Now is the time of year that I begin to get very tired of winter. It can be
difficult to get motivated for riding when the wind is howling and the arena
feels like concrete. I confess that my own horses certainly do not get as much
attention this time of year, but I do need to keep my training horses in a
program, so here are some ideas to move your training forward even in nasty
First, you can always do groundwork in the barn. With a young horse, you
can practice softening to the bit from side to side and “breaking at the poll.”
You can also work on disengaging the shoulders and hind quarters. You can also
do some bombproofing exercises in the barn, working with clippers, plastic bags,
anything that your horse needs to get used to.
When the arena is frozen solid its hard to accomplish much riding, but you
can still do groundwork. Practice lunging at the walk, working on keeping your
horses nose in, and having him step under himself with his inside hind leg. You
can also work on moving forward and maintaining contact. Walk beside your horse
and hold the reins almost as if you were in the saddle (or if your horse is
really tall, you can hold them under his neck!) Carry a dressage whip and
encourage him to move forward while maintaining a soft contact with the reins.
You can also work on connection with your horse, by practicing keeping his
attention in the barn, ground tying, coming to you in the stall, etc.
There are many books available on groundwork for young horses as well as
more advanced groundwork for a variety of disciplines. Most of the exercises are
done slowly so are perfect for cold weather and hard ground!