Friday, October 16, 2009

Winter Games

If I were Australian, I would no doubt be using the word CRIKEY a lot this week.   It has been that kind of week!   October 16th and half of New England saw snow today.   Tonight, temperatures are expected to fall into the mid 20's.   And our spectacular fall foliage has been getting shaken off the trees this week by gale force winds.   Crikey indeed.

It seems Mother Nature has full intentions of providing another strong Winter this year.   No question about it.   Thankfully, our horses are getting ready, already growing thick winter coats.

New Hampshire winters and dressage training are not a match made in horsey heaven.   For serious training, indoor arenas are a must.   With the amount of snow we get, it can be quite challenging just FINDING our outdoor arena during dead of winter, let alone getting to it, and then riding in it.

(The indoor arena, sleeping.)

And then there is horse & rider health to consider.   Whether the horses are well clipped and religiously blanketed or not, riding in sub-freezing temperatures must be done with extreme care and consideration about warming up, sweating up, cooling down, and drying off.   What might have been a 90 minute visit to the barn to school one horse in the summer quickly becomes a 150 minute visit in the winter.... or just a 90 minute visit with MUCH LESS actual training time.

In general, when the temperatures in the indoor arena drop below freezing, I personally back off on the intensity of the work.   If I can't comfortably ride without wishing to cover my nose with a scarf, I don't ask my horses to work to the point where they must deep breath ice cold air.   Instead, when the cold spells kick in, we switch over to no speed / low speed winter games.

Winter is a great time for reinforcing the horse & rider partnerships through groundwork.   We bring out the blue plastic tarps, practice trailer loading, play the Parelli 7 games, do tons of walk work including lateral movements and rein back, and then maybe venture outside for a "trail ride" up and down the driveway.

This winter, we will be playing with our new Parelli Horse Balls which arrived last week.   And, just for Piper, maybe we'll even do some special training with plastic flower baskets!

Winter is coming.   Let the games begin!

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