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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone!
So a few months ago I moved from an outstanding facility 40 minutes from my house (I was going 4x/week usually) with two outdoors and a fabulous indoor, to my current stable, which is only five minutes away and I can see her every day, but only has one "nice" outdoor. I say nice because it is beautiful, but 1) it's somewhat small and 2) poor fitting increases the chances of muscle strain/injury. But, as my trainer and the vet warned me of the increased muscle strain and to just be aware of it but did not say I couldn't ride in it (it isn't absolutely horrendous, but it really isn't good), I ride in there quite frequently... weather permitting.

And that's where my issue comes in.

A little background for ya. My horse has osteoarthritis, she's 6 years old, and we are dressage lovers. That's our main discipline. She is in serious training and I am too -- we aren't doing this just "for fun," we have intentions of competing and succeeding in the sport. She's still learning and so am I, so we have a ways to go before we get there, but our reasonable goal (with my trainer in mind) is that we would begin showing in the New Year, hoping that all goes on track and as planned.

So back to my problem, I can deal with a day of rain here and there, no biggie... but we recently were just pounded with a huge amount of snow, and more is on the way. I know it's going to be a rough and not-such-a-productive winter, and I cannot deal with the idea of losing ride time.

Last winter, I gave my girl three months off due to her osteoarthritis just becoming so poor that riding was a completely uncomfortable activity, so handwalking became our priority. And since then, it has been a progressively SLOW challenge to obtain more skills in our toolbox..

So, I have a few ideas, but I'm struggling. I am a student and my parents are financially responsible (and unfortunately are my transportation as well) so I'm trying to keep them in mind in the equation, since I really have no other method currently.

Their option is for me to just continue riding when I can and wait for the snow to clear up. But I'm not that flexible, and not willing to give all the time up. I don't think they understand especially how challenging it is to gain all of the lost ground after giving a horse off for some time (and I know some horses are fine with time off, but my horse will be quite the challenge, especially with her arthritis, after even 4 or 5 days without being ridden).

My options (in my head, not theirs) are:
1) give her the winter off and ride when I can (which I really don't want to do, I'm going to lose tons of training).
2) move her to a stable 20-30 minutes away where I could pursue my riding as desired -- (it'd take quite some convincing for this, and a huge switch)
3) move her to my trainer's stable an hour away where he could train her 2-3 days per week and I could see her once or twice per week (at least just for the winter, then move back to my current place or to another nearby stable when the weather gets better)
4) enter her into a training program for the winter -- which honestly isn't really an option but just a thought because the prices are way out of my range


I'm also concerned because I've only been at my stable for 2 or so months anyway, and my girl has gotten so attached to her herdmates (not in an unhealthy way, but she loves them) and she loves her new home, so I feel bad switching her right away, but I don't know what to do...

I'm honestly so lost and confused and my trainer has made it very clear that he does not think it is a good idea for me to give the winter off. Not only will her arthritis worsen and will her joints become much more tense, but she will lose tons of training ground that I have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars obtaining.

Thank you and God bless!
 

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We are in a similar situation. We got a whole bunch of unexpected snow and ice. We physically can't even get to the barn to ride even though we have a covered arena - the roads are too icy and the city won't clear back roads.

So that's something to consider if you move to a barn with an indoor arena - it must be accessible in snow and ice.
 

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While I agree with Dancing Arabian and would say in hand or light riding I think the key is you said you want to be a serious competitor next year. Option 3 is your best (just need to make sure YOU get enough time) and I think would be good for the horse. I think option 2 would be second best because it would be more complicated to do and you might have the same problems. This way your horse gets trained by a professional, and you can still see her regularly (like I said, just make sure YOU stay in shape).
Option 1 to me is basically the same as in hand and light riding. Maybe my first choice but not for competing.
 

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I am a little puzzled by this. You obviously live in an area where the weather is not ideal, and you knew this before you moved your horse. It should not come as a surprise now that winter is here and riding is difficult. If you do not have the funds to to what is necessary to prepare to be competitive next season, do you have the funds to really actively show? Just something to think about. Perhaps your goal is not realistic right now, given your limitations. Maybe you should just enjoy your horse until your situation changes a little, or stick to smaller more local stuff for fun. I do understand that there are folks who are all out or nothing, but that does not come cheap, and requires LOTS of riding, which your current situation will not give you.
 

