The concept of “managing” a horse wasn’t something I thought much about before I bought Miles. My first horse didn’t really require any management, he was a yes man and very easy going. Miles is more opinionated, and certainly not a glass half-full kind of guy. Over the last four years I’ve learned that winter is the most difficult time of year for Miles and that it requires very thoughtful management. Part of that is also managing me as a rider… which is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Each year I’ve tried something different, and while I hesitate to say it out loud in case I jinx myself, so far this year’s plan has been the most successful.
I have to confess that I was the tiniest bit nervous for my lesson on Thursday. Miles and I don’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to jumping indoors, and we hadn’t done much riding (much less jumping) in the last two months. In fact, the last line of jumps we conquered was at our horse show in October. With our clinic looming closer and closer, I figured I should probably make sure the wheels didn’t rust… and that I hadn’t forgotten how to jump my horse.
Miles and I have been together for 3 years now, and I think I’m finally starting to really figure him out. It sounds silly… like why would it take me 1,095 days to understand my horse and his needs? But that’s honest to goodness what it feels like. After our stellar final show of the season, I backed way off of riding Miles, and I plan to continue to only ride him lightly throughout the entire winter. So, what’s he been up to then?
I’m a ring baby — I grew up riding in a ring, and while I went on the occasional trail ride at the first barn I ever rode at, I was focused more on showing. After I bought my first horse, I moved to a barn that didn’t have access to trails and we only hauled out one time for trail ride that I can remember. And that’s been pretty much my experience trail riding except for one ride in a Metropark in 2011. Now I’m lucky enough to board at a facility with direct access to miles of groomed trails, and I’ve been logging some time riding outside of the arena. When a last-minute chance to haul out to a nature reserve with tons of bridle paths presented itself this week, I jumped on it!
Sometimes when I think about Miles, I see things in columns. Pros versus Cons, What I Got versus What I Wanted, Things I Compromised On versus Pleasant Surprises. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but one thing has been really on the forefront of my mind lately. Miles is a grumpy horse, which I knew when I bought him… but he’s much more grumpy than I originally anticipated. It can be a really frustrating quality sometimes, but instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong, I’d rather figure out what I can actively do to make things better.