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Riding Conditions Bleh? – Time for a Longe Lesson…

Riding Conditions Bleh? – Time for a Longe Lesson…

IMG_6475It’s been a rough couple of months for those of us not lucky enough to either live in the South or West where riding is doable most of the year. We’ve had snow, ice, freezing rain (as differs from ice, go figure), below zero wind chills and frozen ground. Not very fun (or safe) for riding. I haven’t even seen the trail since fall, and our ring space keeps shrinking in size as the snow accumulates. It’s hard even getting my butt to the barn on days that I can barely get out of the house it’s so cold.

This past week, while the sun briefly peeked out though the thick cloud covering, and my little leased horse rested (growing a big belly) my trainer had the idea to take advantage of the crappy conditions and do something that I only see the up/dowers do – the longe line lesson with another sweet lesson horse. I thought, cool – I’ll take a break from aching thighs and let her drive for a while.

Wrong.

I’m sure most of you barely remember doing this as kids. Going in circles, no reins, and letting your trainer walk the pony around and around – all you had to do was stay on. This was different. Snow and ice covered the ground; we began at a walk. Cool, easy peasy. No reins today! Post the walk. Ugh. Okay, keep going. Up to a trot and post. Constant trotting, arms up, down, out to the side, behind me and then no stirrups. Try and sit the trot. Oops, quick spook, panic canter, then back on track. Post the trot. I regret thinking my thighs wouldn’t burn that day. After what seemed like a long time, we switched direction and did the whole routine over. She then asked me to close my eyes. This was a crazy feeling for me! Taking away my vision helped me pick up the correct diagonal easier, and helped me feel little Rocket underneath me, silly, but I actually felt closer to him. I also learned that I may depend on my hands WAY too much, and taking them away forced me to balance correctly.

It’s a great lesson in many ways. We helped my seat and balance, which need CONSTANT attention; helped my thighs, which get soft in winter; and helped my attitude, getting my horse fix even in the cold weather always gets me out of the doldrums. This was a great way to take advantage of what little riding we can do – give it a shot 🙂

Thank you Trainer Lisa!! Thank you!

xo

lb

Icy Ride, Safe Ride – Winter Riding Safety

Icy Ride, Safe Ride – Winter Riding Safety

Looking out the window at all the ice from this weekend, I’m again wishing for better riding weather.  Those of us who can’t ride in warmer climates (and especially without covered rings) are faced with making the decision to not ride at all or try to take short rides as safely as possible. I found this article in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, which has some great advice for we northern tundra riding folk ;).

I’m going to take her advice and try bareback with my little Cuervo – want to keep my butt warm!

xo

lb

Winter horseback riding can be fun, but special care is needed

Posted Nov. 18, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

BangorDailyNewsHorse
Courtesy of Jesse Schwarcz | Schwarcz Photography Shadow, a 37-year-old Arabian owned by Heather Robbins, enjoys the snow at Wild Ivy Farm in Bangor.

Courtesy of Jesse Schwarcz | Schwarcz Photography
Shadow, a 37-year-old Arabian owned by Heather Robbins, enjoys the snow at Wild Ivy Farm in Bangor.

It is inevitable. There will be snow, cold and ice. For some horse owners, this means hanging up the saddle and giving the horse some time off. Others forge ahead. With careful preparation, riding in the winter can be enjoyable and safe.

Some riding stables have an indoor riding arena, which eliminates the concern of icy footing and biting wind. For those not so fortunate, riding can be done outside as long as there isn’t ice or deep, crusted-over snow. Horses are very capable in the snow, but when it gets that frozen layer over the top, it is difficult for the horses to break through and they may even lacerate their lower legs. It also impedes their movement which could result in a fall of both horse and rider.

For the winter months horses should either go barefoot, with no horseshoes, or have special snow-tire-like shoes with caulks and a pad between the hoof and shoe that keeps snow from balling up. Horses’ hoofs are cupped, so snow will pack in if horses wear typical metal shoes, which makes hooves like bowling balls and the horse very unsteady. Disaster is eminent.

With a barefoot horse, or one fitted with winter shoes, riding outside through snow-covered trails is a most enjoyable outdoor activity. Some considerations are important, however. In order to carry a rider through deep snow, a horse has to work extra hard, so be aware of horses’ fitness and exertion during an outside ride. If a horse has a full winter coat, it can quickly become very sweaty with the extra effort required to plow through snow, and care must be taken to keep that horse warm after a ride until its coat has dried. The drying process can take hours. It may be a better idea to limit physical work to avoid having a horse sweat a lot. They can’t shed layers if they get warm the way riders can.

For the rider, wearing appropriate gear can be a challenge. Riders can’t wear slippery snow pants or chunky boots to ride in. One will make it hard to stay on, and the other makes it hard to get your foot out of the stirrup should you not stay on. While a fall off a horse into the snow isn’t a bad way to land, it can be an awfully long walk home should that horse decide that he has urgent business to attend to back at the barn.

One of the more comfortable ways to ride in winter is going bareback — the horse’s back, not the rider’s. A horse with a broad enough back can be lovely to sit on in winter. They are natural seat warmers. A narrower horse, while still warm, isn’t as cushiony to sit upon.

Riding should never be attempted on ice. Horses do not handle ice well. Occasionally, there will be a horse that can figure out how to safely negotiate an icy patch, but the majority of them play out the Bambi scene from the Disney movie. Except in this case, Bambi weighs a thousand pounds or more and it isn’t cute when he comes crashing down, limbs all akimbo. Horses can easily fracture a leg falling on ice, so not only should ice be avoided when riding but if your paddocks are icy, horses may need to stay in the barn until there is sufficient snow to cover them or it melts. Some horse owners will outfit their horses with studded horseshoes just to avoid an accident at pasture. In general, horses will avoid ice naturally, but sometimes, they get goofing around and don’t pay attention to the footing.

Horses are quite adapted to cold weather and as long as they don’t get wet from rain, snow or sweat, they are very comfortable being outside. Wintertime in Maine has its challenges for keeping horses, but the opportunities for some spectacular riding should not be missed. If a horse — not a rider — is barefoot and bareback, riding amongst the snow covered pine trees is a dreamy way to get through the winter.