I love to work on good surfaces, who doesn’t, but the many voices of riders who have their lessons with me in a large field at Aspire’s little base while we are awaiting the new arena to be constructed saying how difficult it is to ride on uneven ground, made me feel grateful for this temporary situation… Here’s why.
When a rider learns to ride in the arena on fantastically, artificially non-slippery, perfectly stable and beautifully raked surface, 99% of the riding theory can be as artificial and empty as the surface itself. The rider rarely experiences the “punishment” they apply to a horse with sharp use of aids or wobbly, unstable seat or rough turn to the same degree as they can when riding in a field. Every stiff movement causes plethora of issues that simply go unnoticed on an immaculate surface.
The same goes for the horses. When worked through basic paces and small jumps, the variety of surfaces teaches them to look after themselves, to pick their feet, to be aware and watchful.
Planning lines and corners becomes a necessity if any form of track can be ridden and thinking ahead is starting to have a different meaning too. Reaction time increases and so does body awareness in motion.
My Foundation level riders don’t notice it yet so well but these weeks on grass already has had a great impact on their riding and although partially I can’t wait for the construction to start, the other part of me is very happy to have had to adjust to the situation.
In fact, I will now make it a part of all monthly sessions to have at least one field session whenever possible!
How about you guys? How often do you school out hacking or in a field? Are all your training/lessons done on artificial surfaces? What is your opinion on how often should we vary the surfaces for rider development and for the good of the horse?
All the best,
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