My only childhood memories of horses are being terrified of them and wanting to spend every moment with them anyway 😉 My only consciously amazing memory is from when I was about 15 years old and started having serious jumping training. I loved every minute of it.
What is your best childhood, horse related memory? Was it being gifted your first pony, or an activity you used to do? A competition?
I`ll start us off.
When we were little, and had been good in the lesson, or if it was someone`s birthday, we`d mumble and argue (in the style of Oliver Twist) until someone got up the courage to ask our instructor if “we could gallop to the top”.
Inevitably we were given the go ahead, and at the end of our lesson we would exit the arena and turn right, instead of left towards the yard, and head into the school field. The large 10 acre field on the hill behind the school. The horses started jigging as they knew full well what was about to happen. “Wait until you get round the corner!” Was the final, useless instruction…
The best advice I can give to all frozen horsey people and one that worked fantastically for me is: don’t fight the winter, embrace it!
The more we moan and wish it away the more it is on our minds and the more hate towards it we feel. That in turn brings us down, makes us into a rather depressed and fed up individual who quite easily finds life in the cold a big nuisance.
Quick Fixes for Short Days Blues
Get up early – as early as possible for you, ideally as close to sunrise as you manage. This will win you some daylight hours. If like me you are more of an owl than a lark, get up 10min earlier each morning for a set amount of days – after 10 days you will be getting up 100 minutes earlier than usual.
Train Harder – many professional riders treat winter as their down time to relax and be with the family but if you are reading this you are most likely a horse mad, ambitious amateur. That means that best thing for you to beat those winter blues might be to release as many endorphins into your blood stream as you can. Structured, intensive lessons are a great solution. Not only that you will feel better afterwards but you will be fit and ready for when the spring comes and you can ride more.
Focus – having lessons makes you think, it focuses your efforts and keeps you interested. It’s nice to wander around the arena in the sun or go for a hack on a stunning summer morning but when cold wind presses tears out of your eyeballs you need someone there suffering with you and spurring you on. Your instructor will always be colder standing still than you working out just in case you needed someone out there to feel worse than you feel 😉
Have a winter fitness regime – find something that suits your personality. You don’t have to run on a treadmill for an hour if you hate going to the gym. Pick something you like or perhaps something that you would like to try. I’ve been taking yoga classes for the last few weeks. Even though I still feel as if someone attached my limbs to four horses and let them run wild in a field during the sessions, I feel fabulous afterwards. Having suffered from some shoulders pain I noticed how much more supple I feel. There are plenty of activities to chose from. Go for it and do it once a week or more.
Winter is for Reading 🙂 – this might not be for everyone and parents with young children might struggle here I acknowledge but dark evenings are simply designed for book time 🙂 (or blog time!) If you agree, grab yourself a cup of tea/coffee/wine and start yourself a Winter Reading Ritual.
Stay Warm – thismight seem obvious but it took me years of trial and error to get this right! If you teach and stay outside for 12 hours a day it is extremely difficult to remain warm at all times. Standing still is the worst but equally, when you ride/muck out/hay up etc and sweat, you are then having to spend the rest of the day in damp clothes. Not great for staying warm.
Technical clothes that wick moisture well and keep you warm are not cheap and usually out of reach for many who work with horses or who keep horses on a shoestring budget.
The system that works for me is to have:
1) Layers – and have a change of clothes with you (the bottom layers)
2) Best wool underwear you can find, you will not regret it – I got a very thin wool vest from friend from Norway and it’s been my best winter friend ever since. It is very soft on the skin and unbelievably insulating.
A study published in the journal Social Anthropology suggests that riders and horses can together enter into a unique state of interspecies “co-being”, where human and horse evolves to “fit” better with each other, both physically and mentally.
Anita Maurstad, PhD, a professor at Norway’s University of Tromsø and Dona Davis, PhD and Sarah Cowles BA of the University of South Dakota conducted open-ended interviews with 60 riders in a variety of disciplines in Norway and the mid-west USA to explore their relationship with their horses – why they ride and how this influenced their identity and their family life. They identified three major themes: embodied moments of mutuality, engagements of two agentive individuals, and mutual domestication through being together. Through a process conceptualised as co-being, horse and human meet, attune and change as a result of their meeting, existing as one unique, combined notion within the nature-culture of the…
– a coffee shop with comfy sofas, wooden floors, lovely scent of freshly grounded beans, catch up chat with friends or just a long solitary, me-time with your favourite book…Your coffee or tea in a real cup, hot and delicious.
– a coffee shop, quick, efficient queue, convenient paper cup for you to grab, run and enjoy on your way to another place of your choosing.
Now, out of curiosity, what kind of rider are you dear reader? If riding experiences were coffee, would you eat in or take away? 😉
In my job I meet both the ‘eat in’ riders and ‘take away’ riders. The former like my intensive training days and the 2 hour sessions when they get to groom the horses, be with them in situations other than the riding moments and get to join a long term experience. The ‘eat in’ riders appreciate effort that goes into every detail of training, they are curious, inquisitive and often emphatetic. Teaching these riders is a life long adventure, it’s educational for a coach not only for the student as well as being a process in which horses are the most important element.
You have probably read a million articles about how equine digestion works. You’ve also probably seen the illustrations showing the parts in detail. Have you ever looked at your horse however and wondered what exactly is where?
I present at a lot of seminars and nutrition is a favorite topic. I have discovered that if I use a fun way to engage the audience that I am able to teach this difficult concept at the same time. It starts with a trip to Home Depot. Yup, you read it right. Home Depot.
“This is something very close to my heart as an instructor who is trying to fight with the “booting culture” …I really hope thatyoufind another riding school where standards are higher and understanding of teaching in place.
I wouldn’t believe everyone who says months of lunge lessons are boring as they most likely did not experience a good, fun, creative and educational seat training programme. If they did, they may have another opinion of lunge lessons! I very highly recommend them as seat education for beginner riders is the first step to get rid of switched off/resigned horses.
The time spent on the lunge depends on your general learning ambitions. As an example I keep my beginner riders on the lunge for minimum of 3 months. That’s for your average leisure rider.
If your body awareness and alignment are very good (as advised by your instructor) it might be that you need to focus more on how to use this good posture you have in a way that helps the horse rather than demands…
I must add – I think it would be great if you wrote to Horse & Hound magazine with your experiences. The booting culture must go if riding schools are to survive. More and more riders want to have good basics and ride well. Leisure riders shouldn’t have to loan or buy horses to experience high quality education, they deserve to learn at places where horses are not used as kicking boards.
Good luck with your search”
ARE YOU IN IT FOR FUN OR ABUSE
The subject of brutal and abusive riding, yes let’s call things by its name, comes up often and the fact several posters in the above conversation tried to find excuses for abusive teaching methods is a very sad state of affairs.
Before you read on, I should note that certain amount of assertiveness and confidence is required from riders at all levels. Some amount of firmness and decisiveness is always necessary with some horses and less with others. There is a big difference between assertive riding and abusive riding and that difference is called EDUCATION. Both you and the horse must know why and what for pressure is applied and how to work towards decreasing that pressure to achieve results invisibly.