Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fantasyland, but no Disney

This time of year, for me, riding horses becomes a lot like Fantasyland and includes a series of disconnected attempts at reaching some far-off goal.  The main reason for this is the winter weather.  It is never the same anymore, one year to the next, but whatever it is, it makes riding extremely difficult for those of me who don’t have an indoor arena.
 Winter riding in the Twin Tiers: 50 lbs of clothes and a 3-inch haircoat

If it’s rain, as we have had this winter here in the Northeast, it’s buckets of rain.  It has soaked the ground, and the sun doesn’t shine long enough, often enough or hot enough to dry anything up.  Ergo, any time it’s warmer than 15 degrees, the ground is soft, slippery and sloppy.  

These actually have been our conditions for a couple of months now, so I won’t even bother to illustrate what will happen when the buckets of rain turn into snow, except to say that our footing will, at the base, then become two inches of ice, interspersed with mud and high drifts, until May, when the ice melts and we only have mud again.

Florida is looking better all the time.

So anyway, one has to ride between the weather issues, namely rain and icy winds.  Because rain and icy winds occur most of the time, the horses don’t get ridden enough to start to fall into a routine, so every time out is new, exciting and full of danger. 

The danger is perceived for them and real for me. 

Whatever horse I work with is what you might describe as naturally collected.  You might also describe it as a keg of dynamite.   The latter described Hudson yesterday when I took her out, hoping to find some dry ground.  I didn’t want to take her up the dirt road, because she was so tight I didn’t think it would be a safe choice, so we stuck to the soggy hay fields, leaving deep, water-filled hoof holes wherever we went. 

It was a surreal sort of ride.  My focus was mainly on forward.  Hers appeared to be on backwards and sideways and a little bit of straight up.  At one point she stopped cold and started going backwards, which is her way of evading the path I have told her to follow.  I gave her one sharp smack with a short crop and her hind legs both kicked straight out behind her in response.  Luckily for me, she is so fat and out of shape that’s about all she can do.

Unless I am able to get her out regularly, this is what I will ride every time.  While there is a lot to learn from this type of ride, making actual progress toward any goal is basically Fantasyland.  And to be honest, in taking Hudson out, all I want is a fun ride around the property, since I’m not expecting to work her toward any particular competition or event this coming year.  I just want her to be safe for my niece to ride when she visits in March.
Stormkite, learning to ground tie.

Since my main goal for the winter is getting Dee and Stormkite riding satisfactorily, most of my work is with them, and a lot of it is occurring in the stable.  Stormkite, for instance, is finding that he needs to follow my leadership as he learns to ground tie. 

If you ever want to see if your horse has accepted you as the leader, try teaching him to ground tie.  It’s eye opening and humbling, but at least it doesn't involve mud.

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