The pony. photo by Megg McClarty

Well, spring seems to finally have sprung in Manitoba — knock on wood!  We turned the clocks forward an hour on Saturday, and by the time I got up the next day at 9:30 AM (née 8:30 AM) it was a balmy 2 degrees Celsius and warming every minute.

Determined to spend the whole day outside after a straight week sequestered indoors with a pile of dry textbooks to sift through, I dragged my reluctant pony, Haajes, out of his hay bale and tacked him up for a school in the snow.

At first it was more of a lark than anything — Haajes was perky and feisty, springing through the 18-inch slushy drifts with gusto.  But he soon realised that being frisky in snowdrifts expends a lot more energy than it does on dry ground, and he settled right into work.

This is where we ran into some issues.  I was schooling him on a circle at the trot, trying to channel my trainer’s voice and keep his bend consistent and NOT let him over-bend and bulge out on the one side (always the side towards the barn– go figure!)  I thought I was doing a pretty good job actually, tracking in some 20-meter circles that had to be dressage-worthy for sure– until I looked behind me.

My progress was clearly marked in the snow, and our tracks were anything but circular! In fact, we had managed to produce more of a wonky oval than anything, and it was abundantly clear that the bulge I thought I’d fixed was still very much present!  And worse yet was that fact that our tracks weren’t consistent at all – I’d woven in and out, making the circle larger and smaller on successive circuits.  So much for progress!  And I have a dressage clinic coming up in early May, with no better spot to school than this large, free-form snowy paddock.  So I wonder, how exactly can I work on keeping my circles consistent without the help of a fence or arena wall?

I tried to keep him in line between the reins at first, insisting on an inside bend and attempting to use my outside leg to direct him.  But it was a no go — Haajes simply bulged right through my outside leg.  Then I realised my problem — keeping the inside bend was what was causing his bulge.  I needed to counteract it with some outside bend.  It felt awkward at first to switch the bend numerous times on one circle, but lo and behold – once we had the hang of it, I looked back to see that we had managed to produce what could pass as a respectable circle!

It’s certainly going to take a lot of work to get this problem consistently fixed, especially when I feel as out of shape as I currently do.  But I’m very pleased that I managed to note that this problem existed at all, and I can thank our Manitoba snowdrifts for that!