With a week of warm weather on the horizon, it’s very tempting to jump on one of my horses and have some fun. Freedom is ready. I can tell he’d like a good gallop.
The problem is, the horses are soft and fluffy. They still have their winter coats and they are really not fit. Last weekend I took Zelda for a 5 mile walk and when we got back, her eyes were at half mast and she was tired. She’s a long way from being ready to foxhunt, but we have time.
As Denny Emerson preaches, getting your horse fit before you have fun is an important part of being a responsible owner.
The usually unseen, un-talked about, un-glamorous, unknown, under appreciated, but oh so key link between the unfit, soft, vulnerable pasture horse and the horse we see doing “things,”are those days, weeks, sometimes months of walking.
Many riders don’t get the critical importance of waiting until the horse is no longer soft before asking hard things.
To a soft horse, just trotting around a flat ring can be hard and can cause discomfort.
To a soft horse, just having a saddle on an unfit back, and a girth around an unfit belly, can cause discomfort.
To a soft horse, just the weight of a rider can cause discomfort.
So it is an easy answer, but one that is usually either overlooked, ignored, or misunderstood—Two words—“Gradual” and “Consistent.”
Take that unfit horse—every part of that horse is soft and unused to stress—and VERY CAREFULLY start to introduce stress.
Don’t get greedy to have “fun.” Don’t do anything to your horse that you wouldn’t do to your grandmother sitting on the porch in her rocking chair, being a self imposed vegetable.
No damn “dressage.” Dressage is hard. No cantering, not yet. Same reason. No jumping. Same reason.
On Sunday I was riding down a trail that used to be an old road. Last fall I saw an owl there several times and, sure enough, it was there again, flying over us as we disturbed it from it’s nap. I know the spot. It’s just past the marker that shows how far we are from the Old North Bridge — from a time when the Minute Men walked on this old road.