For the Rider

Winter Warmers for Riders

By Catherine Bird

Winter

No matter where you are in the world, the winter months can be a little wearing on the rider, especially when it comes time to get out of bed in the dark to get to your horse and stables, or to go down after a day’s work in the dark, or to try to be cheerful with icy cold hands and feet.

Dried Out Hands

The cold air always seems to dry out and roughen skin more than usual, no matter how much water we drink to stay hydrated. Olive oil can be warming to the body and is a simple moisturiser for the skin. For hands that get dry and rough, try a simple scrub of olive oil and half a teaspoon of white sugar in the palm of your hand. Lightly rub your hands together, then rinse off the sugar. Any residual oil can be worked into your hands. It is one of the simplest ways to help remove dead skin cells from your tired hands and moisturise them. You can add a drop or two of your favourite essential oil to help lift your spirits above the winter blues. (Abraded or irritated skin may be sensitive to strong EOs so try a small test spot first.)

Your Own Brew of Herbs

One of the best ways to stay warm in winter is by warming yourself from the inside. Brew up a warming tea of ginger, peppermint and elder flowers and take it with you to sip throughout the day. It will stay warm for hours in a well-managed thermos.

In the evening, you can make your own mulled wine - add a variation of herbs such as the sweet and fragrant mix of whole pieces of allspice, cassia, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, mandarin peel and cloves to a red wine. Combine the spices and citrus in red wine or a non-alcoholic beverage. Sweeten to taste (up to 1/4 cup sugar). Heat this through for at least 15 minutes, but don't boil.

Your Daily Cheerful Tissue

Also carry a magic tissue with you throughout the day. The scent of essential oils added to a tissue can help create a barrier by acting like a personal negative ion generator, making it more difficult for viruses to pass through the air and make contact with you.

Bergamot is particularly effective if there is a viral infection going around your area and you have to travel to and from work or the stables on public transport.

Atkinson’s Kick-a-Germ Joy Juice

One old remedy to mix up, if you feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on, is this juice. Be warned it is for the heroic ones amongst us, but when I have been brave enough to cook up the ingredients, it has always helped push the bugs out of my system.

(Ref: Modern Naturopathy and Age Old Healers by Russell Frank Atkinson):

“Take four large cloves of garlic. Dice or crush them and put in a stainless steel or ceramic pot with one litre of water (1 ½ pints). If the cloves are not large and fat, make it six. Add three whole lemons, diced, that is skin, pith and all, one teaspoon of ginger and one teaspoon of powdered cinnamon, one nasturtium leaf and stem and let it simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring. Be careful not to let it boil. While cooling, add a dessertspoon or two of raw honey and stir it in. This is then strained and half a cup is taken each few hours. This is a natural antibiotic with no adverse effects, apart from garlic breath.”

A Curry or Composition Powder
For those of you less brave, a simple Thai or Indian curry will suffice. I like this option as it soothes my digestion as well as my soul when I am feeling vulnerable to all the bacteria and viruses waiting out there to take advantage in the cold weather. It follows loosely on from the use of composition powder by the physiomedical herbalist Samuel Thompson. He formulated this blend of herbs in 1846 and it contains barberry bark, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, prickly ash bark, and cloves.

It also makes an enlivening additive to soups during winter. Simply add anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon depending on the size of your pot, and enjoy.

Cod Liver Oil
Winter is a time when we are not as exposed to sunlight as we are other times of the year, and may lack sufficient vitamin D. One way to help the body not become a victim to a deficiency is to supplement with cod liver oil. This is something riders of all ages and styles need to be aware of, as a vitamin D deficiency can affect the calcium levels in the bone matrix and, if suffered for long enough, could make bones more brittle.

Some of us may have unpleasant memories as children of a spoonful dose being very hard to swallow. Now it is available in capsules. Vitamin D is obtained naturally from two sources: sunlight (ultraviolet light) exposure and dietary consumption. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and herring), vitamin D-fortified milk and cereal, eggs, and cod liver oil. If you wish to take higher doses, please consult your doctor, as high doses of vitamin D when there is not a deficiency can be toxic to the body. A simple blood test - the 25(OH)D test is the better marker of overall D status - will help determine your levels.

Bedtime

Marjoram is a warming essential oil and very sedative. It can be a useful one to inhale as you drift off to sleep, to help you let go of the worries of the day. If your body clock has trouble adjusting to the shorter days during winter, supplementing low doses of chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) helps the body with the manufacture of its own melatonin and enables the body to readjust quickly. Taking a small dose before bed for a week or so should be sufficient to assist you. Do not take this herb if you are taking hormone replacement therapy or contraceptive pill.

Stay Warm

Most nasty bugs that thrive during winter thrive on cold, while the human body becomes more vulnerable when it is cold. Wear plenty of layers and keep your body warm so there is less opportunity for viruses and bacteria to invade your personal space.

A Little Morning Sunshine

During the shorter, damper days, the essential oil of grapefruit is considered a little drop of brain sunshine. When you first get into your morning shower, cover the drain hole with your foot, and simply drop three or four drops of this essential oil into the pooling water. This will help lift any dampened mood and start your day with a special brightness that will help you deal with any unwanted exposures - thoughts, pathogens, or otherwise. fin

About the author:
Catherine Bird, author of A Healthy Horse the Natural Way (Lyons Press), is based in Australia where she has led the application of natural therapies for horses for over a decade. Her experience, spread throughout many equestrian disciplines with herbs, aromatherapy, body work and kinesiology, enables her to share her knowledge in clinics and the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course. www.happyhorses.com.au.

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