Sunday, January 10, 2010

First riding lesson in deep snow

First of all, I just have to say, it's great to read about everyone else doing stuff with their horses. And it's really neat to see people in extreme winter conditions posting about doing what they can with their horses and at least getting some ground work in there even if they can't ride.

Last winter I didn't ride Sage much at all. I remember getting on bareback and wandering around at a walk for a few minutes but I really didn't know what else to do with him. We had icy footing for a good portion of the season, and he still had some lameness issues going (I still had some health issues going on too.) I had such high hopes for winter riding last year and then was disappointed when they didn't come true.

I was worried this year would be the same; lots of hopes and not much riding. But look!

Guess that makes this year new and different! :]

That picture is from Sage and I having our riding lesson on Friday. I took the day off from work to spend time with the horses so we scheduled our trainer to come give us lessons. She wisely arrived bundled in snow pants, a neck gaitor, and a very warm hat. Mom and I both got a lesson in dressing for winter lessons as we got very cold! It was 15° F (-10° C), but the windchill made it feel much colder.

Mom and her Mustang mare Thea had their lesson first. I got Sage dressed in his el companero bareback pad, which I love, and soon got on just to stay warm!

During our lesson we spent a little time playing 'follow the leader' as Thea is new to being under saddle and needs practice following other horses. Then Mom got cold and went back inside and Sage and I did some trotting! sage has a nice smooth trot normally but wow is it different riding through deep snow!! i felt like I was riding a little warmblood and it was really fun. We kind of lost steering in the trot, with Sage wanting to run straight into the corners and stop rather than turning through them. My job was to keep him going forward and give him the room to figure it out. I wanted to use the reins at first to *steer* him through every corner but my riding instructor was good at reminding me to give him time to work through it himself. by the end he realized it was easier to turn himself rather than trot forward, stop, and have me get after him and make him trot faster...

Then we needed a little rest, so we spent some time working on disengaging sage's hindquarters. In dressage this is turn on the forehand, and in Natural horsemanship you accomplish it in much the same way; turn your hand like you're turning a doorknob to get the bend in the horse's neck, then turn and look at their hind end and use a light leg aid until they cross their hind legs underneath themselves.

Sage was pretty dead to my leg. I was squeezing his side for all I was worth and he was just standing there looking amused. So My trainer handed me the carrotstick to use as a way of reinforcing a lighter leg aid. So step 1 was turning to look at his hind end while I held a light bend in his neck, step 2 was a light leg aid, and step 3 was taking the carrotstick and tapping him rhythmically on the hind end.

I only had to tap Sage once before he magically started disengaging from a light leg aid. He's a very smart cookie.

The whole theme of the lesson was really about not micromanaging your horse, especially when he's a smart and alert curly that is perfectly capable of taking responsibility for himself, and turning through corners or listening to your aids without you 'nagging' him as a rider. It was a good reminder to me, as when Sage says "can't heaaarrr youuu!' I am sometimes tricked into 'talking louder' rather than keeping a light aid and then reinforcing it properly.

I had SO MUCH FUN riding and our instructor comes back in 2 weeks for another lesson. I was really surprised at how much we could still do even in the deep snow. We'll take that over icy footing any day! And, I am now very motivated to buy much warmer socks! (Any recommendations??)

Stay warm everyone!

Brie & Sage


  1. Good for you Brie, I'm so glad to see you out there!

    I can't help you on the socks, but I LOVE my muck boots, and my feet have never been cold, even standing on ice in 0F weather for a couple of hours straight. Especially if you're riding in a bareback pad, you have no worries about getting hung up in the stirrups.

  2. I'm with you Michelle! Brie, you really need to get muck boots, the brit riding style. I use them all fall and winter and I am never cold! Winter riding to me is like cheating - it's when we somehow think we have to put up our dreams of riding to spring, when it just isn't true. If anything it is the best time to ride...especially if you have a snow base without ice of course. No bugs, and our curlies do so much better in the cold. WE just need to know how to dress for it and we are golden!! Keep it up! =]

  3. guys will have to post a link for me showing me what kind of boots you mean. This is what I've always thought of as muck boots (although that pair is probably higher quality than the pair I had), and they're not terribly warm at all! As soon as your feet sweat in them, you freeze and you're done. What kind of boots do you guys mean?

  4. You know what I find? I find that if I wear several layers on my LEGS, my feet don't get cold.

    I wear thermals beneath my pants, and a wind/snow break layer on top of my pants.

    Of course, I also wear thick socks and boots. :) I have tons of warm socks... including wool socks and synthetic ski socks and stuff.

    I love the pics! Good job on getting some riding in!!! I haven't ridden Dolly yet this year!

  5. My boots were once rated down to like -40 degrees F, but they're ten years old or older now, so they don't work all that way.

    If it's SUPER cold, I don't mess around. I just put a foot-warmer packet in the toes of my boots!!

  6. Brie, here ya go.

    There are more product reviews on my site here:

  7. Amber, that's actually what my riding instructor said too. She told me to wear a wind blocking layer over my riding breeches next time so I stay warmer. I think I may need to wear a warmer coat too--the one I've been wearing is just a cheap Old Navy coat that I figured was okay to get dirty at the barn.

    Denise, thank you for that link, I haven't seen those before and they look fabulous! Good to know what to buy if/when I get the chance. For now, I'm thinking it's time for wool socks, and those wind pants...

  8. Love those light buckskins! Nike makes a nice thick sock, but my feet always get cold anyways.

  9. Hi Brie...what an awesome lesson you had with Sage! Loved reading your explanation of disengaging the hind and how you worked thru it. Sage is a smart one alright. As for warm feet...I dropped the riding gear and wear my snow boarding pants (but have been tempted to buy a pair of the mountain horse polar breeches), tall sorel boots with knee high wool hunting socks. I splurged last fall and picked up a pair of the tall H2o insulated ariat iceberg boots when on sale...haven't worn them yet so can't comment on how well they work. But will let you know once I do. Ski and sporting goods stores usually have a lite weight sock that wicks away the moisture a wool sock might create...I use to wear those when I was a meter reader for the electric company under the wool ones and it worked great!

    Looking forward to hearing about your next lesson.

  10. "It was a good reminder to me, as when Sage says "can't heaaarrr youuu!' I am sometimes tricked into 'talking louder' rather than keeping a light aid and then reinforcing it properly."
    I am so glad that you wrote this, because this is what I do also, and you made me realize it! A BIG LIGHT BULB DING DING MOMENT for me. Thank you so much, Brie. I LOVE THIS BLOG!

  11. p.s. I wrote about my wigwam socks for warmth, and also ski socks are awesome. My toes always get cold, too.

  12. Lesly, I LOVE Sorel boots! They're great aren't they? I have an older pair that is sadly half a size too small for my feet, so I don't wear them for riding. But they are great boots. Please do keep us posted on how you like the Ariat icebergs, I'm curious to hear how well those work for you.

    I'm with you; wool socks!

    Susan, Glad that explanation helped you too. It certainly takes some self-restraint to ride that way rather than getting into 'arguments'. Wigwams are good socks, I haven't bought a pair in awhile...glad you reminded me.


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