Friday, February 13, 2015

Cold Riding: Marvelous Miss and Rockin' Red

It's been very cold, with below zero wind chills.  I hadn't ridden for several days - my usual rule is I don't ride when it's below 20F - the temperature in the indoor is about the same as the outside, and even with my good cold weather riding gear (particularly my Mountain Horse coat, that I couldn't live without), below 20 is just too cold, at least for me.

It didn't make it to 20 today, but it was about 18 and that had to do.  It's going to be really cold over the weekend, so this was the only day in a long stretch that looked possible, so we went for it.

My new routine - trying to ride mindfully and not mechanically - usually involves riding Dawn in the early morning when the arena is empty, and two horses in the afternoon, if I have time taking into account other things that are going on.  To make sure everyone gets a fair share, I rotate these rides among Pie, Red and Miss. So if I ride Miss and Red one day, the next day I ride I'll ride Red and Pie, and then Pie and Miss, etc.  That way each horse gets two rides in a row so we can build some continuity in our work - not working too well right now because of the cold limiting the days we ride, but it keeps things even.  I also change up the order - if Miss is second in the order one day, she's first the next time.  This pace isn't frantic and allows me to groom and have adequate time to ride each horse mindfully.  Each horse is being ridden a bit less often, but that's OK.  I signal to my horses that they are going to be ridden by leaving their halters on after grooming - I groom all 4 before I ride - so they can take care of any business before we ride.

Right now it's been way too cold in the mornings to ride Dawn.  She also has a troublesome small injury on the inside of her left hind below the hock that still seems to be bothering her, although it's scabbed over.  It's in a somewhat problematic spot (splint bone, anyone?), and I'm hoping it's not anything significant but we'll have to see.

Today, although it was really, really cold (at least for me), I wanted to ride since it was our only chance for a number of days.  It was Miss's and Red's turn.  Miss had had two days off, and Red had had three.

They both couldn't have been more perfect, with no groundwork or lungeing beforehand.  Miss did everything I asked perfectly, despite a very crowded arena with galloping horses (really galloping, not great in crowds . . .)  The wind was howling, the arena was groaning and the doors were banging, but she was just great.  She now stands like a rock for mounting and waits for my signal to move off.  Her softness is very consistent and she backs softly at the merest touch of a rein.  Her bending and moving off my leg are really improving.  We're working on her halt and lengthening/shortening, both off of feel rather than rein and leg aids. We only walked this ride - we'll try trot again next week to see how her feet are doing.  I'm seeing changes in the bottoms of her fronts - the sulci cracks are beginning to open out and the thrush is better.  She's also got a strip of new hoof growth at the top of each hoof that looks really good - her feet are already changing and improving even though she's only about 4 weeks out of shoes.  All this time at the walk isn't wasted - every time we ride we reinforce what we're doing and it'll all carry forward into the work in the future.

Red was also a star.  He was forward, and soft and delightfully engaged in both shorter and lengthened trot.  No issues with the noise level in the arena, the banging doors or the scary corners.  There was a large chunk of snow in one of the other corners, and he looked at it once and that was that.  He was on, he was rocking.

I told both horses that they were stars - you can't ask for better than that.

Might get some rides in Monday if the forecast holds . . .

And I'm also working to coordinate two dental days at our barn with our excellent natural balance equine dentist, Mike Fragale - 14 horses, 2 days, 9 owners (not all of whom can be there) - talk about complicated!


  1. I give you credit for riding in the cold. I'm just not even bothering right now. Was 2 degrees this morning without wind chill factored in. Supposed to snow again and again. Sounds like everybody is doing really well. I also believe that walking is one of the best exercises between horse and rider for getting it right before moving on to other gaits. Stay warm.

  2. You're a trooper Kate! And isn't Red improving! I think secretly he is your heart horse.

    1. Shhh! We can't tell anyone else . . . And in fact all 4 of them are my heart horses, each in a different way.


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