Skip to main content

Steps to De-Stress

After totally wigging out last week about Miles’s stiffness and coat condition, everyone commented with ideas and suggestions. As I mulled them over at the barn on Friday, my BFF N stepped in and helped me sort everything out. She looked at Miles’s coat as I was tacking up and then watched me ride and gave me a few tips. So after all of this, I not only learned that it takes a village to keep myself and Miles from spontaneous combustion, but I also came up with a plan of attack to help not only with our “stiffness” but also with Miles’ poor coat condition.

Step 1: Monthly Bucket Baths

Miles has fine hair, and not the best skin. So when he wears blankets, all the dirt has nowhere to go. To combat this, I broke out an old winter favorite: the bucket bath. For those of you not in the frigid north, this is how you bathe your horse when it’s below freezing. Okay, so it was 45 degrees on Saturday here, but close enough.

Torture is made marginally better by doing it with friends.

So how do you it? You fill a bucket with warm water and put it about a tablespoon of your favorite shampoo. You then dip a towel in your bucket and rub your horse from nose to tail. Bring multiple towels, so as you lift the dirt you can switch to a clean towel. I also like to keep a few dry towels on hand to help with the drying process. Put on a few coolers after you finish, and voila! You might not have a “clean” horse, but he’ll definitely be cleaner than before.

I deserve a cookie for this. Cookie now?! 

Step 2: Beef Up Daily Grooming

Pretty much everyone said the same thing about Miles’s coat: more elbow grease! I whined and complained about how Miles hates to be brushed, especially curried… so I haven’t been doing it as much. And you all said that I need to put on my big girl panties and do it anyways. FINE!

I washed all my brushes, and am committed to currying the beast before and after every single ride. Miles wanted me to tell you all that he hates you, so you better send cookies to get back in his good graces. But in all seriousness, I think this will help a lot. I also added a coating of healthy hair care moisturizer and laser sheen after the post-ride brushing not only to help his coat look the best, but also in hopes that it will decrease the friction from his blanket.

I’m also dabbing on MTG to his blanket rubs everyday. I’ve never used the stuff before, but ya’ll seem to love it so we’re going to give it a go.

Step 3: New Warm-Up Routine

To help with Miles’s occasional stiffness, I’m going to try a new warm-up with him. Instead of slowly building up to the canter with lots of walk/trot work first, I’m going to do a few laps of walk/trot and then go straight into the canter. I’ll stay in my half seat, up and off his back, and let him do whatever he needs to in order to stretch out. Then after that, we will go back to the walk and trot and begin our ride.

I tried this new routine on Saturday and Sunday, and while Miles didn’t come out stiff, it really helped us get into a frame more quickly and we had better transitions to the canter after our initial warm-up. So for now, I think I’m going to stick with it.

SO TIRED after 20 minutes of real work.

Step 4: Insist

Part of Miles’s “stiffness” is really just him declining to participate. Okay, so last Thursday he was probably legitimately stiff, but the rest of the time I don’t think he really is… at least not to the degree that I thought. He’s going around with his head in the air because he doesn’t want to work and go in a frame.

So I borrowed some rubber roller spurs to help make myself clear: I mean forward NOW. And when I ask you not to fall in at the canter, I really mean move off my inside leg NOW. So far, they’re working out well! Miles respects them and they don’t offend him. We’ll see how they work out over fences in my next lesson.

Thanks to everyone who commented with ideas and commiserated that the winter sucks!


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

18 thoughts on “Steps to De-Stress

  1. How does Miles feel about massage? I know of a ticklish chestnut at my barn who relaxed a little when she got “massaged” instead of “curried”. Nevermind that it was the same grooma tool. When I massage the Fancy Pony, we knock off a ton of mud and grime with it. Just a thought! 🙂

  2. Aw, I have a ticklish redhead too. He actually learned to relax into the curry when I switched to a curry mitt. They’re cheap and also great for muddy faces and legs.

    I’m interested in seeing how well the MTG works for you, I’ve never used it!

  3. I second (third?) the canter early approach to warmup. Worked wonders when Cash was still rideable.

    Also for the stiffness, have you tried doing carrot stretches, back lifts, and leg stretches before and after you ride? I do them with my guys, and even just a few times per week can really make a difference! Of course, I should probably stretch *myself* too… lol!

  4. I use MTG on the mane and tail only, but not diligently enough. However, I do think it works for the sparing times that I bother to use it. I did by the new, nicer smelling version from SP and its DEF less sulfur smelly. I also use Hair Moisturizer for mane and tail and LOVE it. I keep it in spray bottle and use before combing to help his brittle hair stay stronger. Sounds like you have a solid plan in place. GL!

  5. Oh the bucket bath. We even do them with alcohol sometimes. Like a small amount of alcohol in warm water. Seems to help with the itchies.

    Glad that you have a plan of action. A lot of people go right to canter in warm up, sometimes it helps the horses actually warm up better. Hope that’s the case for you 🙂

  6. I like your list 🙂 I definitely think it’s one of the hardest things to push a horse you love through their stiffness… but think of you, if you’re stiff, what’s the best remedy? sit around and do nothing? nope, that’ll only make it worse… you have to push yourself past where it’s comfortable to do stretches and exercises to strengthen your muscles! I try to remind myself of that when I’m working with Wiz. But it’s still a balancing act of learning how far to push them and when to back off! That’s the hard part 🙂 Also, Wiz hates to be curried too… I think he’s ticklish. But I *try* to do it anyway… it’s a pain though, I feel you…

    Oh, and my trainer likes to say “not every horse has to warm up walk-trot-canter. If they warm up better at a canter, then let them!” 🙂

    I like your plan of attack though! Hang in there!

Comments are closed.