“Champions are made in the off season”
Just because it’s winter and cold outside doesn’t mean it’s time to stop training for whatever it is you aspire to do in the better riding months. Winter is the best time to take a step back and break down how to work for your goals. Whether it be trail riding, pleasure, dressage or gymkhana, there are plenty of areas a rider and horse can expand on.
Winter is when I love to bring my lesson students back down to the basics. We work on equitation and break down the steps to lateral work or trail patterns. We aren’t in a hurry for the next big event so we can take as much time as needed to understand each concept. This is also great time of year to work on developing a bond with the horse you own, lease or ride.
With my training and show horses I love to take the time to work on the most overlooked gait of the horse: the walk. I work on straightness and suppleness throughout the walk, as well as being able to collect and extend the walk and engage the horse’s hind end and encourage them to use their core. This will make each and every gait a bit better, especially the canter.
Long lining is another great tool to use in the winter (and all season!) . It helps keep the handler in shape as well as the horse. I was taught that long lining also helps the rider/handler see how soft their aids can be. I find this great to help students see how tight they often are through their wrists and forearms.
I encourage my riders to continue riding and working throughout the cold months to be able to work towards whatever their goal may be. To some it is simply to not fall out of practice and keep up with their riding strength. For my show riders it’s to keep pushing towards the next level and continuing to practice in the events they compete. For my trail riders it’s to keep their horse fit and work on whatever insecurities in the ring that they may have on the trail. I personally enjoy the quiet season to reassess my year goals and how to accomplish them.
Pictured: Sam riding Promise preparing for show season 2020!