Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cabin fever frenzy and the Great Warm-Up of March 2015.

Last night Jess's owner, R., and I rode together, as we usually do now on Tuesday evenings.

Well, sort of.  She didn't actually ride.  The horses were all a little bit up, and she lunged and lunged while looking for an opportunity to get on.  It never came, and she left without having ridden.

Riding with someone more scared than I am makes me feel like a pro.

That might not be the nicest thing to say, but I do like feeling proud of myself for having ridden when someone else is letting their fear keep them from it.  To be fair, though, last night was rough.  Each and every horse in the indoor arena during the time I was in there acted bananas at some point or another.  They've all got some serious cabin fever, after two weeks of snow and cold and snow and cold.  And I do understand where she's coming from, because once upon a time, I was scared too (although maybe not ever that scared).

I do get tired of the same people each week questioning whether I (or why I don't) lunge Panama first before I ride.  One boarder actually said, "But I think it's good for them to get out and move a bit," as if my horse isn't kept in the largest corral on the property -- and as if running in tight circles on a lunge line is any substitute for moving around freely in turnout.

In my experience, I can turn Pan out to take the edge off his excess energy, but he's still going to be up when I get on.  (Turning out last night wasn't an option because of all the ice and snowpack in the outdoor arena.)  And lunging Pan works not at all, since he is invariably very quiet and well-behaved on the lunge line (both because he hates lunging and knows he'll get to stop sooner if he's good, and also because he knows I won't put up with any shenanigans on the lunge line -- some people are okay with their horse bucking and tearing around on the line, but I view this as a mishandling of a training tool and a potential safety issue, both for myself and any other horse or human in the arena if he should happen to get loose).  Besides, if Pan is up because of the excitement over riding (usually the case) rather than an excess of energy, the only way for him to not be a handful when I get on is to lunge him until he's positively exhausted, which is 1) no fun for either of us, and 2) indicative of some huge problems in your riding philosophies, in my opinion.

So, no, I don't lunge before I get on.  I've never had to before, and while Pan is a little out of practice right now, he does actually know how to behave himself and listen to my cues and focus on his work when asked.  Lately it has taken him ten minutes or so to settle down and remember these things (like I said, out of practice).  Last night was especially bad because, hey, he's been wearing blankets and has had to watch his footing in the corral for a couple weeks straight... but even so, he eventually did settle down and we got some good trot work done in each direction.  His canter was less than relaxed and his carriage was a bit stiff as a result, but the important thing was that he was listening to my cues and controlling his speed; and I didn't want him to get sweaty that late in the ride, so I called it.

Luckily for all of us, there's finally an end to this cold weather in sight.  After last night's and today's snowstorm is over, we have one more bitterly cold night tonight (it's 18 degrees right now, and will be a whopping 5 degrees overnight) before it warms up.  Tomorrow and Friday are supposed to be in the 40s, with the weekend in the 50s and near 60s early next week.  Hopefully this heat wave will stick around for a little while, because I am thoroughly sick of snow and cold -- not to mention I find it seriously unfair that I should have to be freezing my tail off and dealing with massive amounts of horse hair at the same time!  Isn't the benefit of shedding supposed to be that the weather is warming up?



At March 5, 2015 at 8:15 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I used to have an equitation trainer who wouldn't let me ride until I lunged my horse for a minimum of 20 minutes. At my age now, I'm completely exhausted after 20 minutes of lunging, so I just hop on to save energy and time. The only exceptions are if a horse is stiff and needs to warm up or if the horse isn't focused on me.

At March 6, 2015 at 1:51 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Yikes! Twenty minutes of lunging is a LONG time! It's exhausting for both of you without accomplishing anything (unless the horse is still in training, obviously), not to mention totally boring for both of you. I think there's very little that can't be worked through from the saddle, and it's more important to make work interesting and fun for the horse than to wear it down with lots of senseless lunging.

I usually warm up and get them to focus on me from the saddle. Lots of walking and some light trotting to warm up, and lots of leg yielding and bending and direction changes if they need to focus better.


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