cold weather riding

This is the first winter in a long time that I have had access to riding in an indoor (unheated) arena on a regular basis. Our past couple rides have led me to brush up on cold weather riding tips, to make sure I'm not forgetting anything.

We continue to consistently ride our horses 3X a week, last week was 4X for me. Typically pulling Koda & Nemo out of the turnout pasture before riding, and doing the usual things to prepare. With the added cold, we started keeping our bridles inside the house, and warming bits up as best we can once we get around to riding at the barn. 

Cold weather warm ups & cool downs are longer, and our horses are not ridden hard. When we are finished riding our boys are typically warmish, but not sweaty. They go into their stalls, and not back outside. They live in the unheated wing of the barn. In the past I've used coolers (and even hair dryers) on other unclipped horses, but so far I haven't felt the need for them with these guys.

On my last ride, anything more then a walk brought on heavier breathing/panting and lasted ridiculously long. I wondered if it was the cold air? or possibly feed/water/boredom related? Outside low temps this past week have been around the twenties/teens, with the indoor arena warmer. Doubt I could handle the cold otherwise. I remember a past trainer mentioning something about air temp (below freezing?) being too cold for horses lungs. I've done some Googling on the subject, and found this to not be a concern. Regardless I started taking longer breaks, and was about to rule loping out - except this unusual breathing reminded me of our trail ride last Fall. Once again I wondered if something truly was bothering Koda, or if he figured out a way to work less. If that is even possible. Have you ever heard of a horse doing such a thing with breathing? Puffing out when cinching is the only semi-related thing I can think of, and that Koda sometimes does. Note; the conditions of the two mentioned rides are very different. I am such an over-thinking worry wart!

All the horses at the barn are being ridden inside with these temps. Haven't heard of any weather related issues. Nemo doesn't appear to have any cold weather riding concerns, unless you count the evil arena service door that just might eat him! No clue what brought this on either. It has made the beginning of the past several rides interesting for my hubby, with some serious convincing that the arena door is ok.

Before ending our ride, I decided to do a half arena lope transition to a half arena trot, into walk - both directions. Just to do a little loping and see how Koda handled it. He didn't seem to have a problem, so we walked around cooling down before ending our ride. Which leaves me wondering, and curious to see what Koda will be like next time...


quiet your mind

Between the late Fall wind, rain and clouds, an occasional sunny day shows up. They can be rare this time of year. Sunny days give me a burning desire to spend time outside, preferably with our horses, trail riding in the woods. It's all I can think about after returning home from my hot yoga class. I recently ramped up my practice, and altho the instructor offered plenty of challenge - it was the first time I didn't feel like I sweated my vinyasa self into a puddle. Trust me, I had my moments...but came home with renewed energy. 

I decide to forgo all the "should do's" and enjoy the sunny day, and then I realized my saddle was still in hubby's truck. Darn it! My mind started doing the yo-yo thing....it goes something like this: Maybe I should just stay home and get stuff done? But I really don't want to. Who knows when it will be sunny again. Maybe I should call Brad and get my saddle? I don't want to bother him. Do I really want to ride without Brad & Nemo anyways? I want to see my horse! If I show up unannounced, will I even be able to ride? I wonder if the outdoor arena is dry enough to ride in? It's sunny...and just like that, my husband pulls in the driveway. I think he read my mind!

I try to convince him to play hooky & come riding with me, but he can't. Lucky for me, I can. On the long drive up to the barn I damper the uncertainty that creeps up, with the calmness yoga teaches me. If nothing else, I'll hug our horses and snap a few photos. Pictures are so much harder to get now that our horses don't live at the home farm. It really doesn't matter if I ride or not. What matters is that I am taking the time to do what I love, to be with our horses.

It's quiet when I arrive at the barn. One rider getting ready to leave, people dropping off a horse, and me. I guess they knew our trainer would be gone. I certainly don't need her there to ride (no offense). I just prefer someone be on the property if I am going to ride alone. We find her assistant, and she is genuinely happy (and surprised) to see me. She is off to take care of the folks dropping off a horse for training, and I am off to the pasture to get my horse.

Koda & Nemo seem happy to see me. Cierra must have gotten worked earlier, because she was in her stall. It makes it so much easier to get out of the pasture with one horse, because Cierra always wants it to be her. Nemo walks with Koda & I to the gate, just a few soft spoken words then he turns and goes back to grazing. He knows his human is not here. Koda has been so sweet and easy going lately, and meanders to the barn with me.

