Last winter was really rough for Miles and I; we struggled with blanket rubs, funky skin and coat, attitude issues and behavioral problems. We’ve come a long way since then and I really don’t want our progress to slide back this winter. I’ve gone back and forth with anyone who will listen about what is best for Miles. I’m convinced he has seasonal affectiveness disorder, just like me — but what does that mean for his training? What can I do to make this time easier for him? What is reasonable to expect? Trainer and I discussed our plan during the last lesson to keep Miles happy in mind, body and soul.
My first order of business is to keep Miles’ brain engaged without overwhelming him, which can be easy to do this time of year when he’s feeling blue. So I’m going to keep my rides light and short when possible, and avoid introducing any new or particularly difficult subjects. We’re going to stick mostly to the walk and trot to work on suppleness, bending and some more “advanced” flatwork like leg yields. At the canter, all I’m going to focus on is forward. My mantra shall be gallop, gallop, gallop down the long sides! What I’m not going to do is hammer upward transitions [which occur more slowly than I’d like indoors], or worry about how high I’m jumping.
Next I’m going to take care of Miles’ body by doing regular bucket baths and dousing him in Healthy Hair Care and Laser Sheen. I know spa treatment isn’t Miles’ favorite activity, but I think he’ll be happier if his skin isn’t flaky, dry and itchy all the time. I think at the end of last winter I finally got the blanket rub situation figured out and fixed, so fingers crossed that I don’t have to deal with that this year! Plus, I have my new saddle which should keep any back soreness at bay as well. But if he does need some extra time to warm-up his muscles, that’s a-okay with me! Slow and steady will win this race.
I’m going to really rely on the bond we created this summer to keep Miles’ happy this winter. If he’s being grumpy about a transition, I’m going to walk away for a moment, so to speak by trotting around the ring or making a circle, and then ask for the canter when he’s in a happier place. If he’s feeling particularly lazy, maybe we’ll just tool around at the walk and do absolutely nothing productive. I’m going to feed him cookies, and give him extra turnout whenever possible. Keeping this horse happy is going to be difficult, but I can certainly relate — I hate winter too.