Winter Riding Help - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-14-2011, 09:06 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Pennsylvania
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Winter Riding Help


I am currently riding a friend's Quarter Horse Appendix mare, usually once a week. I'm a new rider and learning slowly on my own. I took lessons as a kid, but now I'm coming back to it as an adult. Anyway... I've been riding this horse now since the summer, and there's never been much of a problem with the horse spooking or doing anything crazy. She once spooked on a trail ride at a small branch that fell in front of her, but it was nothing more than a sideways movement that I was able to stay on no problem, and she was fine after that.

But this winter I had a not so great experience one day when I had her in the indoor arena. She'd been walking around for awhile with me leading her, and we did a few trots in hand, so I got on and immediately noticed a lot of energy in her, which I attributed to her wanting to do more trotting (she loves to move). At the arena doors she shied a little as we walked by (there were people working on a fence outside the doors). On the third walk by she heard something and spooked. It started out as a sudden sideways movement, then she shot forward into what I thought was going to be a canter, then started bucking. I stayed on for four bucks but went flying on the fifth. Ow.

I didn't realize winter time is different for horses as a rule. (I also didn't realize how to ride those bucks and have since discovered a few things I could've done to stay on).

Does anyone have any advice for when to know it's safe to ride in the winter time? How long do you lunge your horses before riding in the cold? What sort of expectations should I have? I want to stay safe, but I also don't want to not ride during the winter since we have access to an indoor arena.

Curious for your thoughts... I'm a little fearful now of getting on and don't want to be.
cjdarlington is offline  
post #2 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 01:25 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Well to start off... all horses have a little more energy on cool days i call it "sewing their oats" they are just having fun. I would not say a horse gets more or less spooky in summer or winter though. You have a couple problems now.

Your a older rider coming back to riding... this is a problem cause as a adult you realize how much more can go wrong and the dangers horses have. Cause you have this mind set your reactions wont be as natural, causing you to pass stress vibes on to your horse... thus causing more situation to happen.

You should NEVER trot or run a fresh horse. If you do, you will end up with bucks, rearing, bolting due to excitement and energy. If you always ALWAYS have a good slower routine you wont end up in this mess... I always get on my horses, make them stand a few seconds (I hate horses that walk off when you mounting) Then I ask for a few steps back, the I usually go forward to the left or right (never straight). If you do this your horse wont have a "habit" and try to make up its own mind. If it never really knows what you going to ask it will wait for you to ask instead of guessing. Then once I am moving I only go at a walk (for the above mentioned reasons) then after he and I have fully checked in with each other he and "FULLY" responding to my cues I will go into a trot. If I get a little buck or if hes not paying attention I go back to a walk and check in (kind of like saying "no no silly you miss understood me, I want you to be calm, lets try again")

I never lung my horses to get there energy out, if you always have theses same habits you wont have theses kind of "fresh horse" problems and its was not the horses fault in anyway, she was showing excitement and you said lets go... so she went for it like you asked.. you should have said "hey hey, lets do some slow work first, then when I think you will respond well, we can go faster later"

You set your self up for what happened, and we all have done the same thing at some point to... (I have had so much rope burn, been dragged, and thrown so many times I cant count) I have learned how to avoid such things.

I hope this helps...
Cheers Tanya

Cowgirl Up and Git R Dun

Last edited by yukontanya; 01-15-2011 at 01:28 AM.
yukontanya is offline  
post #3 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 09:05 AM
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I'm having similar problems with my own horse (also qh ). I never rode her in winter before (always stopped riding in Dec), but this year with lessons and everything I try to keep them going as long as I can even though it's cold and we have lots of VERY windy days I can't ride on (as there is no indoor here). I can't believe how attitude changed: very forward (she's generally lazy, now I don't even need a leg on) and bucks first 15 mins of ride or so.

What I did yesterday was lunging her. Which was 10 mins of "run & buck" experience, and she refused to stop. Definitely enjoyed herself.

I'm not sure about not trotting a fresh horse (I personally do), but you gotta let that energy out somehow before you can concentrate on work. If you can't ride it out - lunge it out!

Edit: and yes, I'm an adult rider too, who came into horses with little riding experience... :)

kitten_Val is offline  
post #4 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 09:05 AM
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Hey Darlin,
I have a similar experience, being an adult rider coming back, and finding my horse is really being a pain in the winter! But it's not a problem being an adult, it's just different. Yes, you do tend to get more fearful and maybe overthink in ways the kids don't, but I think I learn faster now, as I'm more invested in reading and thinking about what I'm doing.

As far as tanya's post, she has some good points, but please don't blame yourself for what happened. It could happen to anyone. There are also good reasons for trotting a spooky horse AS LONG as the horse is listening to you. If you have a horse you know is anxious and wound up, and you make it stand, you could end up with bucks, because that energy is going to come out somehow!

I was recently riding my horse who was acting fresh, and asing for transitions (walk trot walk), because I knew he was looking for a reason to spook. My trainer happened to be near by, and she told me to go ahead and let him trot becuase I was just frustrating him by going slow. So it can go either way.

As far as knowing when to lunge, I have learned the hard way (although I did not fall off I did get bucked and I did get scared), that I need to guage the horse's mind set before I ever get on. The day he was nuts, he was nuts from the minute I put him in the cross ties. I should have lunged him first.

Yesterday, he was sleepy in the cross ties, but when we got to the ring eh would NOT listen to me. He would not stand, and so we did some ground work. Then I went to mount and he would not stand, and he would not back up on cue. So I did lunge him. He cantered and bucked and squealed and acted like a crazy thing. Then I got on and he was still keyed up, but at least we had a reasonable ride.

It was frstrating becuase he's been ridden regularly this week, and I didn't expect him to act like that at all. It happend to be sunny and above 32 for the first time in a few weeks, so I guess that was his excuse.

I think my lesson learned is to note when there's been a significant weather change (warmer, colder, windier, sunnier), and also note how they are listening on the ground. If I have any concerns, then I will do more ground work than usual, or lunge.

Good luck to you, sounds like you and I are pretty similar in what we are doing!
MaryMary is offline  
post #5 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 09:06 AM
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And oh by the way, mind is a quarter horse as well!
MaryMary is offline  
post #6 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Pennsylvania
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Thanks, guys, for the comments. I really appreciate it. Yeah, that's the one drawback to coming back at it as an adult---thinking too much! You think of the worst case scenarios. But I've been trying hard to overcome that and just enjoy any time I have with horses. I know the safety. I'm as careful as I can be, but then there comes a time, I guess, when you gotta let go and relax. And I agree, MaryMary... I'm learning a ton from this as I go look things up after the fact and try new things I wouldn't have thought to try as a kid.

So all in all, I guess I need to take a deep breath, do what I can do to be safe (like lunging before a ride if necessary), and then move on.

Thanks guys! Also, I read in a book not to have very high expectations in the winter time as the horses are all cold too!
cjdarlington is offline  
post #7 of 7 Old 01-17-2011, 08:12 PM
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They do certainly get more reactive and silly in the winter! On my horse's more "up" days, sometimes all we do under saddle are suppling exercises at the walk. If you know lower level dressage stuff, leg yield, shoulder-in and hauches-in, there's a ton of things you can do to harness that energy without ever coming out of the walk. Work in lots of circles, spiral-in/spiral-out, serpentines, etc. It it help your horse better direct and focus her energy and help you establish good contact and the ever-important outside rein contact. By the way, you can learn all that stuff from a book, especially if you have mirrors in your arena to confirm where your horse's legs are.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
MyBoyPuck is offline  

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