Winter Riding.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, November 24, 2007 09:25 PM
I have been riding outside through the winters for 7 years. During all this time I didn't have any accidents in regard of winter hazards such as fall on slippery footing, lameness or catching a cold either me or my horse. Through trials and errors I have found what works and what doesn't. Today I will talk about riding.
I do not just go for a trail ride or a hack in the winter. I work my horse with no less intensity then in the summer. However, I do adjust for winter conditions.
  • As I said in the previous part snow is a very heavy footing. You should give your horse lots of brakes and do not work him for long. Read more in "Winter Riding. Weather and Footing".
  • Your horse will struggle with balance in the snow, especially deep one. Because of that you need to step down the level of work you have been doing during summer. For example, if your horse has just learned transitions from canter to walk it is not advisable to work on them in the snow. Instead, work on canter trot transitions and make sure they are done well. You will be building your horse's muscles and agility and will reap results in spring with better canter to walk transitions.
  • More work in rising trot than sitting. Lighter seat in the canter. More stretching and working over the back than in collected and competition frame.
  • I assure you that it is very hard to ride your horse through the snow in proper balance, stretching to the bit, over topline correctly and working from behind. Your horse will built a wonderful topline as long as you are not hanging on the bit or pulling your horse into the frame.
  • Ride big circles, smooth changes of direction, serpentines, figures 8, ask for a few steps of a leg-yield in trot or canter on a straight or curved lines, counter-canter etc.
  • Deep snow gives you opportunity to work your horse really forward in canter without worrying that he may bolt or run. And the canter will be very good without much work from you, it is like jumping small cavalletty with every stride.
  • Example. When I had snow higher than the knees I would go into the field and canter a series of 100 m stretches with walk to the starting position. And that would be all the work for the day.
  • The bandages and boots have tendency to get wet and heavy with snow. If you must, put the minimum necessary. Find lightest and most snugly fit boots. Any parts that stick out will add to the resistance.
  • Leg-yield or half-pass in walk through the snow is really great exercise to built muscles, it is like resistance training in human athletes.
  • Sometimes trot through the deep snow feels like passage. However, it is less passage more slow trot where horse tries to get through snow by jumping from one diagonal to another with minimum effort, sometimes with a lot of lateral rocking motion. Only well schooled horse with the rider who can feel horse's evasions and can correct them can benefit from passaging through the snow.
  • Be very careful with jumping in the snow without shoes that have calks. On a grassy field covered with thin layer of snow, no more than 10 inches you can jump small jumps safely. I know because I did. However, I cannot tell about higher jumps or jumping courses.
  • Do not go for a long walk in winter. You will get cold and can develop hypothermia.
  • Most importantly, use your common sense. Always remember that it is just one of many rides that you will have on your horse. Be a good leader and look out for him.
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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