Winter is here!
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 09:56 PM
This year winter came suddenly and in full blast. By the end of November we already had so much snow on the ground that it felt like January. Temperatures were below seasonal and they were cold, down to -20C plus wind chill. All of a sudden I am not just riding out in the fields all the time but also dealing with substantial snow depth and cold. Change of scenery from arena riding is welcome, but frozen fingers, toes and nose are not :) However, my spirits are high. I enjoy riding Santo so much I am tolerating all this weather nonsense. Also I bought myself terrific winter riding boots. They are Mountain Horse Stella Polaris. They are so comfortable and warm that my toes didn't get cold when I rode at -15C (my cut off temperature). The bonus they are stunning and just putting them on makes me feel great to go out and ride. Their sole is so thick I had to drop my stirrups down one hole.
Last winter when Santo was 4.5 years old I had to deal with a lot. He was so excited almost every ride and felt so supercharged with energy just waiting to blast forward at any opportunity. At first I wasn't very comfortable and felt tight and scared overreacting and sometimes punishing him without justification. Over the course of last winter I learned to stay calmer and manage his outbursts better plus he started to come around a little bit at least at most familiar places where I went more often. When spring came and it was time to get ready for our first show I was surprised to find out he actually learned something during that time. Looking back now I believe we found out a lot about each other and it helped enormously during show season.
Things are very different this time. Santo is 5.5 years old and feels so much more mature and willing to listen. I feel very confident in my abilities to handle his extra energy. This creates very positive and productive attitude for my work in the fields. Only occasionally Santo feels supercharged and ready to rock and roll. Even then I can channel his focus into what I need him to do and he listens. This creates a wonderful situation. I have a horse that is super forward and still calm enough to stay obedient and work for me. At times he is offering effortless extensions, amazing engagement and thoroughness. I feel very much on high after such rides :)
My list of things to work on is long. Santo is entering a stage of his training where serious work on engagement, thoroughness and total focus becoming a part of almost every ride. Conrad Schumacher once said that: "Age of 6 years is the time when rider must ask as much as possible from her/his horse without destroying its spirit." The deep snow does create certain limitations. Here are few ideas:
  • It is very hard to ride a leg-yield but shoulder-in work can benefit from deep snow enormously developing power in hindquarters and freedom in the shoulders.
  • If your horse lacks suspension and volume in his trot lengthenings riding in deep snow will help to develop them. Long and low trot works very well in a deep snow, horses are asking for it themselves.
  • Canter work is superb in a deep snow. A horse has to jump through every stride, engagement is natural shortening/lengthening strides feels so smooth. Other exercises in canter - squares, counter-canter, trot-canter-trot transitions, walk-canter transitions, big circles with true and counter-flexion.
  • Reinback on a slight downhill can help overcome the depth and encourage the horse to keep active and straight.
Be creative and have fun!
Happy riding...
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, December 13, 2012 06:55 PM
I have realized that my blog is rather a summary and does not cover important details for riders who are not very experienced with winter riding.
For more information please visit my archives and read 4 blogs that wrote in 2007 on winter riding. I just reread them myself and they are well written and have a lot of good tips. Please click on a link below:
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, December 15, 2012 06:30 PM
I realized my link to blog articles is not highlighted. Here it is:
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