Spring (and mud season) is finally upon us. It was a long, very cold winter and most of us didn't ride very much for months. Our horses didn't seem to mind the break. They went straight to work getting chubby on hay and napping a lot. We may have missed them, but I am pretty sure they were totally cool with the situation.
Now that spring is here, we're all itching to get back in the saddle again and feeling the pressure to be prepared for shows and clinics we are planning to attend. It's a great feeling to be riding regularly again, but if you're like me you've noticed a few things changed over the winter...my legs and core are weaker, my timing/rhythm is rusty and I sometimes feel "off" with my horse, and my hands are unsteady (ok, they're always unsteady. Now they're even unsteadier! Blah!) My horse is a little herd-bound, stiff, tires easily, and is a more spooky and tense than usual. We're back to working on "easy stuff", yet it feels hard.
These are the unfortunate effects of taking time off over the winter, and they can lead to a somewhat frustrating spring (on top of dealing with mud, scratches, the return of the flies, and shedding out). But, it's all normal and you're not alone. We're all dealing with this. It's part of life in a northern climate and you will come out the other side, I promise! Not without work, however.
Making progress and pushing through the uncomfortable spring season is all about putting the time in. "Putting the time in" isn't always easy and fun. Many days we're tired from school or work, and going to the barn to deal with all that mud, hair, and a horse that acts like it doesn't want to see us loses out to going home and taking a bath and watching The Voice (guilty as charged).
But when we aren't disciplined about working our horses regularly, we don't get to see any change, and a cycle occurs: The barn/our horse isn't much fun so we don't want to go, when we don't go nothing changes. In order to break the cycle we must put the time in, even when it feels hard.
Pulling your horse out of the pasture even to just brush it (if you really don't have the energy or time to ride/lunge) helps it to get over the herd-boundness that was created by months of zero routine/work. Horses thrive on a regular routine, so by establishing set times and days that you handle and work your horse you are giving them something to rely on and it will soon feel normal to your horse and to you. With enough repetition, you may even eventually find them waiting by the gate at exactly 4:15 on Thursday afternoon, instead of running away from you!
Progress like this is very rewarding, and you deserve to see the fruits of your labor, so do yourself a favor and stick with a routine this spring.
A great way to make sure that riding feels fun sometimes and not always like work is to trail ride. Getting yourselves out of the arena does wonders for your horse's brain and your moral. A trail-riding post is coming up next, stay tuned. Happy spring, everyone!