At one point when I was younger and didn’t have the opportunity to board in an amazing place I knew better than to ride the same way in the same place day after day. At that point in my life I was doing eventing and so one day we’d jump in our “ring” which was basically a flat field and the next we would do cross country, trails, take the horses swimming, or just lunge and do a grooming day.
Unfortunately at some point as I became an adult I forgot about this and started to not appreciate that my horse needed variety. Over this past year, as Katai develops, I’ve become especially bad at this to the point that I basically ride in the same way and in the same place every time I ride. I think part of this is because for a while Katai was so green and I didn’t really have a safe place to ride her outside but now that I do have a good place to ride outside and access to trails I’ve just not really started to do that again. Partially because I’m a perfectionist and want to work directly on what my instructor has given me and get it perfect and part of it is because I’ve just gotten lazy about planning my rides.
I guess I hadn’t even realized how bad it had become until I ran into three things this week that were great reminders.
The first reminder was a great post on COTH about whether a horse lacked work ethic or if it was bored. After reading just the first few posts I realized what a disservice I was doing to Katai by not ever taking her out of the ring. Not only does she need it mentally but physically as well. Quickly as I continued to read through the comments I begin to formulate a plan for the next couple of weeks of how to vary Katai’s schedule a bit.
The second reminder was that I’ve been re-reading Equine Fitness by Jec Aristotle Ballou and she gives a lot of cross training exercises and really emphasizes how important it is from a strength perspective to make sure a horses’ work is varied. She also stresses that by doing the same thing every day you are much more likely to cause your horse to breakdown or develop injuries.
The third was reading Jen’s post from Cob Jockey about perfectionism. I’m such a perfectionist, I think it’s a large part of why I love Dressage, that not only am I critical of every step in the arena but I also don’t want to spend the time out of the arena because I don’t feel I’ll be making progress. Of course I know this isn’t true and I understand how much stronger and more balanced both mentally and physically this will make both Katai and myself but I think I have to admit that sometimes I feel like it’s just wasted time. After reading her post though I realized how important it is for Katai to feel like she’s not being micro managed on every ride and a good way for me to do that is to do something else and give both of us a break from this specific work.
All of this came at a great point as I’ve realized that I really need to ride more consistently if I would like to meet my goals. I’ve always been pretty happy with riding 3-4 days per week but now I think we are at the point where I need to try to shoot for 4-5 days per week. It will be easier, and better for both of us, to do that if I’m varying what we are working on and doing different types of rides throughout the week. Right now I’m going to shoot for a canter set/conditioning ride, at least one day where I ride over ground poles and a ride where I start to get her used to trails at least every other week. With my lesson that means that I’ve either got 1 or 2 (or sometimes possibly 3) days of focused dressage riding left on my calendar every week. If we were in a different place and at a different level I think that could possibly be an issue but since a lot of conversations with my trainer have to do with developing strength right now I think this sort of schedule is just about right. Plus, one of our other focuses is on getting her to listen to and understand my leg cues and that can happen anywhere.
I’m really looking forward to having more variety in my schedule and I think Katai probably is too!