The outdoor arena was not dry, looks like another indoor ride for us. I still get my dose of sunshine, so much that it blinds me as I round one of the arena corners. It doesn't bother me. Instead I close my eyes, and soak it up as we quietly ride through it... 

We eventually progressed to loping. It was then I realized I had an audience, including a short human. I can feel Koda's eyes migrate to him as we ride past. They all laugh as the little guy automatically steps back, guess the big brown horse flying around got a little bigger by the gate! The little guy must be around two, and doesn't want to leave. He wants to watch me ride, and puts up a short fuss before they head out. It was super cute from where I was!

Koda & I finished up a really nice afternoon! We haven't done much riding alone, and it warms my heart that he trusts me enough to do it willingly. We had zero issues, and he did everything I asked - including left leads. My good boy got to enjoy a short grassy snack before heading into his stall. 

Before I knew it was super time at the barn, and the horses were starting to come in. Nemo called out to me to make sure I didn't forget about him, as if I ever could. When I brought Nemo in from the pasture, he was sugary sweet with a light touch. Not sure what he was saying to me with those expressive eyes of his, but he had such a soft look...

My ride home felt much different then the ride up. My mind was filled with the quiet belief and gratitude, that only horses give you...

my sweet boy


time for some sunshine

Thank you Tails from Provence for awarding me the Sunshine Award! I went to see what the sunshine was all about, and learned interesting things! Check out the beautiful photos, inspiration and humor Tails from Provence shares and while you are at it, vote for her deserving blog in the HayNet 2012 Blogger of the Year competition!!

The sunshine award goes to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” I'll do my best to follow the rules, altho I may will bend the last one.

1) First, the nominee must thank the blogger that nominated them and link to their blog.

2) Then, answer a list of ten questions and post them on the awarded blog.

1. Do you prefer Mares or Geldings? 
Doesn't really matter, altho I seem to partner better with Geldings

2. English or Western?

3. Do you prefer “younger” or “older” horses?
Younger, well-trained horses. 

4. Have you ever trained a horse from ground zero?
No, I've done parts with guidance. I enjoy working with young horses. Maybe someday?

5. Do you prefer riding or ground work?
Riding, but I believe in the importance of ground work

6. Do you board your horse or keep it at home? 
We switched to full-time boarding this year. Like everything, it has it's plus & minuses

7. Do you do all natural things or commercial stuff?
A blend of our own

8. All Tacked up or Bareback?
Tacked up, altho I would like to do more bareback riding

9. Equestrian model?
None...I've deleted my answer so many times - that is when "the dot-dot-dot" comes in

10. What’s your, one, main goal while being in the horse world? 
To be able to enjoy the endless wonder equine offer, for as long as I can
3) Next the nominee must nominate ten bloggers for the award, and let them know.

I really enjoy the sunshine these listed blogs spread (in no particular order). They keep it real, complete with fantastic photos and stories of life happenings. I can relate to each of them, and feel like I've gotten to know these wonderful folks through blogs:

I hope to get to know the rest of you wonderful bloggers better, for I have no doubt you spread sunshine too! So grab your award and play along, or not ~ you are all winners regardless!! 


yoga and horses

Notice I didn't title this post "yoga ON horses" altho apparently that is trending. Not remotely why I started putting my thoughts to the keyboard. Besides the occasional yoga for riding books, there is a whole plethora of equine related yoga happening out there on (and off) horseback. Who knew?

I recently started practicing yoga consistently, on a mat. After only six months I've barely scratched the surface, and yet yoga has already helped me be true to myself. 

It helped me find the inner strength to make an agonizing career change, and cleared my head so I could get out of my way while riding Koda.

I am happier, just ask my husband. I am more balanced, just ask my horse. I am more at peace, just ask my heart. 

Yoga has made me physically and mentally stronger. Have I lost a ton of weight? Nope. If that is what you seek, you are missing the point of yoga. I can say the same exact thing about horseback riding, it makes me physically and mentally stronger.

When I talk to others about yoga or horseback riding, I typically find one of three things (in order of frequency):

1) Resistance "can't do it because of _________ " 

I assure you, you can do yoga. It's not about twisting into a pretzel. It's about connecting your mind with your body. You can do that in a chair if needed, or in the presence of a horse. 

