Friday, November 6, 2009

Training Ideas For Wintertime

On the heels of talking about blanketing and in response to a question from one of my readers, I'd like to talk about what we, as owners (and riders), can do through the Winter when there's not much going on in the horsey world and when many folks just feel in the doldrums.

My best advice is, if you can, RIDE! But when riding is just not possible, this is a great time of year to work on your horse's ground manners. Leading, halting, turning, responding to pressure ~ these are all things you can touch up and accomplish instead of actually getting in the saddle.

There are also mounted exercises you can do with your horses even when the arena, field or trails are too muddy or otherwise unsafe. Working on how to perfect simple things like backing or sidepassing, practicing on trail obstacles such as a bridge, mailbox or walkovers and patience training along with teaching flexion at a standstill can all be accomplished. You can also teach or work on your turns on the forehand and hindquarters...there is a LOT you can do even if you're not looking forward to bundling up to go throw your leg over a horse.

If you compete in hand, you can practice Showmanship maneuvers, a Halter stance or leading and turning at a trot. Naturally you can also keep your horse groomed and even work on your clipping techniques ~ after show season is over can be the perfect time for "boo-boo's" to grow out! ;)

We ride and show year round, but we're lucky living in a climate that allows us to do so. Trotting through the snow can be exhilarating! :) But vital if you venture into the arena (or out on the trail, which is a blast any time of year) is to be sure your footing is not slippery or too deep. After every storm I'm out there tromping around in whatever mud we have and making note of any slick spots. Avoid standing water puddles, particularly when the temperature will be dropping below freezing. I have a couple of horses who think it's fun to crack ice...I just don't think it's a very good idea at a hand gallop! ;)

Most importantly, don't let your horse just stand for the Winter, especially if you intend to be out there in the show ring come Springtime. They need the continued exercise to remain fit, even though it will be cold, often blustery and it gets dark outside far too early.

If nothing else on a rainy or snowy day, just spend some quality time with your horses. There is truly nothing better than a warm, soft horse for cheering you up and giving you hope for when the weather improves!!


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