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February 04, 2014
Western Pennsylvania is no stranger to the seasons. Actually, it’s one of the perks of living here. We have winter, spring, summer and fall. But for those of us who are equestrians, two of these seasons can be brutal - super hot or super cold.
This winter, however, has been awful. Snow, ice, bitter cold – and I mean BITTER! Between the horses and the riders, we are crawling out of our skins just looking for a glimmer of consistency in our routine. Barn work is nearly unbearable – breaking buckets and scooping frozen turds is really getting old.
Riders have had to get resourceful, as we all know the consequences to hopping on a “fresh” horse who has been cooped up for days in this weather.
Spring can’t come soon enough. Really… 50s, 60s, gosh even 40s at this point sound amazing. But let’s be honest, winter riding, especially for those of us up north, gives us time to work on the basics. We may not be jumping full courses on a daily basis, and we clearly aren’t out galloping cross country, but we can keep at it.
Winter trail riding is one of my favorite things to do. It’s good for your mind and that of your equine friend. Getting out and doing more than ring work is often a welcome change. It doesn’t have to be long. A hack through the field or a walking ride through the woods can give us our ‘fix,’ even if it is just for a little bit.
For those privileged enough to have indoor arenas, why not take it back to the basics? We hear it time and time again, “you can always improve on your flat work.” Take this time to do it! It will absolutely help you come spring. Work some ground poles and cavalettis into the mix.
And trust me, there have been nights where it seems even too cold to tack up! I don’t even want to take my hands out of my gloves to tighten a girth – are you kidding? But a bareback ride can absolutely be worth it. The horse keeps you warm, and heck, even throw a cooler over the two of you. Furthermore, bareback riding gives you the opportunity to work on YOURSELF. Your position. Your strength. No one rides bareback enough. Test your skills.
Also, a nice, easy lunge can make all the difference and be a helpful change in your horse’s routine. Using side reins or a balancing system can be a challenge, and a good workout, even for the most seasoned horse.
Even though that Phil told us six more weeks of winter, I certainly hope that doesn’t mean six more weeks of misery. Hang in there pony friends, there is a light at the end of this wintery tunnel!
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