This morning, it is 12 degrees here in Virginia and -3 with the wind chill. As I look out my window, it is sunny with gorgeous blue skies and except for the snow on the ground, it looks like a spring day. I am trying to remember what those days are like. Baseball fans are not the only people looking forward to spring training.

Since the barn where I board Timmy has a lovely covered arena, I have always prided myself on working through the winter. I have all the clothes necessary for cold weather riding, so lower temperatures didn’t deter our efforts. This year however, our outdoor ring is being redone so 14 boarders are trying to work around each other in one indoor! Those of you who have been long term riders, hunters, etc. probably just said to yourselves “what’s the problem?” You are used to having multiple horse and rider combinations working in one ring and know how to do that dance.

Then there are people like me. I am a dressage rider and lacking that depth of experience, having only gotten my first horse in my mid-50’s. I have been fortunate enough to be the first one at the barn after work and able to get my ride in before the others come. When our 2 rings are functional, even when there are lessons going on, I could use the other ring, ALONE. But circumstances and boarders change and now I am one of fourteen. I just cannot get the hang of working around multiple horses.

Timmy can focus when he is alone in the indoor. Here our coach, Lainey Ashker is doing a training ride.

Timmy can focus when he is alone in the indoor. Here our coach Lainey Ashker is doing a training ride.

I start out great. Warming up at the walk, I can manage to stay out of the way, stay on an inside track and keep Timmy focused. After that, all bets are off! We start trotting and I plan a path, only to find someone circling there, so I alter my plan. I circle and try another path. What happens? Same thing! Don’t get me wrong. The other riders are very considerate, but they are used to working like this. I am not, so I am constantly distracted, causing my horse to wonder what the heck I am doing. He then decides this isn’t real work, so from then on, he does nothing of quality. He is, after all, an opportunist and can capitalize on those (now frequent) moments when Mom gets flustered. As a result of all this merry-go-round style of riding, we have regressed in our training. My naturally lazy horse has found his nirvana. The only time he has to do REAL work is when our trainer/coach flies up once a month for lessons. He can go from “I don’t think so” to “YES MA’AM” in a flash. The weekend warrior. One hour a month he can go without complaining. All I can do is enjoy that time, work my ass off and worry afterward about the bad habits Timmy is cultivating during all those other rides.

I long for the spring. The renovation of our outdoor will be done. We will have two rings to ride in and I will be able to find the time and space to do quality work, and we can do our normal warm-up and repertoire. I will once again start to see progress instead of regression. My coach will (hopefully) be back from Florida and from Rolex so regular lessons can resume. I will once again know that euphoric feeling after a lesson and hear her say “well done.”  Even though Timmy is enjoying his down time right now, he adores my trainer/coach and will love hearing her say “good boy Tim.” Life will once again be back on track.

Timmy and I will get back to working like this soon.

Timmy and I will get back to working like this soon.

For now, I will forge ahead, give myself permission to slack off and count the days until spring training begins. Instead of stressing over riding, I am going to start working on my fitness so we are ready for “Opening Day.”

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to navigate the merry-go-round of riding with multiple horses, I am all ears! Left shoulder to left shoulder is the only rule I know. Surely there are others. Feel free to leave your comments below. Someday, I may figure it all out.

SmartPak banner 600x100