Winter riding with a young horse
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, February 19, 2011 08:27 PM
Up until this winter all horses that I worked outside during cold months were mature horses, 7 years or older. Even though some of them were green in their skills they had enough years behind them to quickly learn about fields, deep snow, roads and traffic. Introducing Santo to winter riding came as a completely new project to me because of his age. When a horse is very young everything is a big deal, exciting new experience, sometimes with emotions running too high and hard to control. I was a bit worried about how to make it work for us.
When Santo came home at the beginning of January I had a nice layer of snow in my arena. I knew it would deteriorate very quickly and I will have to move on into trails and fields. My plan was to gradually diminish arena time and venture into the forest further and further at every ride until I only came to arena to mount and then went down the trails. It took about 2 weeks or 8 rides to completely eliminate arena work. By this time my arena completely deteriorated and riding on it became impossible. I am lucky that Santo does not need any lunging prior to riding and I can just get on and go. Even if he feels a bit fresh walking through deep snow warms him up quickly and after 10 minutes he is not frisky anymore. With deep snow it is much easier to go places where, otherwise, he may get too excited. For example, I took him to a field where he wanted to gallop. I let him, he galloped 100 meters and stopped. He had to work so hard and jump so high with every canter stride it felt fantastic and gave me a good feel of his canter. He canters spontaneously here and there when I ask him to trot. It usually happens on our way back home, or going uphill. I do not object and I do not praise him. I simply go along and watch what lead he picks up, how he balances himself, is he willing to listen to me, etc.
It is February and we had a few weather fluctuations where it was very warm and then got very cold. Snow in the fields melted then froze and melted again. It became very crusty, uneven in its hardness and simply walking in it became a task. My rides are short now, 20-30 minutes max. And deep snow walking only lasts may be 10-15 minutes. As you can see on the picture (click on it to see a bigger version) it is very hard work to walk through deep snow. Notice how high Santo lifts his legs. It is a work out no doubts. Besides deep snow I am taking him on every trail around my place to introduce him to the area. Plus we started coming to the road at the end of our rides. My road is very quiet, a car every 30 minutes. So very often I do not see any vehicles at all while I walk/trot him up and down the road. Of course, one time we did see a truck and it was a big snowplow truck. Seeing it from far I dismounted, took Santo to the side, let him face the truck and waited for it to pass. It was a big truck and Santo did spook and run around me. However, he calmed down quickly and the second pickup truck with trailer (am I lucky, or what!) he met much calmer even with a bit of curiosity (Santo's style :)).
Even though it is not much we do, this work is extremely important to his brain development. There is so much he can learn even from these short and simple rides. He is learning ...
  • to go by himself into all these new places
  • to canter under saddle
  • about work ethics
  • to listen to my aids even though he is distracted and excited
  • about wildlife
  • balancing with a rider on downhill/uphill trails
  • about traffic
I am learning a great deal about him and our confidence in each other is growing day by day...
Happy riding...
Comment by Sheila Edmonds on Sunday, February 27, 2011 09:04 PM
Lovely, Ira! You look so happy together and I love how you let him be a youngster while still training him with kindness.
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 10:51 AM
Thanks, Sheila!
I love this horse dearly and I want him to be happy. He has his whole life in front of him!
Comment by Alana Brochu on Monday, March 21, 2011 06:57 PM
Wow. You guys look really good together. He is a very nice looking horse. Such a wonderfully kind face. I can't wait to see what more you'll do together.
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, March 21, 2011 09:40 PM
Thanks, Alana, He is very kind horse. He never wants to fight with anyone, always making friends. I can't wait to see what we can do together, neither :)
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