Summer and I showing at Spring Gulch this year

This year, I am going to try a different approach to winter. At my barn in the Colorado mountains, the rustic outdoor arena freezes, the ice from the neighbors paved driveway freezes and melts down hill to create a skating rink situation at the bottom of the barn driveway right where you need to crank the trailer to get on the road. This has caused a couple of jackknifes.

One time, Summer was loaded and I watched in the rear-view mirror as the trailer independently “skated” down into the ditch (it stopped when it was fully jackknifed against the truck). Fortunately it is not a deep ditch and a little gravel under the truck tires did the trick. All of that to say, a few winters I have decided to spend my riding moments doing taxes (a kin to eye injections for me), but also doing a lot of horsey reading to improve my theories, work-outs, warm-ups, programs and so on.

This year I decided I would move Summer about 40 minutes away to a friends barn that has an indoor. My goal is to get there at least twice a week to ride. I am only through the first couple of weeks and I am thrilled to say that I have already made some headway with my riding. I have realized that riding outside of my usual asylum-ish environment has made me step it up a little. First, I see other riders riding well and working on skills and it refreshes my memory of things to work on. I also feel challenged to ride with purpose, just in case they might look over and see what we are doing!  Such funny creatures we are –

The other benefit I see so far is that going to a barn intentionally to RIDE and not having to repair the fence or clean poop or fill up the water trough, I really get in a good ride for both of us as far as improving our fitness and skills. I have been reading up and working on basic Dressage skills: half-halts, shoulder-in, renvers, shoulder fore, sitting against the hand, and so on, working to refine and make sure we are really getting what we are looking for. Most importantly trying to make it fun for Summer.  Insert cookies.

Summer is a ranch bred Quarter Horse. She does not have the conformation for eventing past Beginner Novice level, so we work to improve what we can. I had a rough show season this year and looking back on my post this past spring called, “No Where to Go But Up”, I may have gone up ever so slightly, but I mostly stayed the same. All my error or just the way it goes – off pattern, unsound, the flu, sticky ground, etc.  Lots of character building and lessons learned.

Summer is seventeen next year and I decided that I would retire her from recognized Eventing shows as the stadium phase can be a little hard on her because of the various ground conditions, but next year we will still do some fun horse trials and pair paces so she can continue to enjoy her love for cross country. After some tuning up at the vet this year, she is very sound and maybe even feeling a little too comfortable sometimes – Her job as the family horse sometimes comes into question these days!

What is our focus for 2013? Dressage training and showing and even some ‘Western Dressage’. Colorado became the first Affiliate of the Western Dressage Association of America. Therefore, it looks like there will be a lot of opportunities for inexpensive clinics and shows as the Association gets going.

What is Western Dressage? Well, I recently did research on it and in short: Western Dressage brings together the skilled horsemanship, history and techniques of the American west with the art, ancient traditions and systematic training of the European institutions of riding. You ride in western tack and while there is something for every level of rider.

Finally, I might do one of those shows where you send in your video and enter a virtual show. Brilliant idea they came up with and I hear the prizes are great too. Maybe I will put some palm trees in the arena and play some Jimmy Buffett to make it feel more like Florida.

So there is my version of going to Wellington this winter! Shorter trip, but not so green and temperate. Happy winter to all!