February. The time of year when us Manitoba equestrians begin to emerge, or at least think about beginning to emerge, from a winter of riding hibernation.
February. The month of the highest winds, most snowfall, and fluctuating temperatures. Really not ideal to get back into the riding swing of things, but the clock has started ticking; countdown is on to the 2016 outdoor show season.
February. The month that I have declared a fresh start for all the horses that I ride.
Blank slate. Begin again. Back to basics.
The last nine months have been filled with lamenesses and sicknesses. Allergies and unidentifiable ailments that have tested my equine first aid skills to the max. I like our vet, but I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t see her for the next year… or five.
Sarcoids and heaves and a non-functioning soft pallet are just a few of the things to plague the barn.
Non-functioning soft-pallet… Yep, couldn’t swallow properly. Don’t ask details, this one still baffles me.
So, after nine months of medicating and bandaging and stall rest and all those things that don’t involve sitting in a saddle, I’m starting back at the beginning.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ridden at all. A few rides here and there, weather permitting, to get my fix and let the healthy few stretch their legs. Arena turnouts for those that can’t be ridden, to give them a chance to play and roll in the dirt instead of in the snow.
But now, with show season a few months away and seven horses to get fit (a few still pending health), it’s time to make a plan. And the best way I can think of starting is to take them all back to basics. The seasoned ones and the newbies, the hunters and the jumpers, back to simple sessions of transitions, pole work and lots of walk breaks.
They’ll all get refreshers on leg-yields, turn on the forehand and simple changes.
This year the goal is not to jump higher, go faster, or place better. The goal is to get the whole crew healthy and sound again, so I don’t have to leave anyone at home.
So I’ll start over again and go back to basics.