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.
Previously, I’ve written detailed descriptions of what I planned to do and what I wanted to work on with Miles. This year, I took a more practical approach to ‘go with the flow’ and worry less about preparing for spring and summer. I’m sure our circumstances help a lot with this decision — I’m not trying to move up in height next year, and I’m not trying to work on a huge new skill like finding my pace. I really just want to maintain our current level, and improve upon the details. Less pressure means I feel like I don’t need to plan as much. See managing the rider. Despite the lack of a detailed plan, I do have a loose plan. I wanted to bump Miles’s riding way back to only twice a week or so, and I wanted to ride outside as much as possible.
While the weather hasn’t allowed for much riding outside, I have stuck to my plan of only riding twice a week — sometimes even less. Recently I also added in lunging once a week in a Pessoa rig, something I’ve never done before. My thought process was that lunging gets him out and working lightly one more time a week, which will help his fitness as we begin to think about spring and starting conditioning for show season. Plus, we can’t really argue very much while lunging, and he certainly can’t ruin my confidence since I’m already on the ground. By lunging in the Pessoa, I’m encouraging that he move properly, developing his topline and working on creating more power and thrust from the hind end. Last week I even splurged a bit, and after noticing for a few rides Miles seemed more stiff to the left than usual, I called the chiropractor out for an adjustment. I’m glad I did, because he was significantly out in his poll and upper neck, after playing too hard with his pasture-mate.
So finally yesterday I rode for the first time in about a week or so (thanks, sickness!) and holy cow did my horse feel freaking fantastic. I mean, he felt just as good, if not better, than he did in the middle of show season. He was tracking up and swinging through his back at the walk; he had on his big, lofty, hack-winning trot; his canter was smooth and balanced, and he was so happy we were able to work on adjustability of his canter stride. Who is this winter horse, and where did Miles go?!