I’ve been at a bit of a loss for what to write about, in this somewhat uneventful period between the championships in Colorado and finishing up the rest of the fall season. This has been made even more uneventful by the fact that it has been raining almost non-stop since we got home from Colorado! Bailey and I were discussing topics, and she sarcastically mentioned writing about how to survive when everything is under water, so she gets the credit for this post!
So, what do you do when the rain won’t quit long enough to let the sun shine for consecutive days, let alone long enough to dry the ground out?
Ride Inside: the first and most obvious suggestion, if you’re fortunate enough to have access, is to ride in an indoor or a covered ring. If you have anywhere that the ground stays dry enough, you can lunge, ride, work on the ground and even turn your horse out, depending on the rules that your facility has. I, personally, do not have access to anything like this, as my horses live at home. Their turnout is the same area as my ‘arena,’ and currently, I can’t use it for either. What I am able to do is take quick haul in field trips to the facility where my trainer is based, and use their covered rings to get some real work done. Sometimes I’ll haul in for the day and have a lesson, and other times I’ll haul in for an overnight field trip so I can get multiple rides in.
Ride Outside, Way Outside: If you don’t have access to use or travel to a covered ring, but also can’t ride in your usual arena or field, consider taking a ride a little further out. Areas that aren’t often used for training can sometimes hold up a little bit better in wet weather, with the added bonus that even if they are a little wet, you don’t have to worry about ruining your future footing by riding on it before it dries. I try to avoid riding in my field until it is almost completely dry, because if I create too many divots while the ground is wet, it ruins my footing until the next time we get a heavy rain to level them back out. When this is the case, I’ll take my horses on a little ‘trail ride’. Both of my horses are pretty stable going off property, so make sure you take this one with a grain of salt and only ask your horse to do things that you can do safely, but hopefully you can find something nearby that is an appropriate level of challenge for your horse. I’ll often go for a walk/jog down my street and back, all of the lots on my street are large and have a pretty substantial grass shoulder that is great for riding in, and as a bonus, is usually pretty solid because there is good drainage! If the weather isn’t bad but the ground is still wet, I might venture a little further than my street, going around the larger neighborhood around me, which lets us get in some work on terrain and gets us to larger areas where we’ll have a little more room to work. If you’re lucky, your horse might be stabled near some actual trails that you can take advantage of. Aside from just the physical aspect of getting your horse out of their stall for some exercise, riding off property can also give you an opportunity to work on aspects of your riding and training that might normally be a bit neglected. When I was younger and my horses were boarded, we used to ride out after almost every group lesson, and I think that’s a huge part of why my horses are so seasoned and able to adjust as quickly as they do to new places.
Ground Work: If you don’t have access to anywhere that the ground is solid enough to ride, you can get plenty of work done in hand. Depending on where your horse is in their training, this is a great opportunity to do anything from basic work on a small circle on the lunge line to carrot stretches in the barn to working on lateral movements using indirect pressure. Again, just like taking a horse off property, we should only take these opportunities to ask questions that are appropriate for the horse. Groundwork exercises like these can be helpful for keeping your horse physically active while they may otherwise be stuck indoors as well as keeping their mind working so they don’t get bored and/or destructive.
Spa Day!: No, probably not what you’re thinking. If you really don’t have access to ride or work anywhere, or if your weather is just that bad, consider putting in some good old-fashioned elbow grease. I will admit that I can be a bit lazy with my grooming regimen when the stakes are low (i.e., we aren’t going on any field trips or to any shows or clinics). Don’t get me wrong, my horses are by no means neglected, but I will say that I let their manes and whiskers get a little long, go without conditioning their tail for longer than I should, and, let’s be honest, I’ve never met a horse who just didn’t need any more curry combing, have you? Inevitably, I put these things off and then find myself in a mad dash to get everything done the week before a show. Anyone else do this? No, just me? Oh, well. Maria in particular has a tendency to start ‘protesting’ when she’s made to stay inside too long for her liking, so I can say from first hand experience that when you don’t have the space to do any physical work with your horse, a long and intensive grooming session is a great way to make sure they have a little extra attention.
Give the Rest of the Barn Some Attention: When you’re all done grooming, stretching, lunging and trail riding your horse, you could use the inclement weather as a reason to get some extra work or homework done, clean your house or whatever it is that normal people do on rainy days (?). Or, because let’s be honest, we’re certainly not going to do the laundry or the dishes, you could take the time that you’re not in your regular riding routine to make sure everything else is in tip-top shape. Remember that mad dash we find ourselves in to get whiskers and bridle paths trimmed right before we leave for a show? Oh, wait, that was just me, right? Anyway, if you have some more time to spend at the barn, give your tack an extra cleaning, get your trunk organized, consider getting rid of your oldest and dingiest most well-used saddle pads or brushes, make sure all your boots are clean and paired up and your polos are wrapped. If you have to do laundry on a rainy day, barn laundry is acceptable.
If you happen to find yourself experiencing the same seemingly unending deluge of rain as I am, I hope you have more than enough dry shavings, rubber boots and fly spray to see you through! Until next time, thanks for reading!