Friday, August 21, 2009

Using the weather to your advantage

Today I am told we (us Calgarians, that is) reached 31C today. Weather hot enough to melt your socks off (or at least so my socks were convinced), nevermind your horses! A couple of weeks ago we were *ahem* "blessed" with "wonderful" weather - a daytime high of 10C (this is August, don't forget...SUM-MER), rain, rain, and more rain, and just altogether dismal weather. We even experienced hurricane-like weather - torrential rains, 100km/h winds that tore barns down overtop of horses, and golfball-sized hail that pecked at any horse left standing out in the weather.

Most horsemen realize that weather can play a huge role in a horse's willingness, or lack thereof, to work. It seems so minor, yet can have a huge effect on a horse. On one hand, sometimes we have to work a horse regardless of the weather, but if we can be aware of the weather and its effect on our horses, sometimes we can even use the weather to suit us. So, let's briefly discuss how the weather can affect our horses, and thus how we can use it to our benefit.

No horse likes to be worked in the rain, and I think if our Quarab could talk, he would dryly attest to how rain that is pounding down all flashflood-style actually hurts your forehead (his nose intimately meets his chest in any rain that threatens his face). If you've got an experienced horse, by all means, ride away in the rain (though if you don't have to, for your horse's sake, maybe don't). For the horse-in-training though, I have to advise against it (usually), at least when the weather is particularly nasty and the rain is particularly coming down hard. It is one way to quickly make enemies (I mean c'mon, who actually likes working in cold, hard rain!?) and thus really does little positive for your relationship with said horse. If at all possible, save the really rainy day works for the experienced horse who is willing to oblige you thanks to your long-standing relationship. Don't forget too that riding in the rain has the added risk of a slip and fall. On the other hand, sometimes working in the rain just is not avoidable, and in areas where rainfall is a very common event (such as in lieu of snow), horses grow used to it and don't mind it so much.

Same follows for working in the heat - no one really seems to particularly enjoy the art of melting. On the other hand, got a high-energy, excitable horse? Ride her at the hotter times of the day. Riding a horse (lightly if possible, I might add) on a hotter day can increase your chances of a "good" ride and thus progress your training more easily. Horses tend to be calmer and lazier on hot days (just as with any living being) and thus are typically less inclined to raise a ruckus. Just be sure to not work too hard or long in the sun (if possible) and to provide plenty of water.

For the spooky or high energy horse, this can be another day to avoid riding (high winds, that is, not just some light breeze). Sometimes there is just no sense in playing with fire; doing groundwork instead can still allow for progress, at times moreso even than if you had ridden that day (and particularly if you were to have a poor ride). Think of it from the horse's perspective: the sound of the wind can mask a predator creeping up, and the waving grass could hide a lion as it creeps closer. Besides, who doesn't feel frisky in the wind? Obviously, for the experienced horse, wind is not a problem.

Those millions of white snowflakes converged on one spot can provide a fantastic exercise opportunity for your horse - wading through drifts and working through snow is a wonderful way to work off a few excess pounds. Just be cautious of grip (or lack thereof) beneath the snow and keep in mind that your horse may feel pretty good on a cool crisp day as well ;)

Cool days
For the horse who typically lacks motivation, avoid working her at the hottest part of the day and instead work her in the morning or wait until evening. They will be a lot less grumpy with having to work and will be more inclined to follow your direction willingly.

As I said, most horsemen are already aware of the above, but sometimes we is just something so simple yet good to keep in mind. Personally, I do plan my day and which horses are worked when, according to the weather whenever possible. I work the high-energy horses during the hotter parts of the day, and the low-energy horses when it is cooler out, or in a cooler facility (ie. an arena). Might as well take advantage of Mother Nature whenever the possibility arises.

Happy riding!


OldMorgans said...

Hooray for changing the background & font colors. I can actually read your entries now instead of skimming & then having black & white bars across my vision afterwards.
Something about that white on black really gave me troubles.

quietann said...

Love this post!

I scratched maresy from our second show in late June... It was cold, windy, and rainy, and she was darn near explosive in the warmup. After the 10th spook or so, I said, "no way". She's a pretty high energy horse and getting obedience in that weather was more than we could handle. (Trail riding her with another horse would have been a different matter.) Took her back to the barn, got on her in the nice calm indoor, and proceeded to have one of the best rides ever!

Equus said...

Aw sorry about the vision problems, lol, I was not having any difficulties reading it and so did not realise others were, but you are not the first to tell me!!! I am often mostly reading it from the editing board anyways, so the colours are not the same for me much of the time, lol ;)

This post was inspired by "Sunny", one of the horses I currently have in training. Huge skittish paint that had not been ridden in years, since he bucked the last rider off. I am very careful what weather I ride him in - if I am not, I risk being bucked off!! He is progressing to the point where I can get him working nicely now in high winds and other poor weather, but he is still a work-in-progress and I always consider the weather even when he does seem to be working fine. Even with my experienced horses I always remain aware of the weather, it just pays to be aware of your environment, even if it won't adversely affect your work.

Great decision with your mare, it's great to hear you guys ended with a great ride ;) Those high energy horses (we've got two) are sure a challenge, but they make amazing horses!

GoLightly said...


I can SEE!

Old farts like me have problems with that kind of background, Equus. If you want to keep old farts away..

Great post!
hah, word verf = feurylog

We had feuries this past week, couple of F2 Tornadoes, for Toronto's pleasure.

Lovely summer, huh?

Thanks, much appreciated.

Equus said...

I read about those tornadoes! We've had our shair of crop-destroying weather with 110km/h winds as well, though no major tornadoes or such (that I am aware of). Barns came down in the last storm though and I know several dozen horses were injured in the immediate area, including a half dozen deaths or so (that were publicized). Strange season we're getting here, eh?

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