I’ve always been a fan of winter – being a fair-skinned Brit who doesn’t tolerate heat sees to that. Most horse riders dislike the cold months, particularly adults who work owning a horse around a full-time non-horse job. Winter for riders means more work (many are reluctant for their horses to be turned out in the field, even during the day) – if your horse goes out, he gets muddy and you spend ages grooming him; if he lives in, life is a constant round of cleaning his stable. Winter means breaking the ice in water troughs and buckets, cold fingers and toes and noses, limited hacking opportunities and getting dressed becomes a similar routine to preparing for a day on the ski slopes. Short days mean dark mornings and evenings. Our pleasant pastime is a chore.
Riding in winter can be magical – I love seeing the world from horseback, glimpsing over barren hedge rows into frosted blankets of fields and beyond, rather than whizzing past in a car and trying to squint through the branches. But these days are rare, and most of us trudge around the yard, full water buckets periodically sloshing cold water down our gaping wellies and muttering to ourselves, “Days get longer at the end of December. Summer is coming. Summer is coming” in an attempt to motivate ourselves through the dark and painful days.
But winter to me is also the approach of Christmas – excitement, anticipation, goodwill. It’s a break from summer, a chastening reminder from Mother Nature to cherish the good times. A wondrous change to live in jeans (no shaving legs every other day!) and layer up in chunky, glittery jumpers (no bikini to look good in!), an altogether relaxing time. The air feels fresh and crisp in your lungs, rather than humid and dirty on your brow.
However, summer was different this year. I didn’t spend it shuttling between home, office and events I worked at, failing to pause and enjoy the warmth on my skin. I spent it largely outside, covered in insect bites and generally sweating profusely along with the animals I cared for (the upside: a very easy 30lb weight loss!). My job was stressful at times. The hours were long and hard. But they were enjoyable. I spent up to three hours per day being paid to be in the saddle. I made some friends for life. I took a step in the right direction.
My Facebook feed serves up occasional reminders of the summer that was: some friends are still wandering the world and enjoying themselves, others are home for the first time in years and pining. We miss each other, our jobs, the highs and lows. Whatever we gained or lost during the summer months, we are feeling a gap in our lives now.
I’m not sure what I expected of my homecoming when I left the UK at the end of May, but I don’t think I anticipated my return to earth feeling so abrupt or endless. The next holiday, trip and summer experience feels a long way off.
The countdown to summer is on – I am wishing the winter away, for a change. Perhaps one day I’ll find the endless summer, rather than the perpetual countdown.