In Wyoming, the winter months tend to slow down the progress of training, but a fresh snow can offer a means of tracking, quite literally, your horse's progress. In the photos, a few carefully placed ground rails provide virtual walls and corners, excellent tools for refining lateral work. As the horse is worked in the fresh snow, the tracks left behind will reveal much about the symmetry and rhythm of the training (see second photo).
How else can we utilize the natural environment and seasonal rhythms to improve our horsemanship? What works in your climate or with your environment?
Fresh snow helps track lunging progress, providing a feedback on how consistently your horse is finding his circle and how well you are staying centered. It is also great fun to make snow art! In the first photo, you see our blank canvas, and in the second, our creation, which looks a bit like a mandala of sorts.
this is fantastic sarah
other ways to use the natural environment and its rhythms for horse training include:
no arena? no problem! put two poles or logs on the ground and right angles and work the four steps and the corner that they give you to train everything
in horrible weather you can get the same effect working in hand in a 12x12 stall and teach the horse all his dressage - even a canter transition in hand - in there!
mud, snow, sand,all give you a change to see if your horse is tracking up - just as sarah describes here
use a woodland trail or the road for laterals
use tress for piruettes and walls to teach the rein back
if the horse's natural rhtyhm gets upset while riding - get off and work in hand and keep him moving in shoulder in, travers etc, or carry a lunge line wrapped around your middle and get off and lunge in a lfat area til hes calm and help him build more rhythm
its all about using what God gives us...
LIVE FREE *** RIDE FREE
a great variation on this theme is to try and ride a shamrock pattern in the 20m circle - eventually at all three gates. its alike a variation of the countdowns but with laterals...and fun
if youre using a sand or grass area you can take spray paint and paint the pattern first to follow it
i often think that riding arenas might be easier for people if the quarter lines, centre line, 20m, 10m and smaller circles were marked out as if on a basketball or soccer pitch - it would help people keep the rhtyhm more because they wouldnt have the insecirity - at first - of not being quite sure of their geography....
LIVE FREE *** RIDE FREE
I completely agree about re-establishing the horse's rhythm when things start to fall apart. Natural horsemanship uses the yielding of the haunches and small circles to supple the horse's body & mind (on the ground & from the saddle). Whenever I start to have trouble with a horse, this helps to defuse any potentially dangerous situation or to simply bring the horse back to a quiet, receptive state of mind. When I feel that the horse has once again found a natural, easy rhythm, training can begin again.
Maintaining this type of natural, easy rhythm is important for the human, too! This can be harder than one might think; we are all guilty of clinging, bracing and holding our breath as we focus on training/riding. For me, yogic breathing & the practice mindfulness have been important tools in overcoming these tendencies. When things start to go wrong, I breathe and ask myself, "What is happening here? What do I want to be happening? What would that feel like?" Of course, this doesn't always happen... but the more it does, the better my results!
What helps you find and maintain rhythm in your horsemanship?