January is a tough month to be motivated

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At the start of the year, each horse has a plan laid out for the coming season and the building work begins, says eventer Toots Bartlett

Toots and Freestyle R, both wearing ALL the layers to work in the frozen weather

I think I can speak quite confidently for the entire Eventing community that January isn’t anyone’s favourite month!
It’s a month that likes to test our determination and motivation when it comes to working outside. I have definitely broken my record for the number of layers worn at one time over the last couple of weeks!
With temperatures going down to around -7º and generally not reaching 1º throughout the day, we have had to develop and adapt our riding plan to avoid the icy roads and frozen arenas. I have been incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to base myself at William Fox-Pitt’s yard for the last year. To have access to an indoor school and an all-weather gallop means we have been much more fortunate than others and have been able to keep our horses safely in work. With the yard being purpose-built with rubber matting everywhere in the purpose-built yard means we have been able to carry on safely and get every horse out of the stables.

Toots knows she is ‘lucky and blessed’ to have access to the purpose-built all weather facilities at the Fox-Pitt yard

A new plan
With the 2023 season creeping up slowly, all my horses have had their winter holidays; they are rested and recovered and are now all back in work. At this time of year we are mainly working on correct muscle building, increasing strength through their core and back, and fine-tuning any small details which were off last season. We are yet to get them out competing or round a course of jumps, but are focusing hard on polework to improve their strength and flexibility.
The first draft of the 2023 season plan has been drawn up, and we can start looking at the details. I tend to work backwards from our spring event goals to make sure we are focused and ready to achieve our hopes and dreams for the coming season.
It’s not one general team plan: each horse has its own individual season plan tailored to suit its own strengths and preferences, targeting different events and classes for each.
I have been forcing myself back into the gym as well, to ensure I am just as fit and strong for the upcoming season as my horses –it will help to increase the chances of success.
It’s a very exciting season ahead. We have lost some local events, due to rule changes, but we have gained exciting classes at top venues, including the recent news of the addition of the Chard BE to the South West fixture list.

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