Thursday, 10 November 2016

A Winter Game Plan

Winter is Coming.... It hasn't truly hit yet, but I know it will. I'm still trying to prepare myself.

I tend towards pretty long rides with Kachina. The average is a bit over an hour. There are a lot of walk breaks in those rides and they don't have a lot of sustained effort, but they are still long. Kachina is a horse that likes repetition, and she sometimes takes quite a while to relax, so long rides work for getting the best work from her.

However, the downside of long rides is that when I do ride, I spend most of the evening out at the barn, and if I don't have all night I sometimes won't go out to ride at all. This problem is compounded in the winter, because a longer ride equals more sweat and more time spent cooling her out and drying her off before I can turn her back out (the disadvantage of a horse who lives out 24/7).

Tuesday night after riding - sure the sunset is pretty, but it doesn't have to be so early!
This photo was taken at 5 freaking 30 and the sun was far enough below the horizon
that it was hard to see the ground on the way back to Kachina's pen.

This week has been spectacularly warm for November. My heart cries a little for how much our climate is changing, but I can't help but enjoy the nice week. I've been leaving work as soon as I can and going straight to the barn to catch the remaining light and ride outside. Daylight savings time is stupid (so stupid!), so that means that I have less than half an hour to ride before it gets too dark. The timing issue with the sun is really only an impact for this week. By next week it will already be too dark when I leave work and I'll be relegated to the indoor arena until April (during the week at least). However, my short rides this week have taught me that I can get good work out of Kachina in a 20-30 minute ride.

This is a pretty cool discovery. The fact that we need less time to achieve relaxed paces, steady tempo, and soft bend shows that what I'm doing is working. Also, it gives me a game plan for winter. I'm going to attempt to do a lot more of these short rides through the winter. That way we still get to work on things, but I don't have to spend as long in the cold barn, Kachina gets less sweaty, and I'm home early enough to do other things that night if I need to (yesterday I got my ride in after work and still had time to go home and change before meeting some friends to go to the movie Dr. Strange).

How dark it was when I dismounted last night
(I really stretched my ride as long as I could)

It's a small change, but it requires a fundamental change in the way I plan my rides. I need to focus on fewer things per ride and call it a day after some good work instead of just having a walk break and moving on to something more. It's going to take some getting used to but I'm excited to try this new approach.

Do you adjust the format of your rides between seasons?


  1. When I am short on time I stick to picking easy things and save working on the hard stuff for when I have more time. I also plan my ride based on how the horse feels when I first get on. If the are sticky I'll change my goal just to getting them soft and supple. If they feel really good and in tune, I'll challenge them a bit more but let them be done if they step up to the plate. I've seriously had rides where I did maybe 10 minutes of "work."

    1. That sounds like exactly what I need to start doing

  2. That is a great plan! All horses live outside so I definitely do shorter winter rides to avoid having to dry off sweaty ponies.

    1. Drying off sweaty hairy horses is the worst! In past winters I have made other changes like spending more time in walk than trot or canter, or doing ground work instead of riding on super cold days, but shorter rides really didn't work for us before so this will be the first time I try this way.