Online work? Online school? Why not do it all from somewhere a little warmer this winter? What if you could keep working online, keep the kids in online school and take a break from winter—with all the chipping ice out of your horses feet, blankets on and off, long periods of time out of the saddle, cold and snow? At the same time, you would be ready for the show season a little earlier and back in shape for spring events and riding in Colorado! Sounds too good to be true?!
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but it’s a thing to go South, and not just for retirees. For decades, entire barns from the Eastern United States head to the Carolinas and Florida for the winter. Or from the Northwest to California, Arizona and Texas. It seems far-fetched for many of us to be snowbirds with horses in tow, but look at us now… more mobile than ever before! Many of us are working and doing school online at home, at the coffee shop, or anywhere else with a Wi-Fi connection. Geographic locations matter less. If not the entire winter, you might consider a geographic shift of just a month? For those online school parents, imagine just sending the kids out to mess with their horses, or go for a hike or bike ride in January as if it were June. Here are some ideas to get your creative thoughts flowing.
Find a spot that caters to your specific equestrian discipline with RV spots and stalls/pens for rent. There are equestrian parks throughout the South that have RV hookups and stalls for rent. Many also put on events like ranch sorting, roping, schooling shows and clinics for their guests and locals to take part in. Check in with people you know and related Facebook groups to see where they choose for destinations.
Some of these equestrian parks are next to public land or are on large acreage parcels where you can enjoy exploring from horseback. An example is Lonestar Equestrian in Arizona that puts on ranch sorting and team roping competitions. The current prices at Lonestar are $1,150 monthly (each additional horse is less), which includes feeding, RV hookups, daily sorting and roping practice and use of all facilities.
For the Dressage, Eventing and Hunter/Jumper disciplines, there are a few facilities in the Carolinas and Florida that have RV spots, stalls, turn outs, arenas, jump fields and cross-country courses—all on green grass! Two such facilities in Florida are Sweet Dixie South and Majestic Oaks. Sweet Dixie South, for example, is $550 for a dry stall (you do all the care) and about $500 for an RV hookup. Use of all the facilities, 140 acres, two schooling jumper shows and two cross-country schooling events per month are also included.
Often, especially in the English disciplines, trainers will rent out entire barns in the Southeastern horse areas for a few winter months, typically from January to March, to take their training operation south. Many of them actually own facilities they only use during the winter months. Winter is the season for shows and events in this area, which are basically scheduled every weekend with some running all week. During their time down South, these trainers spend time honing their own skills with the plethora of top professionals gathered within a short distance. They also attend shows weekly and take their clients to the many different facilities available for schooling that are in the area.
Trainers based in the South may try to appeal to the northerly horse folk and offer clinics that last a couple weeks. They provide accommodations for the horses and sometimes the owners as well. In addition, they may have space for your living quarters trailer.
For trail riders, find southern parks where you can stay and trail ride. Connect with other trail riders though Facebook groups to find out the best options in terms of amenities and trails to explore. You can choose to make a particular park your “home base” or try a different park every week.
Instead of reacting to changing schedules and safety orders, switching between work/school environments in person and online and the uncertainty of the coming months, this proactive approach, whether for a month or three, may be an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. Ride South for some quality horse and kid time this winter! If you do, make sure to take photos and videos to share with me. Heather@MtnHomes4Horses.com.
Heather McWilliams © 2020