For the Country that is supposed to be the 'Great White North'...let me tell you, we ain't. Right now, it is about -12C and with the wind, about -22C or so. We have maybe 4 cms of snow on the ground. I think it is safe to say that Aiken has more snow then we do at the moment. Personally, light fluffy snow is better then freezing cold wind, ice and that kind of snow that hurts when it hits your face because it is so windy. I have been helping to build the inside of our new barn (more on that later), but today it was called off simply because it is too dang cold.
The other day on EN, someone posted the following comment responding to a post that basically said there is snow in 49 of the 50 states....as an aside, there was even snow on the top of a volcano in Hawaii, so Florida was the only State without...here is the comment: "I actually don't have snow--just wind and bitter freezing cold. At least it makes my horse all spooky so we can practice 'freely forward' in the indoor, right?" BRILLIANT!!! That comment made me laugh out loud!
First of all, I am going to say 'freely forward' as much as possible, I LOVE that! Now, I don't know the poster, but it got me to thinking: What are the most common Winter Artificial Training Aids that can help with Freely Forward?
This is what I have come up with:
1. Wind & Bitter Freezing Cold - Obviously as the poster said. There always seems to be 'something in the air' when you try to school your horse in the indoor with the wind whipping around outside.
2. The Big Arena Door - which is normally wide open during the spring, summer and fall, is now shut tight. Or is it? First of all, having the door closed in general is usually enough of a change to make the horses all go bonkers. "Whoa whoa, WHAT? You want ME to go NEAR that spot where I ALWAYS not pay attention because I can look outside?! Where did it go?! And now I KNOW there are Horse-Eating-Monsters hiding behind there waiting to eat me. Fat chance lady." Secondly - have you heard the noise a massive arena door makes when the above listed freezing cold wind gets in between the door and the frame and bangs it intermittently throughout your ride?! Correction: bangs it only when you happen to be up at 'A' going past the door?
3. Snow in the Indoor - that's right, because the wind that opens the arena door, also happens to whip snow into the arena, by the big arena door where the Horse-Eating-Monsters are hiding. This snow, then turns into little mounds which, obviously are boobey-traps that the Horse-Eating-Monsters have set to trap your horse. Normally after 5 or 10 minutes, I can get Chester to walk (sidepass) by the mounds without too much of an issue.
4. Snow Falling from the Roof of the Indoor - Does this really need any sort of explanation? If so, stand beside the train tracks when a train is going by and I am sure that is comparable to what Chester hears when it happens.
5. Quarter Sheets - I can say that this hasn't happened to me...yet. Always, always, ALWAYS remember to make sure your tail guard is UNDER your horse's tail. It should remain secure against his flanks, NOT flapping around one side of him like a cape.
6. The Sound Your Whip Makes when you Hit a Quarter Sheet - Depending on your quarter sheet of course...mine happens to be the water proof type, so the top layer is comparable to well, vinyl almost. That makes an interesting sound when you use your whip. Try it. See what happens.
7. Blankets/Coolers etc. - You know that sound your horse makes when he blows air through his nostrils because he is 'scared' of something? Well, considering my big brave event horse will jump over ditches, into water and over liver pools, try putting his blanket down in the isle in front or to the side of him and he practices 'freely forward' in the isle. This is also true, when you are done warming up, take your horse's cooler off and place it either over a standard, on the bench in the corner or on the ground. Once I can actually get him near the blasted thing - he then 'freely forwards' away from it for 10 minutes.
8. Static - I don't know about anyone else, but poor Chester gets a shock at LEAST once per school. The other day, I was taking his cooler off (while mounted, which I assume is horsemanship no-no 101), I heard the static, and he jumped sideways 5 feet...thankfully, Chester is not a bucker and I was able prevent myself from falling face first into the dirt, but it was a close one...
Basically - during the winter months, when it is dark, bleak, bitterly cold and you lack motivation to ride - at least you know your partners in crime will be enjoying ALL the schooling they need practicing 'freely forward'.
What did I miss?!