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If your horse has arthritis at 6 years old, is a dressage career really going to be practical for a long, useful life for her? Just wondering. Maybe something less demanding would be better-maybe trail riding? What about ride & tie? There seems to be a lot of stress on both of you. Also, you are not saying where you live, which is very limiting in how we see your environment. We aren't here to stalk you, but area/climate is a big consideration in what we do w/our horses.

You said you were a student, but that can range from almost any young age to 21+, so that doesn't really tell us how many years you may have been riding. Or what kinds of horse experience you have had. Do you see the horse as a tool? Your best friend? Are you driving to the barn or are your parents driving you? That can make a difference also.
More facts could mean more help.
 

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If your horse has arthritis at 6 years old, is a dressage career really going to be practical for a long, useful life for her? Just wondering. Maybe something less demanding would be better-maybe trail riding? What about ride & tie? There seems to be a lot of stress on both of you. Also, you are not saying where you live, which is very limiting in how we see your environment. We aren't here to stalk you, but area/climate is a big consideration in what we do w/our horses.

You said you were a student, but that can range from almost any young age to 21+, so that doesn't really tell us how many years you may have been riding. Or what kinds of horse experience you have had. Do you see the horse as a tool? Your best friend? Are you driving to the barn or are your parents driving you? That can make a difference also.
More facts could mean more help.
This is my first question. Really, how feasible is a heavy dressage career on a horse that has already had to take several months off due to arthritis at age 6? I'm not saying to give up your dream with this horse or condemning you, just making sure that you really think about whether or not you can accomplish what you want to on this mare without her breaking down.

I think that 2 is probably your best option. Your riding may be limited by the distance from the barn, but it's better to be able to ride every other or every third day than not being able to ride at all during inclement weather in bad footing. You can then consider moving her elsewhere when the weather clears up if you feel so inclined.

Personally, I wouldn't move her to a trainer's facility where you would only be able to ride once a week, or not at all. Having a trained horse in dressage is half the battle, but you are not doing the partnership any favors by not riding and improving yourself. Practice is key in any sport.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks everyone for your responses.

I'm in the Northeastern U.S., where the seasons are pretty much stereotypical, from the sometimes-snowy winters to the smoldering hot summers. Last winter was actually not so horrible, and I guess I sort of thought I could deal with the rain and snow, but now being in the situation, it's not as easy as I thought it would be. As far as my current time schedule, I'm extremely busy (part of which is because I have a horse and am an avid rider). I'm reasonably close to college, but still have a bit of high school left, so my days are pretty much booked and my independence hindered. Yes, my parents are responsible for transportation, which they are extremely willing to work with... but then again, their schedules permitting. In addition, horseback riding is not my only activity other than school.

When I say actively show, I mean that my goal is to do schooling shows rather frequently the next year or two (or until necessary) until I can then delve into some of the more serious competition. I have no intention of "rushing the process" and I'm willing to wait a while before I can actually get into the tougher competition arena... I just want to get my feet wet in competition more than anything.

I do have a good deal of horse experience and riding experience. I've been riding on and off since I've been a young child. I would say I'm a beginner dressage rider, but I'd consider myself an intermediate-advanced to beginner advanced English pleasure rider (because I've been doing English for quite the time). And, my horse has a bit of "spunk" so I would consider myself a decent horse handler also. I do see my horse as my best friend, but also my teammate and partner in the sport that I take so seriously.

I understand everyone's concern for my horse having osteoarthritis and doing dressage, and it's a question I've been asking myself for the past year since she's been diagnosed... but with the guidance of my extremely experienced trainer and veterinarians, and after thorough treatment and testing, her dressage has proven to be extremely beneficial in aiding with the symptoms and stiffness associated with her arthritis and I think she really enjoys it. No, it's not fun like galloping out on the trails like we used to do, but it's extremely rewarding and I know it feels great for her body (when she gets into the groove with it). This is also a huge concern of mine -- not being able to ride her, therefore having her become stiff/uncomfortable, losing muscle memory, etc.

