And just like that, the winter seems to have disappeared, spring bulbs are exploding, I'm back to short sleeves and trying not to think about the traditional freeze we experience before Easter!
I have been aching to get Forrest regularly out of the arena to benefit both mind, body, and spirit. But up until now, it's simply been too icy or sloppy so it was sheer bliss to venture out into the big field for the beginnings of some strength training this week.
I must say, this is the one time in my life that I find my modest little South Carolina farm superior to all those multi-million dollar estates in Wellington because I have hills--both gradual, long, easy, inclines and a couple of massive ones as well!
As always, I know it's never a good idea to get on and head right out to do hill work without warming ones horse up on the flat, first. So I longe in the arena, both ways, getting Forrest stretching nicely over his back, and then, for my own security on this blustery day, I ride him at the walk in the arena for a few minutes to make sure he is reliably on my aids before leaving the arena and crossing the driveway into the field.
So much good work can be done out of the constraints of 20 by 60 meters! As I'm just beginning regular hill work with Forrest, we shun the steeper hills and spend 20 minutes (enough time, at a steady, forward, march, to benefit, but not over-tire, muscles) on the easier inclines walking serpentines, leg yielding to the fence line and then away from it, asking for crisp obedience from each leg:
Because Forrest came from the race track with a bit of "jewelry," it's very important that I don't work this horse on any footing that would be concussive to his joints. Good, springy, turf is ideal footing for horses, according to veterinarian studies, but it's too early in the year for lush grass. So the trot work we do will be brief and riding him into a rounder frame so that he can easily lift his back and reach far beneath with his hocks, we trot several meters down the the grade:
And then return up the incline in the same manner:
I couldn't be happier how obedient and focused Forrest was during this ride. There were certainly several distractions that could have been used for naughty behavior, but as a friend pointed out looking at the photos, the softness in his eye speaks volumes. As effective as arena work is, incorporating lower level movements for building strength, riding out in the open in a relaxed, swinging, manner, I think, simply does wonders. For both of us!