For those who don’t travel south in the winter, February and March can be a challenging time for riders and their horses. Chances are, both riders and horses alike are bored of the indoor arena, repetitive routine and cold weather. It’s during this time of year that we try to find ways to keep our horses happy and mobile so they can perform their best and smoothly transition into the spring and summer season. With this in mind, the winter months can be a great time to mix up your training routine. Not only will this help defeat boredom, but it may also help to tackle the challenges you and your horse have been working on over the winter.
Working with your horse on grid work or gymnastics is a great boredom-buster and provides the opportunity to mix up your riding routine this winter. Equally important is that gymnastics allow you to work on you and your horse’s core strength, balance and communication. There are numerous exercises suitable for all riding levels.
The Practical Horseman always has great articles showcasing different gymnastic exercises you can easily set-up and do with your horse. Peruse their articles to get inspired and try something new in the arena this winter.
Lungeing and Ground Work
Lunging is a great training exercise to introduce in the winter months. Besides providing another tool to combat boredom, lungeing gives your horse the opportunity to move and stretch without a rider on their back. There’s a lot to be accomplished with lungeing when considering your horse’s weaknesses or general fitness level. Perhaps your horse is weaker in one direction than the other, or needs to work on engaging their hind end more. Lungeing provides the opportunity for you to observe your horse move from the ground and possibly notice things that you may not feel in the saddle or can’t always identify clearly.
Introducing side reins, poles and raised cavalettis is a great way to work on strengthening your horse over the winter. By giving them a different way to work and use their body, you can mix up their training routine and also effectively address weak points. Ground work also provides an opportunity to develop a stronger connection with your horse that can support progress in the saddle.
Without the pressures of show season, why not try something completely different this winter and explore natural horsemanship with your horse. Not only will you learn new tools to effectively communicate your horse, but you may also discover another area of the horse world that sparks your interest.
Hopefully these boredom busters help to give both you and your horse a fresh take on winter time spent in the arena!
Until next time, happy riding!