Hard, unforgiving ground,

chilly winds and cloudy sky.

Slap on your winter woolies,

throw on the saddle pad,

tighten the girth

and head off into the beautiful trails

with leafless trees

and strangely open fields!

How can you have fun with your favourite equine in the middle of winter? Just head off into the bush, with careful step and controlled feels-like-she's-gonna-explode-any-second excitement. Take it easy at first - gently walk until you can get a good handle for the footing. Then take the first tentative steps into the trot - ahh.. the ground is good. Enjoy the bouncy pleasure and the exuberant snorts, but don't let the young mare get past the point of no return (=start a bucking spree!). Let the energy out judiciously....

Now that she's settled, and we have a slow and steady (but animated and still threatening to explode) trot, let's start playing a game: shoulder-in left, haunches in left, renvers left, (very careful and short as there isn't much room) half-pass left. Good girl! Now try the right - shoulder-in (keep the outside shoulder straight darling!), haunches in, renvers, and now three half-pass steps right. That's it!

Do it again! And again! And AGAIN! What fun!

What? She wants to canter!

Well, only if she steps verrrry carefully over this hard ground. She'll have to stay in a tight little ball, no real speed. But you can try...

No! She can't buck! Didn't she say she wanted to canter? You love her enthusiasm, though!

That's it - careful, super-controlled three-beat. Right lead first? OK - just a few strides. Oh the snorts! That feels soooo good!

How about the left lead? That one's a bit harder and stiffer... set up gently first - straighten the body, steady the trot, wait for it! Wait for it! OK now take a stride. And another - and another! What fun!

And finally, a long-stepping, muscle-releasing, casual walk up the hill and turn for home. Breathe in that super fresh air and take a look at the beauty of the foliage, that even in its shriveled, brown, winter form, has a charm that delights the mind and thrills the soul.

Get home before the cold really settles into the body.

And that is what winter fun is all about!

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Softly Determined - A Poem: This one is a keeper for all horse riders!

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