Saturday, March 7, 2009

On the Road Again

One of my favorite ways to prepare a horse for its first rides out of the round corral is to do a lot of in-hand roadwork, first walking, then driving, then trotting. The benefits are both physical and mental -- and not just for the horse.

Our lovely model for this post is Alternating Current, aka Acey, a 2004 Barb mare by Marawooti. I started her under saddle late last summer, but she hasn't been ridden on the trail yet. By the end of this year, my goal is to have her not only well started, but fit for her first LD.

Speaking of fitness, a bit of roadwork is just what I need to revive my own muscles after too many hours spent in front of my computer. It's also perfect for reintroducing Acey's bare hooves to gravel after a winter spent on packed soil and mud.

Most of my Barbs, including Acey, were raised running loose on a 500-acre ranch, never touched by human hands until they were several years old. They come equipped with independent minds and a strong sense of self-preservation.

I like to know, before I'm on their backs, that they understand that trotting out in the big world does not mean it's time to return to their wilder days. In-hand roadwork simultaneously builds Acey's dependence on me for leadership and her confidence in leaving the herd and exploring new territory.


Besides, it's fun! Energy is welcome...


...but control issues are not. Here, Acey and I are engaged in a little reminder about respecting my space. I always prefer to have this kind of conversation from the ground, if I have the choice. The horses aren't the only ones who believe in self-preservation!


If you haven't taken your horse for a jog lately, give it a shot. Sweat a little. Review groundwork. Bond with your horse. And, don't forget to look at the expressions of passing drivers.

Bonus points for every passerby who says, 1) "Wouldn't it be easier to get on and ride?" or 2) "That's a mighty big dog you got there!"

Double bonus points if you take your horse for a morning trot, then come back in for a steaming bowl of my Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal. Ahhh, workout food.
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Related Posts

Breaking Free: Training the Herdbound Horse
The Horse I Lead: Starting Horses Under Saddle
Driver's Ed: Training Horses to Ground Drive
Where To, Ma'am? First Trail Ride on a Green Horse
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7 comments:

ellescee said...

Great post! I've jogged with all my ponies to get them used to going out! The people that live out here in Pullman are pretty used to seeing me jogging with my horse and my dog, and yes, they do give me funny looks!

Awesome cross training for humans, too! I've started using it as a means to teach Jasper "tailing", which he thinks is weird but doesn't mind. He'll even kink his tail over to my side when I'm jogging alongside his hindquarters!

Elly

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Looks like fun. What a great way for horse and rider to get in shape

Spartacus Jones said...

When I'm out doing roadwork with my partner and someone stops to say something like "Aren't you supposed to be RIDING him?" I usually reply:
"RIDE him? I'm lucky he doesn't make me CARRY him!"

:)

sj

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

SJ -- *snort* I'm stealing that one!

Elly -- I miss Pullman. Used to live there. Ah, tailing. I need to start that with Aaruba, too.

CJ Splash -- Great fun, indeed! I figure it's only fair to the horse to have a rider who's in the best possible condition.

Ashley said...

Acey is just the cutest little thing! I love her earnest expression as she's trotting along.

Jonna said...

Yup, I know what those funny looks are all about. I even had a nice "cowboy" coming by with a trailer offer to give me a lift one time!! It's been a few years since I did that with JB. With a stallion, I wanted to be 100% sure he was manageable from the ground before I climbed on and was miles from home! I do see more of that in my future with Brego however! One problem, he has a BIG stride and I have short legs... I might have to use my bike or something with him

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Ashley, I think of you and Mimi often when working with itty-bitty Acey. :-)

LOL, Jonna! I've never been offered a lift before...maybe if I wore a bikini? ;-)