming, harnessing and hitching up your horse.
If you board your horse, then you need to be sure the stable you are at has enough space for your carriage and harness to be stored properly. There is nothing worse than having to dust your equipment off before you are able to use it. A carriage cover does work well but it’s that extra time it takes to remove it and then put back on that is it’s downfall. There should be proper space in the tack room for you to be able to hang your harness properly.
When you have your horse and equipment on your own property, you do need to keep it organized as well. I have six horses myself and without an organized tack room and carriage barn, I would never get any driving done!
My tack room contains all saddles and bridles used for riding and training. I also have trunks for storage of blankets for each horse. This is also where all grooming and miscellaneous supplies are kept. This building is only twelve feet from the tie rack, which makes it even more convenient.
Now my carriage barn is where all of my carriages and harness are kept. Unfortunately, not all my horses are the same size, so there is at least one carriage for each. The one wall has all of the harness for the horses hung on it. Again, there is a separate set for each horse, and all of them are labeled with the horses name. The carriage barn has it’s own hitching rail for harnessing and hitching also.
All of this organization helps me be able to quickly groom and hitch up my horses in the fastest time possible, especially for this time of the year when we are pressed for daylight. So organize, organize, organize!
Some of the other things that you can do to save time during your busy week are:
- Be sure if you are boarding, that your horses feed schedule is well before or after you plan to be there, that way you don’t have to wait for him to finish eating.
- If you have lights at your stable or home then plan to use them during the winter months. It will give you extra driving time.
- Don’t schedule shoeing or vet visits during the late afternoons, so you are not tied up during your driving time. Most vets now days have at least half days on Saturdays for appointments.
- Remember to make your chosen time to drive just that if you board your horse. Long conversations with other boarders can eat into your time really fast. Explain to them that you have limited time and that driving your horse is your first priority.
- Leave your cell phones in your car or house to save precious time!
- We all know that our horses love to be brushed all over, but for the sake of time, limit brushing to only the needed areas. When time is short, I brush where the saddle sits and down around the girth area, which are the most important. The rest really can wait until the week- end when you have more time. Forego the combing of the mane and tail, believe me, your horse won’t care about his hair-do! Finally, just check his feet for any rocks stuck in his shoe or frog areas. The poop in there will not be his downfall, after all he has been walking around on it all day and is just fine with it.
- Now you are ready to harness your horse. You should have just three sections of harness to put on. The saddle with back strap and breeching. The breast collar and traces already buckled in and lastly, the bridle with reins attached. I have found that having the reins attached to the bridle and the traces attached to the breast collar is the quickest way to get them on the horse.
Now you are ready to hitch up to your carriage. I always leave my whip, helmet and gloves on the floor of the carriage, so they are always handy when I go to hitch.
With a bit of practice and a well trained horse who will stand there either ground tied or facing a hitching rail or fence, you will be off in no time driving your horse when you are pressed for daylight.
If you do your grooming, harnessing and hitching the same way every time and at the same place, your horse will quickly learn what is going on and what to expect.
With organization and the above steps to save time you will be able to drive your horses during the short days of winter. I have found that I am able to groom, harness and hitch up in fifteen minutes.