The boys have been doing absolutely fantastic. My mom came down and helped film me while I was riding and helped me out with some issues I’ve been having, which in turn both helped me figure out what I need to do to fix it. Did you know filming yourself really seems to highlight all the wrong things your doing?! *cringe* It was actually quite painful to watch. I mean I wasn’t really that bad, but there were defiantly things I could see that I was unintentionally doing and I’ve been working to fix those habits. But this was all in the arena….now today I really changed it up!
I’ve been relatively short on time lately. Getting out of work late is crimping my style….really it is…So I wanted to do something I could do with both boys together to maximize both my time with them and my time at home (*ahem* writing this blog, laundry, making food etc.) So we nixed the arena and I gathered their lead ropes and a grip of courage and headed out with the boys. Now to clarify, I was not riding them. We all headed out on foot.
Now my timing probably wasn’t the best since it was fairly busy with people going home from work. I don’t have wonderfully huge pasture to go galavanting around so I had to walk and jog the roads (yes jog! I got my exercise too in boots no less!) So we started out down the scary road. Because of the humidity the power lines were crackling, the wind was blowing hard causing the trees to really rustle and sway, and lets not forget about the traffic! It was a true test for the boys.
I can say I am so very proud that both of the boys passed with flying colors! Cash acted like a champ and really was a great horse to lead Jack with. He happily walked and trotted down the road keeping a great pace and really working with me to give Jack a very positive run. He never once even thought about spooking and I’m pretty sure got bored about half way around judging by how often he started dodging to the side of the road for grass.
Jack was not so sure of what was going on. He was pretty positive I was attempting to lead him to his death BUT he never once spooked or tried to bolt. There was lots of snorting and eyeing of objects and the occasional poop but he kept a level head. No matter if cars whizzed by him or birds flew up he just kept on right with Cash and myself. For being 3 years old just now really seeing the world I am highly impressed! Ok I lied, he did spook once but he waited until we were back at the barn and spooked at a tarp blowing, so I shall over look it.
I think getting out of the arena is such a necessity for horses no matter what discipline you ride in. It not only is a time that can really relax you and the horses but really opens up the horses to new experiences. Sometimes these rides don’t go so well. The horses get keyed up and spooky but more often then not if you keep your cool the horses will calm down and carry on. I think in a round about way it really helps prep for show environments, especially if your riding on a not so perfect weather day. The trees get to rustling, grocery bags fly around, stuff snaps and cracks and just looks weird. Isn’t this exactly what happens at shows? It’s a more natural environment but still similar experiences.
The trails really help build muscles to. Hills and valleys and just different terrain help horses gain balance and keeps them interested. Some of the best work with my horses i get for dressage is out on the trails. Why not ask for a bit of side pass to the other side of the trail or an even canter on a slight slope up to build those haunches? To emphasize this point, even Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin take their horses out on hacks! And they are in the dressage community. A community very noted for not ever wanting to leave the arena or the perfect footing that accompanies it. (ok ok don’t all mob me. I know it doesn’t apply to every dressage person)
Also, I think walking and jogging with the horses on foot is also a great idea. The boys really seem to get a better connection with me when I do this. Cash especially. He really follows my body language. He goes right next to me and transitions up and down exactly when I do it, without me even having to say a word. I’ll have to take Jack out on his own next time and see if it works for him to. He was mirroring Cash.
To add a tid bit of history education…Back when mounted cavalry was still utilized the cavalry men would routinely run with their horses on foot. This helped both the horses and riders keep endurance and practice for when they had to head out. Cavalry always had walking portions when ever they were in transit to their destination. They would ride so many miles and then get off and walk so many miles with their horses in order to keep the horses sound and to cover as much ground as possible without loosing the capabilities of the cavalry. They also did most of their moving at the trot and walk not a wild gallop like the movies. It’s hard to fight from horseback if the horses are absolutely tuckered out from just getting where your going and it wasn’t unheard of for them to go 20 miles a day either. (pretty impressive if you ask me!)
So when you are out on the trail don’t be afraid to get off and walk. Getting on may get interesting at times (its always good to practice mounting from the right side just in case) but it’s well worth it for you and your horse!