Teaching clinics in different countries shows me that there are still cultural differences in this global age. In Portugal, a spot of rain or a cool breeze is reason enough to hide indoors. In Sweden – where I have been teaching clinics for much of the last month – temperatures of -22 degrees aren’t sufficient to deter clients from bringing their horse to a riding clinic. Then, in England – where I have been teaching this last week – clients come fully prepared for twelve months of weather in one day! But thankfully we have enjoyed beautiful early spring sunshine this time.
Difficult weather conditions – whether extreme heat, sub-freezing cold or torrential rain – can get in the way of our enjoyment of riding and any training programme we may have planned. Our horses too can become frustrated if we can’t ride, work them or let them loose as usual. Then when we can take an opportunity to work with them, their stored up energy can make them difficult to handle.
Of course, having access to an indoor arena makes things easier, but when it is -22 degrees, it even freezes inside! In such circumstances, attempting concentrated work with a horse that just wants to run and buck is very difficult. The best thing is to accept the situation, ride when it is possible and work the horse in hand when the weather or ground conditions don’t allow riding. If you can hack out, perhaps incorporate some leg yields, shoulder in, or other lateral work on a quiet road where it’s safe to do so.
Any kind of developmental work you can do is better then nothing at all, but if you can’t ride or train at all for a while – it’s ok: your horse won’t forget what you have been doing. In fact a break can help him to process things and mature, so that when you pick up training again he’ll be better prepared in his mind, if not in his body.
Thank you to my students and friends across Sweden and in Oxfordshire, where I had the pleasure to teach for the first time last weekend. It was a joy to move from the bleak Scandinavian winter to see snowdrops hopefully heralding the lengthening sunny days in England. I’m looking forward to the next visit.
Thanks to Ulrika Malm and Maria Håkansson for the photographs from my clinics in Sweden.