The entire month of December is a wash for me, riding-wise. Week 1 saw magazine deadline and AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) Convention prep, followed by a week in Utah for the convention itself, followed by holidays and vacation days, mad AAEP coverage writing, and another deadline.

My gift to Hannah: A December off work.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

Months like these make me thankful that I board my horses at a full-service facility with great staff and care. My trainer is a text message away if I need her to ride one of them or fill in for vet and farrier visits. However, as December 1 rolled around and I started to plan my next 30 days, I wondered if I really needed to be paying someone to ride my horses. Sure, I have friends and barnmates who are happy to hack the girls from time to time, but will a full month off from training really hurt?

For my horses, it's an individual thing. Lily is the type who's better the fitter she is. She thrives on routine and regular exercise. Also, she's for sale, and I need her to be ready to behave and perform her best on a moment's notice for prospective buyers.

Hannah, on the other hand, can go weeks without being ridden, and with little-to-no prep go jump a 3-foot course in winning form. She also struggled with some hind-end lameness a year and a half ago, and I'm always hesitant to push her too hard.

So, decision made: Hannah gets a month of vacay, and Lily stays in work.

The downsides? Paying a little extra this month for Lily's training and having to get Hannah back in shape come January. The latter is the easiest of easy keepers and loses fitness quickly. Our first show of the New Year is January 18th, so her vacation won't last long!

I'm sure everyone's practices are different. For instance, for riders in the southern states winter is the high-season of competition. I have friends in Florida who continue showing through December, January, and beyond, then give their horses a well-deserved break in March or April. Others I know show more sparingly and give their horses the entire winter off from work. A barn I used to ride at gave everyone part of July and all of August off to avoid showing in the heat of summer and so the trainer could go on his annual horse-shopping trip to Europe.

Regardless, I think our horses--particularly sport horses--need a break from time to time, whether it's a winter holiday or a rest during the slow season, whenever that may be.

Do your horses get "vacations," and what are they up to this December?