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With the winter coming, many horse owners will be hanging up saddles and taking time off from riding. But I think it is a total mistake, and they will be missing big opportunities for some spectacular riding.
My favorite time to ride is winter but you have to be prepping your horse carefully to guarantee an enjoyable and safe ride if you go in the field. If you plan just to have a quiet walk amongst the snow covered trees, you will discover a new dreamy way to get through the winter with friends.
I personally prefer riding bareback so the body temperature of my horse will keep me warmer because of more contact with the horse skin.
If you choose to train in an indoor riding arena–which eliminates the concerns of ice, snow and wind–then winter is less a problem than for those that do not have an indoor arena. Riding can be done outside as long as there isn’t ice, and you will need to take special notice to your horse body temperature, water and feed. When it comes to snow, you want to make sure that the layer on top of the ice doesn’t get too icy or it could lacerate the horse’s lower legs. Remember, your horse has to work extra hard during an outside ride in deep snow.
Winter is always the time when you wish you could ride as often as summer. Weather conditions can be slippery, so riders have to be careful for both horse and rider to make it as enjoyable as if it was a easy summer ride. Riders should dress in layers in order to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering apparel allows you to add or remove clothing easily as rider body temperature changes.
With a little bit more consideration for both horse and rider, winter riding can be an enjoyable experience. Challenges brought on by winter are not insurmountable. Follow the following tips and suggestions to make sure your ride is as safe as possible, despite the ice and snow and all hazards winter can throw at us.
As you arrive into the stable you should warm the bit. A cold bit will be uncomfortable for any horse. Keep bridles in the house or warm the bit with your hands, or put a warm gel pack around the bit before putting it in your horse’s mouth.
Before getting on your horse you first have to remember to take special care when warming up and cooling down your horse in winter.
Working at a slower pace is also a way to prevent big sweat. Cooling down or warming up muscles can take much longer. Horses need time to adjust to the cold weather. Riders have to remember that horses naturally decrease their water consumption and water sources should be keep between 45 to 65°F. You can add salt to the water as needed. Also be aware that horses require more calories as the need to maintain core body temperature increases especially with short hair.
And bring a snack, a warm drink or sport water for yourself. Working hard in cold dry weather can be dehydrating. Horses’ training schedules might become somewhat altered stop altogether in the winter months, so don’t expect your horse to be ready for a full riding session like you may be accustomed to during warmer months. If your horse is out of shape, you should not force a lot of exercise during bitterly cold temperature.
Now that you have your safety tips, enjoy your rides this winter!
A good trainer will always use mental strength before any physical strength. To first start training a horse you must first understand how their minds work and the logic behind it.
Horses do not associate events or sequence of actions in the same way we do. Before training a horse you must first get familiar with those instinct and behavior. When approaching a horse, it has no way of knowing what you are about to do to him and his friends.
Horses first observe our actions and gesture and make a decision to stay put or run away from an eventual predator. Horses eyes are on the outside of their heads so they can see danger coming from any direction.
Your training must start by asking yourself if the horse you are training or approaching for the first time is seeing you as predator or not. You will observe the same instinct in the wild when lions, or any predator approaching a horde or prey. The hunted animal will judge the possible attack of the predator depending on its posture and psychical behaviors and once the predator made a kill in the wild as the horde of animal is still around you will notice the same after the predator relax then the horde will know that now they are safe.
The next step if the horse has accepted you is to be the one in control of the herd. Then use body language to get its attention and to establish yourself as leader. It is important to keep using body language as playing with your horse and when done correctly, there will be no need for physical restraints or physical punishment and the horse will never feel “attacked.”
When giving a correction or using physical method to teach a lesson to a horse, you only establish a relation of muscle against stronger muscle and translate training technique as method of other attack.You will not teach nothing to a horse using aggressive method. Scared and upset horses are usually confused in what you want him to do. Some trainers will use more physical condition like the tie down of his neck but in horse logic it will be only translated as an attack. By using horse logical techniques in the first place, the horse remained relaxed.
Getting the horse’s attention is the first bite of the string we call training. Learning how to train your horse is just like a big book you have a digest page by page. You will never be able to learn all in once and must break down task and go slowly at beginning to get the horse used to learn new things once at time. Use methodical series of actions to get the horse’s attention and direct the horse’s attention without threatening or attacking him. You must always introduce new shapes or tasks to your horse in a way that is logical to the horse natural instincts rather than human logic.
Every rider even the most experienced have experience horse spookiness. The reason can simply by a mousse crossing the path of your horse, a tree branch falling, an unusual noise or an object they never been introduce before such as a plastic ball or a simple mailbox. (the list could be long…)
Facing unknown objects or situation, a horse first response is often how to save its own life also called “fight-or-flight” to avoid any potential threat. A natural instinct and essential for horses defense system. All of us would prefer having a horse that do not spook so we can ride with a better safety and fun, but it doesn’t exist at 100%.
The best remedy to “de-spook” is to “desensitize” your horses.
But be aware as it is always a unfinished training. You can control a certain level by making your horse more familiar with foreign situation but you will never have a horse that is spook FREE and facing an extreme danger the spookiness can comeback as fast than a gallop.
Understanding the origin of the spook is very important for the horse health, well being and of course safety of the rider. Some horses can be more sensitive than others as there is no normality to a horse spook. Some can simply run away, some will jump or simply make a sharp move in a direction and calm down after one second but other can cause serious injury if scared and can easily make a back flip even facing a simple flower or mouse.
Horses have many other reasons for spooking. If you notice abnormality in the spookiness then you better look if your horse is not suffering of vision problems, chiropractic issues or other thing that could discomfort him including teeth.
No matter the reason of the spooking you should take the opportunity to better train your horse to not being scared of its environment. However it is vital for wild horses as it is a natural instinct of survival.
Do not be upset after your horse for doing it. Try to reassure him and showing him he does not have to be scared and to stay in control in case he wants to runaway.
In case of run away, don t get hard on the bit or forceful, or you will be confirming that the horse should be scared by adding more pressure to his fear and it goes the same with spurs.
To avoid your horse becoming frightened in some situation, it is recommended to use the method of “sacking out,” which consists of a desensitizing process that teaches a horse to not fear certain objects or situations. Any object such as a plastic bag, or sound of music can cause spookiness. It can also come from any previous bad experience.
Always use a step-by-step process to introduce your horse to a new object. An example of a good method is to first let the horse sniff it, then touch it or you can rub it gently on his back and legs until the horse gets used to something like a plastic bag or blanket. As we all know, it is impossible to have a 100% spook free horse. To compensate for the fear of the animal, you want to focus the training on trusting the judgment of his handler. If the training is well done, the horse will look to the handler for safety first.
Other training methods include putting only slight pressure on the horse or using flooding techniques. Unfortunately, the last technique may be attractive because of quicker result, but is also by far more dangerous because the extreme exposure can cause a horse to panic, loose confined and risk injury to the animal or handler.
The trust between handler and horse must never be broken by putting too much pressure on the horse during a panic situation. That can create space between the horse and handler as you cannot rush a horse without violence or the fight or flight instinct will comeback as soon as the horse feels threatened at the least expected time.