When it’s cold outside sorry to disappoint peeps - I have to drag myself to ride. I envy all you cold lovers – if it’s less than 50 out I’m a whiner. I go outside, and any exposed skin is screaming – Fleece! Fleece! Cover me with FLEECE! To prepare myself I drive to the barn with the heat cranked! I have to keep the window cracked a bit, so I get a little fresh air to keep my nasal passages from drying out and my nostrils sticking to the sides. If I’m feeling like I should strip down to my skivvies by the time I get to the barn I’m just about warm enough. If you’re not living in warm ideal conditions or have an enclosed climate controlled covered then you get to battle the elements and in the cold the struggle is real. I plan my week with the weather forecast and pick out something to work on that is simple, so I can get on and get it done. I want to work my horse since their turn out may be shorter due to icky weather and because it makes me feel so much better about everything else during our cold dark times. Here’s a plug for all you barn mangers out there - it’s true – sometimes we must leave our equine friends in, so we can save the pastures! Anyone who has every brought in a mud bunny masquerading as a horse or watched your horse grow a foot when the leave that muddy area in front of the gate knows this quite well! You want your horse to get exercise, but you also want grass in Spring. You have to be your horses exercise! Get those layers on! My favs are cuddle duds (a warm soft slice of heaven!). Then some riding pants with fleece and a windbreaker and lightweight but insulated jacket. There is a rule - there is colder temps and more wind at the barn than anywhere else on the planet. Now get on your horse and don’t dawdle already – they are cold too! If you see your horses looks suddenly extra fuzzy that means, its hair is standing up and keeping the horse warm. So, move your horse! Expect the first few minutes to be a bit sluggish. You would be stiff too if you went out to run in the cold and have to let your body warm up vs running on a hot day when your body is already ‘warm’. Get a good trot or canter going so the horse can get its blood pumping and the joints lubricated. I don’t get too picky as to what I’m doing here – I’m just focusing on moving the horse’s body forward and letting my body warm up as well. It’s actually a good idea to be less fancy and just focus on can you transition straight and even on both reins from all gaits. Keep it simple since your also using brain power to say repeatedly – crap it’s cold I can’t feel another body part! But back to those transitions. Can you do it quietly and straight on the rail with not too much rein? Try it on the diagonal? Is your horse drifting? Did you forget the leg? Does your horse respond to your cues and how subtle can you make them? Focus on just being super content with forward motion. Not running to the point of insanity – but when you move through the gaits the horse should eventually ‘move quick’ to your aids and be lively. Keep telling yourself that you could just cruise around, changing direction, changing gaits, with ‘fluidity’ and activity all day long. Get your face and body used to the feeling of the forward energy into the cold wind. For my older horses I don’t get to lateral in cold wet footing. I want them sound for the show season and this is just an exercise/bonding session made from ‘work in the trenches’ with focus on the quality of simple things like me not doing too much and transitions just floating from abdomen and back muscles supported by my seat and legs. My young horses I want the to get used to that cold wind that whips them in the face no matter what direction we are heading in arena or on the hack. What is it with horses and head winds anyway? Study your horse on your walk breaks and pay attention to your horses breathing and sweating – you don’t want then overheating in the cold and then being really wet from sweat. And, remember you decide if the weather and the conditions are good enough for you to ride. Its an outdoor sport after all and there is a rule that competitions bring out the worst weather – The WEG at Tryon and the hurricane anyone? But still – you and your equine partner need to stay safe and sound for the show season. Riding in not perfect conditions has to happen and it makes you two the warriors you need to be! But balance my friends! Balance! Nothing worse than sliding in a frozen or overly wet arena and coming off or your horse straining something. When you’re indoors sipping that cup of hot cocoa put together your weekly riding plan don’t forget to prepare for the elements!
Stay tuned for next week’s Two-minute Training Tip! If you need help building a training plan you can always comment below or email me at email@example.com. Check out our YouTube channel and revelationfarm.com for upcoming events. We have a stall opening! Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RevelationFm!