The past couple days, despite a snow-covered ground (with no access to the grass ah) which isn't melting due to a lower temp, she has been turned out during the day from early morning to late afternoon, and I've been handwalking her for 5-10 minutes or so in addition...

I want to get on the trail in this snow, which I haven't done in forever, but I don't know. (part of me wonders how pursuable dressage even will be at this stable, which is a conversation I'm having with my trainer currently...)

Thank you.
 

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Honestly, I think the time off is probably good for the horse, perhaps not so much for you. At what level are you training?

I have never had an indoor, so I have always been at the mercy of the weather, plus husband, children, other family, farm work, etc. I managed to show a bit nationally, and successfully, in spite of it.

Ride when you CAN, do what you need to in between, and go show in the Spring!!

Nancy
 

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What about doing something other than dressage for the winter? You can go on a trail ride at a walk up and down hills to maintain fitness. Is there an indoor you could trailer to somewhere nearby? I was doing that all summer, but went to boarding for the winter. However, if the arena is close, you have a good truck, and you drive slow, that might be feasible. Usually a nice arena will let you pay a small use fee to trailer in. Honestly, even in spring/summer/fall, I can't imagine doing serious dressage training without at least a covered arena, so this may be something you end up doing year round. What are you going to do when it rains all spring and the outdoor is sloppy?
 

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A little snow is not a game stopper. If it was, no one North of you would ride from November to May. Snow can even improve upon less than ideal footing. We have to clear our arena out and be cautious to leave a good 6" base for percussion.

If the footing is slippery, consider an aggressive hoof boot for riding, or take your practice outside the arena and into the virgin snow in the field or yard. Change up your routine toward endurance and strength, with good straight long runs. There's opportunity to be had outside circles, outside arenas. Snow is a footing equalizer. Expand your creative thinking and your horse's coping skills.
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You can definitely ride in the snow, but you ask for a different kind of work from them, IMO. It's really hard to focus on progressing in dressage with a green horse if the footing is crappy. I made negative progress with my mare when I tried to school dressage over the rough, rocky, sometimes muddy pasture, so I didn't do dressage at home, but worked on fitness and obedience in general. We did lots of trail riding. I trailered in to an arena 2x a week, once for a lesson, and once for schooling ride.

That said, it could be really good for your horse to do light work over uneven ground and to get out of the arena. Only doing dressage and only doing it in a groomed arena is a good way to get a ring sour clutz. You will do her a huge favor by making her good on the trail, too, because then she has a job to retire to when her hocks inevitably hurt her too much to give you the required collection for dressage. As long as you keep her fit, I don't think you'll lose too much by doing something else over the winter.

If you are determined to do dressage year round, you need to either trailer to an arena, or move your horse to somewhere with a covered arena. IMO, it's better for you to be able to work her every day, even if only one day a week is dressage, so I'd leave her where she is.
 

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If you do choose to stay then maybe ride her lightly through the winter and take lessons with your trainer on one of her horses to at least keep improving your skills.

If it's about the convenience of the travel to your home, I would move her. As much as it's a hassle, it's worth the trip.
 

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It's not a problem people on here can resolve for you.

It comes down to you and your circumstance, if you can afford to pay for a place with an indoor and pay for someone to work your horse for you. If your parents are willing to drive you out there. If your parents are funding the whole thing sit down and have a chat with them. Find out how much they are willing to contribute and see how that fits in with the budget, get quotes from your possible options. If it's out of budget then it's not an option, and not a decision you have to dwell over. Ask your parents how often they're willing to drive you out there, and put that into the equation. While you're at it ask about how much they're willing to dedicate to showing as well. See what your real options are.

I tend to think that if your parents are paying then you're best going with their option of riding when you can and then getting back into work later. Yes, they don't understand the ground you'll lose, but it sounds like the cost difference between the places is pretty big and they sound like pretty great parents supporting you through vets, moving, lessons etc.

Each person on here would do something different, so we can't really tell you what to do. Like I'd love an indoor but I'd never keep my horse so far away I couldn't comfortably go care for him twice a day. I'd also never pay for a trainer to ride my horse... but that's just me. I'm a student so affordability is a huge factor when it comes to my horse. Lots of people do things very differently.
 
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