Training Update: February 2019
We’re about halfway through Winter which has me ridiculously excited for warmer weather. One of the ways I’ve always coped with the cold is channeling my energy into working towards my training goals with my horses. Not only does it take my mind of what always feels like an endless onslaught of cold once February rolls around, but it also feels super rewarding to see the results of my hard work once Spring pops up.
This is the second Winter I’ve had two horses, it’s a balancing act to make sure they both get the attention they deserve, but it’s one that I love and wouldn’t trade for anything. My older horse, Achates, had the majority of the Fall off so now we’re slowly working back into an routine. Depending on the weather he gets worked 2-4 times a week, and most of those sessions last about 30-45 minutes. Our main focus is is getting back some of the fitness and stamina we lost over his break.
I want to be clear about something here, it’s not just Achates’ fitness that’s lacking, it’s mine as well. He’s a horse who requires his rider to have control of their body, and he lets you know immediately when you’re not keeping up with him. Which usually means a loss of forward motion or him launching his neck upwards and out of frame into what I affectionately like to call ‘llama drama’. Right now if I’m being honest I can probably ride him consistently and correctly for about 20 minutes. Which means as his rider it’s my responsibility to work on my stamina outside of just riding. I’m a firm believer in riders being responsible for their half of the partnership they have with their horse. Which means it’s time for me to focus on building the physical strength and athleticism that riding my horse requires.
Aside from riding one thing I love incorporating into Achates’ training is free lunging. The method that we’re currently using was introduced to us when I was a working student in 2016. It allows me to get out of Achates’ way and let him warm up and get in the correct head space. He’s a horse who doesn’t enjoy or tolerate nagging, instead he likes to be told his job once and then have you get out of his way. We usually free lunge right before riding or sometimes make it a whole session. If it’s a session focused solely on free lunging then we work on varying his pace within gates, and also use ground poles to change things up occasionally.
Our Winter training routine isn’t particularly glamorous but I’m looking forward to seeing how it pays off in the warmer months. Especially since I’m hoping to finally be courageous this year and try out some different disciplines with him.
My yearling, Basilio, is still enjoying the life of a young horse in which is only responsibility is to stay healthy and continue growing. As of now I’m focused on making sure he has all the basic knowledge he would need to be help once he’s under saddle. He’s a pro at free lunging and can somewhat decently lunge on a line. He knows what varying signals from the whip mean, voice commands, and how to react to my body language.
He’s a horse that gets tense standing still or when other’s handle him. So the goal is to give him lots of confidence and reassurance in this area, especially when he’s behaving well. He’s definitely brought to my attention that sometimes I can be too ‘quiet’ giving him nothing to read or react off of. The solution to this has been a ton of verbal praise. Sometimes I feel silly talking him and myself when we’re alone at the barn but the proof that this method has been working became apparent during his farrier and vet appointments this week. He still carries a ton of tension but I’ve been able to make sure he doesn’t get explosive or upset by talking him through everything and making sure he gets lots of scratches on his neck. We’ve still got a long way to go, but little victories with Basilio are rewarding in a way I can’t describe.
The first half of this Winter has been productive for both my boys, looking forward to where we’ll be once Spring comes around.