Spring time is when riding season moves into full swing. The horses are fitter and the riders are well into a routine, achieving personal goals and heading out on trails. Here are some quick ideas to add to your normal repertoire of horsin' around activities.
1. Enjoy a good groom before you ride. Find your horse's itchy spot and scratch it! You'll both feel better after a thorough clean up and check.
2. Change things up. A switch-up can be just the change you need! Take a lesson, ride the trails, go to a clinic. Do something out of the norm and enjoy the fresh perspective you get from it.
3. Play with transitions. Don't force them, but put in more than you usually do.
4. Build up energy. Don't get humdrum about your ride - go to it like it's the best part of your day (it is)! Think impulsion and engagement - from both you and your horse.
5. Ride with friends. Your horse likes it as much as you do - just limit "hanging out" and socializing until after the ride. While you're on your horse's back, ride with a purpose - together.
6. Do something new. Set up a new obstacle or jump. Or ride around the clump of grass. Here's one: weave through two barrels (or pylons or jump standards) - backward! Look for something different to do.
7. Set a goal. Work toward something that is achievable and sets you up for success. Transitions, anyone? But do more than just that (see #5).
8. Let your horse take initiative. Encourage your horse when he does something well, even if you weren't asking for it. For example, if you asked for increased energy at the trot and he did a wonderfully balanced canter transition, go with him for a few strides. You can always go back to the trot again and continue to work on the energy level.
9. Have a quick celebration! Every horse has a favorite movement. After a series of "work" movements, have some fun time. My horse LOVES to lengthen or stretch - I use them as mini-riding-parties every ride.
10. Give your horse a pat. With your inside hand, so you can give an inside rein release at the same time.
11. Work on your half-halt. Find your horse's happy place with effective, well-timed half-halts. Balance is where it's at - for both you and your horse!
12. Keep you and your horse straight - even on a circle! Straightness is key to help your horse carry you around with as little damage to his body as possible. Constantly work on keeping the horse "between the legs and reins".
13. Go splash in a puddle. Literally! Use every puddle as an opportunity.
14. Hose your horse off at the end, especially if it's hot outside. There is nothing nicer for a horse than a cool (or lukewarm) shower after exercise. Washing the sweat and grime out from under the coat is a great way to end a great ride!
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