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.
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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