Winter and Riding
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, January 16, 2011 11:13 AM
Winter is in full gear and temperature has plunged again to minus twenties Celsius. This is of course too cold to ride outside and for those of us who does not have an access to indoor arena winter is a challenging time to be motivated. However, simply letting your horse sit in the pasture with a round bale and do nothing until spring comes is a waste of valuable time. Not all days are too cold to ride in winter. Actually, there are usually only 3-4 weeks altogether of "too cold days to ride" in the entire winter in Northern Alberta. Besides riding there are many other activities you can do to improve as a rider and horse owner. Below are a few thoughts and ideas on how to make winter time most productive on and off the horse:
  • Ride I have a Series of blogs on winter riding. These articles cover many aspects including the temperature threshold, footing, clothes, where to ride and what to do.
  • If you have an indoor arena nearby trailering your horse there once or twice a week can eliminate most of the problems of outdoor riding. My clients did this with a young horse I started. Instead of sitting in the field for 4 months and forgetting all he learned he got great lessons in trailering, working in a strange place, with strange horses and progressing in his education as a riding horse.
  • When it is too cold to ride do not leave your horse in the field without any handling, especially, a young horse. If you have a place where you and your horse can escape the cold such as barn, garage, or workshop bring him in for a check up, grooming, massage, stretching exercises, etc.
  • Teach your horse a new trick - kneeling, Spanish walk, laying down, etc. There are numerous books and videos on different techniques for teaching tricks to horses. If you spend 5-10 minutes 3 times a week by the end of winter your horse will impress your friends with a new skill.
  • Work your horse in hand All you need for this is a stretch of driveway of 20 yards or more. You can work on turns on the forehand, leg-yields, shoulder-in, travers, etc. Work for no more than 10-15 minutes.
  • Take a lesson Find a riding school nearby and take a few lessons on their school horses. Try to find the facility with school horses who are more experienced than you. It is an amazing learning opportunity.
  • Learn how to trim your horse's feet There are two excellent books on natural hoof care. One is by Pete Ramey " Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You" and another one is by Jaime Jackson "Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care". It is easier than you think. It just takes a bit of practice and patience. Trust me you know your own horse as well if not better as any farrier will. After you get a hang of it, all it takes is 15 to 20 minutes per pair of hooves. Give it a try!
  • Read Pull out your favorite book on riding, read it again. I am sure you will find something you didn't notice before. Check your library. Even in Smoky Lake, for a very small membership fee, I can order books from all over Alberta, including university. You can find books on riding, horsemanship, veterinary medicine, horse and human anatomy, physiology, etc. Internet is a another great source of information ...
  • Watch Use winter long and dark evenings to watch equestrian videos - ones of your own riding, lessons you took, equestrian competitions you recorded from TV. You will see more every time you watch, you start noticing new things and developing a better eye. Use Internet - Youtube or Barnmice and watch videos there. You can find clips of old masters, modern masters, lessons, training, symposiums, exercises, horses for sale, etc.
  • Exercise Even though riding is very specific exercise and skills of riding can only be built on a horse you can keep yourself fit while you are not riding enough during winter. Either join a class or fitness club, or exercise at home. Even shoveling snow is a good exercise as long as you do it properly and not hurt your back. Yoga, Pilates, walking, running, etc.
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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