As you have no doubt realized, winter on the Central Coast is upon us. Sure, the Holidays are over, but for us Californians, that means that the wettest part of the year is yet to come. As evidenced by the downpour of rain we experienced this week, rainy season riding strategies need to be on the forefront of our minds.
Take A Break
As the wet weather looms, many of us take this time to give ourselves, and our horses, a little break from the day to day work routine. Some people choose to turn their horses out to pasture, while others bundle them up in blankets and buy stock in shavings. Either way, January through March can be the perfect time to slow down and recharge your batteries, while allowing your horse to do the same. There is no guilt in pulling your horse’s shoes, giving him a little extra grass hay to munch on throughout the day and look forward to “getting back into shape” in April. So long as you are able to give your horse ample turn out time, unless he’s on pasture, this can be a great time to catch upon cleaning up after the holidays, getting your yearly budget ready, or even spending some more time with friends.
Work Out at the Walk
There’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than slogging around in the mud on a fresh horse. One wrong move, a slip, and you could have a major issue on your hands. Muddy ground doesn’t mean that you can’t safely ride, though, it just means that you must take extra care, choose the right locations, and dial back your training routine. During the peak of riding season, we’re used to going full steam ahead, and we sometimes forget that slowing down and working on things at the walk can be extremely beneficial. The rainy season is a great excuse to do just that. Work on your flexions, bending, turning, collecting and moving out on a loose rein. Choose a nice, flat, area that isn’t dangerous and work on making “straight lines” (it’s harder than we often realize). These “slow sessions” can truly be a blessing to your relationship with your horse, and can help to keep him in shape for when the rains subside.
Bond on the Ground
If you’re not up for getting into the saddle while it’s wet and muddy, learn the art of bonding on the ground. There are a lot of things that we overlook during the peak of riding season – a horse who may get a little too much in our space, a horse who likes to pull or push, a horse who doesn’t pick up his feet promptly. For those of us who grew up doing “showmanship in hand”, we can tell you how important (and how much work) is involved in having a responsive horse on the ground. Get out your best halter and a nice, cotton lead rope and start working on that relationship with your horse on the ground.
Obstacle and Desensitization Fun
Another great thing to do with your horse when it’s too wet to ride is working on obstacles and desensitization. Get yourself some ground poles, cones, flags, balloons, even one of those “scary steer heads” that many horses lose their minds over, and find a nice area where its easy and safe to walk. Begin introducing your horse to these things little by little, and make your inability to get into the saddle a good learning time. It’s always best to begin desensitization on the ground anyway, why not do so when you aren’t able to ride?
We hope that these rainy season riding strategies help you make your way through the next couple of months. Remember, April is just around the corner and you’ll be hitting the spring trails in no time!