Each day during this COVID-19 lockdown, I give thanks that I keep my horses at home and am able to continue to ride and train, uninterrupted. I know that’s not the case for many and I can well understand anyone's frustration and impatience. Having said that, I believe it’s never a bad thing for horses to have some time off and at the barn where I train (and am considered ‘essential staff’), I've noted how very relaxed and content the horses who are having enforced ‘down time,’ actually are. I keep a few going a couple of times per week, and for sure this separation is far more difficult for owners than the horses. For us owners, our horses are our everything: our passion, our friend, our therapy. For the horses, yeah, I dunno… I think they’re pretty happy being turned out and streaming old episodes of Mr. Ed.
Meanwhile, Lucas and I have continued to work on the basics of rhythm, suppleness and straightness.
Some days I’m able to gain access to his back from the first few strides of trot, some days it takes a bit longer, but the clever rider (something to which I aspire!) will always take into consideration that Baby may be going through a growth spurt and the balance that felt so confirmed last week might feel an almighty struggle the next! A bit of time off, coupled with plenty of turnout will generally put that right. Also, palpating for any ouchy areas as well as routinely checking the balance of your saddle, as the green bean fills out and develops, can be helpful.
But even only working three times a week, I've certainly been feeling some strengthening in the canter, allowing me to test with a few strides of uberstreichen here and there.
Even with these nicely improving sessions, my biggest thrill was finally getting to ride out into the open! The weather, after tossing a few tornados in our general direction, did finally cooperate so that I felt comfortable enough to get Lucas out of the arena and ride him out and about. It should be said that on a youngster, I always warm up in the arena first so that the horse can loosen his muscles comfortably on level ground and good footing, allowing them to be properly on the aids before heading out. Listen, I’m all about being out in nature, but when nature presents herself as a deer darting out of the woods or quail flying up from the grass, we’re always safer when we have a young horse quietly between seat, leg and hands. As I had hoped, Lucas was as good as gold. He was certainly his normal, forward self, but I felt completely safe on him as we walked, and even trotted, a couple of laps within sight of his pasture buddies.
Getting out of the arena is such a treat for horses and I can’t wait to do more of this. I don’t want to engage in any hill work at this time as he’s a big horse and his growth plates have a ways to go before being closed. But these gentle hacks, and perhaps even getting up in 2-point for a lovely canter, well, what a great way to make the rest of the world go away.