Posted by: rstor | December 8, 2011

Taking it slowly… safe winter riding

George Gorman, inventor of the RS-tor riding security aid, gives Local Rider magazine his advice on staying safe this winter in the saddle…

Since the clocks changed, it has been trickier to coordinate our winter riding – not least because of the reduced daylight and slippery conditions. However, it is possible to maintain equine fitness by adapting our schooling programmes to include careful hacking, lungeing and slow manege work. Here are my top five tips for riding in the winter:

(1) If your problem is simply one of time, now it is dark earlier, consider lungeing to maintain equine fitness – it is especially useful when time is limited, and may even be a safer choice than riding if the manege is badly lit. Build up from five minutes on each rein if you don’t lunge regularly, to 20-30 mins in total.

(2) If your school is flooded, treat hacking out as a training session and school as you ride; for example, riding lateral movements along a bridle path. Always wear high visibility gear, and avoid the end of the day when it becomes dusky. Consider also riding with an RS-tor rider security aid – the RS-tor is an innovative product for horse riders that helps develop rider balance, and allows the rider to stay safer in the saddle during any discipline or activity. For a horse that is treading carefully due to wet or icy ground conditions, it gives the rider an arm’s length of security in the event of a trip. It consists of a light, webbing strap that attaches to the saddle stirrup bars and includes an elasticated element that absorbs movement. The RS-tor may even help prevent a horse from falling itself, because as the horse stumbles, the rider may have time to ‘pick the horse up’, rather than losing their reins.

(3) It is important to keep the horse’s muscles warm in winter – as the horse exercises, oxygen-carrying blood is released into the bloodstream and subsequently into the working muscles. The muscles warm up as they contract, allowing the horse to stretch and loosen up; however, this process takes longer in cold weather. A well fitting exercise sheet will therefore help to keep the muscles warm, and may also help prevent the horse stumbling due to tense, tight muscles.

(4) Don’t neglect the importance of your horse’s balance this winter – reduced training caused by inclement weather may result in equine laziness, a lack of coordination and increased trips and stumbles, which can of course result in a fall. If you have a lazy horse, you may find that further training will help focus his attention. You could try working with ground poles to help him develop some spatial awareness, and regain some interest in his workload and where he is putting his feet. If your horse is unfit and uncoordinated, you may find that as he develops in fitness, the tripping reduces. Of course, there are several reasons why a horse may stumble and it is advisable to get the horse checked by a hoofcare professional and / or vet, if the problem is ongoing.

(5) If you have access to a manege but are unable to do fast work or jumping due to wet conditions, go back to the beginning and work on your position and the horse’s outline in walk and trot. It will prove beneficial to both your flatwork and jumping. Leading dressage trainer Sarah Millis suggests working on a 20 metre circle, which is also useful if your manege is not very well-lit, and taking things slowly. She recommends working on a good rhythm and focusing on your position, even if you only stay in walk. Also, don’t forget that clipped horses may be a little fresher and sharper; no doubt feeling those wintry, windy gusts under their tails a little bit more! Be safety conscious and don’t forget to ride with an RS-tor rider security aid – visit www.rstor.co.uk for information.

 


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