Barring major physical exceptions, you can also ride a horse. You just haven't met the right horse, or person to help you find the right one.

Find a quality instructor for yoga or horseback riding. It's worth the time. 

2) Glazed Response

The conversation ends before it begins. These people just don't get it. If you've read this far, be thankful you are not one of them. I am.

3) Wishful Thinking

How many times have you heard "I've always wanted to...or wish I could..."? I try to inspire these folks. It might just be the catalyst for them to take that last step. There is only one person stopping them...

So who out there practices? Do tell. Doesn't have to be formal yoga, could just be whatever practice brings you to a mindful place. Could be running, something that used to be my reconnect. Could be the woods, which still is for me. I only wish I had regular access to woods...perhaps I should reread number 3 above.

What do you do to connect with your inner self? I know the horse lover in you does, even if you think it's weird to talk about.

I'm not going to go all yogasana on you, nor will I be taking my physical yoga practice on horseback. What I really meant to say in a nut shell, is yoga is a lot like horseback riding ~ soulfully rewarding.

my yogi


where did that come from?

After we got rained out on our first attempt, another Friday group trail ride was planned. It wasn't suppose to rain, but once again it did. As the rain fell, so did the prospective riders. Eventually even the hardiest of us gave up the idea of heading out on the trails. We were going to do another farm ride instead, but the rain never let up. Those of us that remained at the barn, rode inside and turned a rainy day into a valued riding day.

Our morning ride was good, four of us riders worked in the indoor arena with our mounts. All the horses were less then motivated with the new deep indoor arena riding sand, but Koda was ridiculous. He was draaagging, leeeaning, and resisting to lope. Where did my willing boy go? I finally "cried uncle" and got some helpful tips from our trainer.

We took a break, and got treated to lunch at a new diner in town. We had good food, and great horse conversation. I had a yummy sandwich I've never heard of before, called a Monte Cristo. Have you ever tried one? Always fun to discover new foods.

Our afternoon ride was good too, and gave Koda & I another opportunity to work on getting his left lead. We finally did get it several times in a row. Nemo got the afternoon off, and Brad rode Cierra. She just keeps getting prettier under saddle. 

Cierra on a recent sunny day

At times we found ourselves just sitting in the middle of the arena, observing while our trainer coached her apprentice. She was working on lope offs too, but with a younger horse. Our trainer has such a wealth of knowledge, it's so interesting to listen and see her work with horse & riders.

As the day went on, a few challenges stood out:

• Horses really don't care for deep sand

• Getting a correct left lead is a work in progress

• Horses can strike out of no where

Wondering about the last one? Me too. It involved a horse that has never ever - ever - struck out at anything or anyone. A horse that you wouldn't expect to strike. That horse would be my Koda. If I had not seen him do it, I wouldn't believe it. Neither would anyone else that knows him.

Koda likes domestic animals. He always nuzzles and seems to enjoy them. But something unexplainable happened...and I have no idea where it came from. There is an adorable, lovable, well behaved dalmatian puppy at the barn named Happy. He has lived there for months, and Koda sees him every day. When Happy came running up to us, he dropped a small Jolly ball, and it rolled towards Koda crossing in front of his legs. It must have startled him, because Koda took one step forward and struck at Happy faster then the speed of light!! 

younger days

I had just finished tacking up and was standing right next to Koda's head. Thankfully Happy scooted back just as fast as Koda moved forward. It turned out not to be a close call, but could have had a different outcome. It was naughty! I was completely stunned. I am so glad the puppy didn't get hurt! Did Happy startle Koda? the ball scare him? I don't know. We briefly tried to figure it out. We rolled the ball towards Koda, and brought the puppy up by him, but got no reaction. Koda doesn't have a mean bone in his body, whatever happened is anybodies guess. I just hope it was an isolated incident. We didn't make a big deal out of it, and we moved onto better things.

Time goes so fast at the barn. Early evening had snuck up on us, and before we knew it we were done riding for the day. A prospective client was stopping out, so we quickly helped tidy things up. Sweeping the barns goes a lot faster when everyone pitches in. I worked up a sweat in no time. Note to self: if ever cold at the barn, start sweeping.

On the long ride home, hubby & I revisited the days revelations. Altho things didn't turn out as originally planned, we got to spend an entire day with our horses ~ always the best kind of day.