I’m a chronic planner and convicted over-thinker… especially when it comes to my animals. Winter is the most difficult time of year to successfully manage Miles, and each year I’ve worked with my Trainer to come up with a plan to (hopefully) set us up for success. However, it wasn’t until this year that I really felt like the plan worked.
Really, it was a confluence of events that allowed me to feel comfortable with this plan… and I worry that I won’t be able to replicate that every year. But regardless, it worked really well this year. After our last horse show in October, Miles got a break. We did some off-property trail rides, but mostly Miles got some let-down time. My winter plan was to work Miles twice a week and not sweat it if my schedule changed and Miles ended up getting worked less. The goals I hoped to accomplish with this plan included:
- Mental and physical break
- Manage Miles’ winter blues
- Keeping my confidence
I wanted both Miles and I to get a break – we worked really hard during the show season on accomplishing some tough stuff for us as a team. And we did! But we both needed a break after that. Miles has SAD (I’m only partially joking) and his attitude just… sucks in the winter. We typically end up arguing and our training slides back – so we worked less to avoid the monotony of riding circles in the indoor. I also didn’t want to pick fights for another reason: my confidence. I ended the show season truly trusting my horse and that trust was hard-won; I don’t want to lose it.
Overall, the plan worked really well. We both got a break from jumping. In fact, Miles jumped twice in December, including our clinic with Scott DeHelian. Then he jumped twice in March and now we’re starting to build back up to regular, weekly lessons. One of the ways I kept my confidence up was to ride less by adding in weekly lunging in the Pessoa. I’m not a huge proponent of lunging all the time, but for Miles and I this strategy worked really well. It kept him in excellent shape despite not working too much, and I didn’t lose confidence because I wasn’t on his back if acted silly. So the things that worked really well:
- Working 2-3 times a week
- Lunging in the Pessoa
- Trace clip (vs full body clip)
Of course, no plan is perfect. I need to remember to keep calm in early spring and not stress about riding too much until I can ride outside consistently. Continuing to try to ride outside the ring as much as possible is also key. I need to be more aware of the turnout situation as well, and factor that into Miles’ attitude. If he’s getting less turnout, I need to allow for more free lunging to let him get his energy out. It’s not a bad thing – it means he’s feeling good! – but instead of trying to ride it out, I just need to let him go. A few things I’d like to remember and consider for next year:
- Keep calm in March
- Ride outside and on the trails
- Free lunge in early spring
- Training rides