Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Riding & Winter Goals

I beat winter. Yes, I did. Go me.

I should probably elaborate. We went out to the barn yesterday, and I wanted to ride, but it was COLD. Mid-teens, maybe? I dunno. But whatever it was, it was COLD. Like I said. Anyway, the horses were all in their stalls (fortunately they'd gotten outside the day before, and the mares had run all over and played in the snowdrifts. Dude, I wish I could've seen that. But I'm just glad that Sofie got some exercise for once, instead of eating her hay and then going in the shelter and standing around) so I took Sofie out and turned her out in the mare pasture. She trotted around a little, but then she just started wandering around, barely lifting her feet, so I led her to the end of the mare pasture and turned her loose so she could gallop back to the shelter ("THE SHELTER! I MUST GET TO THE SHELTER, IT'S FREAKIN' COLD OUT HERE!"). Then I free-schooled her in the arena while my mom was cleaning her stall and giving the horses a little hay. She was very "up", as expected, and I was able to get her to canter in both directions without the extra encouragement of a big whip in my hand. She even took the correct lead once while tracking right.

I decided to ride, because it wasn't too horrible in the arena (since I was wearing winter boots, windbreaking outer pants and a heavy winter coat and gloves over my riding clothes) and because I typically have good rides when Sofie's been stuck in her stall. We gave Sofie a flake of hay to chew on while we got her ready. She was not thrilled to see the saddle ("Can't you people just brush me and then put me back in my stall for ONCE in my life?") but things went fairly smoothly until we attempted to put the girth on. Sofie was behaving okay, but for some reason the girth wasn't fitting. At all. My mom kept hauling on it, and it would NOT reach the billets on the other side of the saddle. "She doesn't look that fat," I said, perplexed. "We were out here two days ago, and it fit then." Actually, the girth we had been using was a bit too long, which made the whole situation very, very odd. And Sofie was none too happy about all these girth-tightening attempts.

Finally, we figured out that I had TWO girths at the barn that were exactly the same, except in length. I had not taken home the "too short" girth after we found it to be unsuitable the day we switched back to the Wintec. Mystery solved. Our horse wasn't too fat, and we weren't losing our minds. Well, that last one is debatable, but whatever.

I mounted up in the indoor and began riding. Anyone who has ever ridden in an indoor knows that in the winter, they function rather like big ice boxes. But it was marginally "warmer" than the not-so-great outdoors, so hooray for that. I "warmed up" Sofie, and only one of my hands was painfully cold. I have never had a problem with cold hands in the winter before, but apparently this year my hands have decided that plain leather gloves aint doin' it anymore. I will have to get some lined leather gloves, I suppose. Fabric gloves don't work with rubber reins if one wants to actually be able to change the length of one's reins without serious hardship.

I was rewarded for my bravery in the face of winter by a very good horse. She trotted willingly at the lightest signal, she maintained gait and speed with only an occasional hug of my calves, she did transitions, she bent okay in both directions (we're workin' on that), she wasn't inverted, and she was a lot of fun to ride. I only rode for 20 or so minutes, but it was a really good session.

I shall now post my riding and training goals for the winter:

~LOOK UP when I ride!

~Maintain a positive attitude without regressing into self criticism

~Make sure to sit tall in the saddle without slouching

~Continue to improve my contact, so Sofie has a consistent, soft contact to look for and reach into

~Continue to eliminate gnarly behavior and resistance by discouraging it when it happens, and creating positive experiences for Sofie

~Work on and improve transitions

~Build Sofie's fitness so we can eventually take an hour lesson with a good trainer

~Learn how to go STRAIGHT!

~Develop both sides of Sofie's body evenly (I'll be doing lots of trot work this winter, so that will be helpful)

~Play with basic lateral work

~Keep things varied so Sofie doesn't get bored (HORRORS! We don't want that to happen)



  1. Mid teens??? We think 40 is horrible here! Luckily, our winters are far more wet than cold, so the covered arena is great.

    Look up, build up our horses endurance, go straight, we got a lot of the same goals. Let's get cracking!

  2. Where I live, 40 degrees in the winter is a freakin' heat wave. If we get a day that warm, you will see people in T shirts. Last year my friend and I rode outside in the snow on a seriously warm day, since it was warmer outside than in the indoor arena/icebox. My horse was good, but her horse lay down and tried to roll in the snow. My friend had to bail off.

    Yes, good luck with your goals. May we both be able to make all our goals happen!