looking for guidance on winter exercise - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-01-2012, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: New England
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looking for guidance on winter exercise

So I'm in New England, which at this time of the year should be buried under 2 feet of snow. It's not, and on top of that, it keeps warming up so we've got this dreadful freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw thing going on, and it's raining instead of snowing, so we're getting Mud Season AGAIN.

I don't have access to an indoor ring. Huey gets turned out with his BFF, a pinto pony mare who makes sure that she moves his big butt around the paddock frequently, just to remind him that she can. Huey's got his shoes off for the winter (on absolutely everyone's advice around here - BO, dentist, farrier, vet).

I haven't ridden him in AGES. The arena is sand, and sometimes it has some icy spots (one of those "torrential rains followed by dramatic temperature drop" days) and sometimes it's soft and mushy ("torrential rains followed by warm-up") and sometimes it's rock hard ("temperature drop without rains").

I was riding him, even barefoot, for a while, but then someone told me that the footing was probably too hard to ride (this was a rock-hard day), and then the ring was flooded, and then there was ice, etc. etc. etc. The weather here has been 100% psycho and it's driving everyone nuts. But the upshot is that I haven't ridden Huey in almost a month. (going to give another one of those sad faces, because he's SO much fun to ride and I MISS it).

Now, he's getting turned out, and that's it. This is because I don't really know what is reasonable to expect to do with him when the weather's all wacked. I don't know what is "safe" and what isn't, and because I love him THAT much, I just assume it's *not* safe until I hear that it is. So right now, he gets turned out, and I go almost every day and bring him in and groom him and pick his feet, and do some carrot stretches, and give him some massage.

He's not as mellow and relaxed when he's getting groomed as he was, say, when we were riding 4 times a week. He puts his head in the air in the ties, and is more prone to freaking out about odd noises (like the barn cat, or the barn sparrows, stuff he is exposed to ALL the time). Yes, he's had his regular dental maintenance, the farrier is due week-after-next, he's not gone off his food, he seems happy with his paddock buddy, he's not flinchy anywhere in particular when I'm grooming him, he just used to hang out in the ties and blow his lips a lot, and now he's acting like one of those TBs you see going to the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby.

I'm assuming this means he is probably not getting enough exercise. Should I be lunging him? Does it need to be on a rope, or can I put him in the arena and free lunge him (he knows "walk" "trot" "canter" and "ho")? Is it OK to do that when the arena sand is hard? How can I tell if it is safe to put him in the arena and make him exercise? There is a round pen - should I use that instead of the arena?

Ordinarily I would ask this of my trainer, but with the holidays and all, I haven't seen her in a couple of weeks. Haven't seen the BO, either - I know she's on the job, but our paths haven't crossed. I'd been waiting until I could consult with a local expert, but it looks like that isn't going to happen soon, and I want my boy to be happy!
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post #2 of 7 Old 01-01-2012, 06:23 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
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I'm kind of in the same boat, so I'm excited to see what responses you get! My guy is regressing because I haven't ridden him much lately because I'm nervous about the footing. We haven't had much snow like normal (Minnesota), but I'm nervous to ride much because the ground is slippery. He's starting to become a gem on the ground because of all the groundwork, but he's getting bad under saddle.
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post #3 of 7 Old 01-01-2012, 09:00 PM
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Agreed the weather has been nuts this year. The rapid temperature fluctuations have made for some very interesting rides lately. Yes, it does sound like your horse needs a job, even if it is just ground schooling. I'd avoid slippery footing, but on those frozen ground days, put some hoof boots on him and let him blow off some steam. The flatter surface the better, but I totally understand that footing is out of your control right now. We were out trail riding in T-shirts today and it's supposed to be about 13 degrees on Tuesday. I'm surprised we're not all sick.
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-01-2012, 09:16 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Missouri
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Can someone work on dragging or shoveling the arena you DO have? It would help break up the hard ground and wouldn't be as slipperly.. then you could get some work done.

Luckily it's been warmer here (around 40s/50s) so our ground isn't as bad and we do have an indoor (though it is a dust storm..) but everyone's horses are wild and hard to handle besides the ones that can get ridden on a daily basis.

Just try to do some.. but don't overdue it. 10 minutes of lunging is tons better than standing around in mud.
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-01-2012, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: New England
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The arena does get dragged, when it can be. :roll: The areas where it's icy aren't so big that I can't go in and stomp them up with my boot.

I have been doing some groundwork with him there, just not anything really active.

Thanks for the concrete guidance - so 10 minutes is reasonable amount of exercise under these conditions?

Can I hear more about hoof boots? This is a different thing than the little ankle tubes that you strap on horses that kick themselves when they trot, right? Is this a device that would take the temporary place of a set of studded horseshoes (or whatever they're called - the kind that you can put cleats in...I saw them on a team of horses that was doing a sleigh ride a few years ago)?
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post #6 of 7 Old 01-01-2012, 10:40 PM
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Location: Missouri
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Yeah personally I wouldn't push it on the concrete since unlike ground, it doesn't have any give whatsoever so it's hard on their joints. There isn't a grassy area nearby that you could lunge-line him on?

The 'ankle tubes that you strap on horses that kick themselves' are called over reach boots, or bell boots. They provide protection for the outside of the hoof and the heels/pasterns. I'm not sure about actual boots that the hoof goes into, but I do know many people use them on trail rides where the terrain is rocky and too tender for their horse's feet to comfortably walk on.

Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can give you advice and more information on that matter.

I still have much to learn ;)
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post #7 of 7 Old 01-02-2012, 11:55 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Alberta
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Do you have any decent footing out in the paddocks or fields? How does your horse travel in the arena / other spaces where you might be able to work him? Does he walk carefully so he doesn't slip, or does he move with confidence?

We are having the same issue with the ground up here, but still have a thin layer of snow on the ground in our paddocks. The horses will still run like demons across the field, so the footing cannot be that bad, and it is definitely frozen. We do ride them gently in the paddocks and lunge on a long line at a slower pace giving them the space to find their footing. I would start with groundwork / lunging first so you can evaluate how your horse handles the footing. He won't put himself in danger if you give him a little extra space and don't push him too hard. It sounds like he has a little extra pent up energy he needs to burn so that would also be safer for you. Even a regular 10-15 minute mini-workout where he is being worked slowly / gently, listening to you and moving out should help improve his attitude and behaviour a bit.

Last edited by Koolio; 01-02-2012 at 11:57 AM.
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