Riding on the side of a dirt road
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, March 20, 2008 08:00 PM
Riding outside in the spring can become a hassle, even in the fields. Usually a lot of snow gets accumulated during winter and riding through it becomes very difficult. On the warm days the snow is melting and very heavy, on the cold days crust forms on the top and makes it impossible for the horse to move. Trails in the snow become slippery and uneven. I have found that riding on the side of a quiet dirt road works pretty well during the spring.
Before you go riding on the road consider the following factors. The road must be pretty quiet, a car or a truck passing by only occasionally. Almost never two cars passing each other at the same time when you are there. The amount of gravel is minimum, especially on the side. Some roads have almost no gravel and mostly dirt. After snow melts this dirt is very soft and works well. The side of the road must be level enough not to ruin your horse's feet. Do not ride on the shoulders slanted downward. If the road is free of snow and has soft wet dirt you can ride in the center just be careful and watch upcoming traffic. Have enough visibility both directions for the cars to see you. If the road covered with the snow sides usually have a nice footing before grader scrapes it away. Snow-covered road is very slippery in the tire tracks, do not ride in them.
Consider your horse's suitability to be a safe mount for you on the road. Do not ride strange or very green horse on the road. Make sure your horse is familiar with different types of vehicles. I understand that you cannot possibly expose your horse to all of them. However, if your horse is familiar with trucks there is a big chance he will not freak out from a schoolbus, for example. Make sure you can stop your horse even when he is excited and keep him on the side of the road when car is passing. With Colonel (my own horse) I got to the point of not interrupting my work even canter when cars were passing us. However, with less trained horse of my friend I stop for every car and turn her to face them.
Consider your own ability as a rider. Do you have secure enough seat to stay on if your horse spooks? Do you stay calm when your horse gets excited under you? Are you afraid of open space and no fences to stop your horse? Do you know your horse well enough? Does your horse trust you and stay with you mentally even when he is excited?
Because road is very narrow and very long you cannot work in a similar way you ride in a manage. You have to adapt to the fact that you can either go straight for a half way and then come back, or you can choose a stretch and ride on it back and forth. Do not choose short stretch, otherwise you will not be able to work on trot or canter. For me, a stretch of 500 m worked well. The stretch works better for more schooled horse, who is not going to get upset with constant turning toward home and then away from it. I have worked Colonel on the stretch. But my friend's horse I ride straight for half way and then back. In the next blog I will discuss what kind of work you can do on the road.
Happy riding...
 
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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