It’s official: kids are back in school and for those of us in the northern regions of the riding world, temperatures are dropping, horses are friskier in the morning, and jackets have once again become a necessity.
It was a great summer of riding though, right? Whether you’ve had a busy competition schedule or just lots of time on the trails, here are three ways you can spend some quality time with your horse while taking care of him, taking care of yourself, and taking a little breather in between seasons:
1 Take Care of Your Horse
The range of motion in your horse’s forelimbs becomes restricted when the muscles that are responsible for moving the front legs forward and backward accumulate tension and are unable to release. Releasing this tension allows the horse to step out further and leads to a more fluid and extended gait. At the end of a long riding season, you can release accumulated tension in your horse’s front end with these easy exercise from BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE by Jim Masterson.
- Stand at the horse’s left shoulder, facing forward.
- Pick up the horse’s left foot.
- Rest the horse’s ankle in your right hand and place your left hand on the horse’s knee.
- Allow the horse to relax the leg and shoulder as much as he is able.
- Slowly guide the leg down and back, straightening the leg and lowering the foot as you go.
- Encourage the horse to rest in this position as long as he can by keeping your hand on the leg or foot.
2 Take Care of Yourself
Like our horses, after a summer of riding, we can actually experience limited mobility in our hips and excessive contractions in our adductor muscles. We can reverse the resulting “clothespin effect” with a simple yoga pose called Happy Baby from YOGA FOR EQUESTRIANS by Linda Benedik and Veronica Wirth.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a few breaths and feel your spine contact the floor. Exhale and bring your knees up toward your chest.
- Extend your arms along the inside of your legs, taking hold of the arches of your feet with your hands. Open your knees and drop your thighs to the sides of your torso. Bring your shins perpendicular to the ground, the soles of your feet facing the sky.
- As you exhale, feel your sacrum, shoulders, and knees drop down into the floor. Bring your attention to your hips; let them relax. Let go with each breath. Relax into this stretch and hold for at least four deep breaths.
- Release your feet and slowly bring them back down to the floor.
3 Take a Little Breather
We don’t always need to climb on board our horses to spend quality time with them. Sometimes, just a quite hour hand-grazing can be the best team-building exercise there is. Another idea is trying your hand at Wild Agility, as Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club describes in THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK.
“Wild Agility is an enormously companionable thing to do,” she says. “Friends and I go off with our lunch in backpacks and with our dogs and horses—and just travel….These are golden times for us: The dogs, humans and horses all seem content as we move along with all the time in the world.”
All you need for Wild Agility is a halter and a lead rope, and an afternoon to “play.” Move across country at whatever speed suits you, playing with obstacles and challenges along the way: jump ditches, logs, and banks; weave through woods and trees; pass under low branches; cross streams, swim in lakes…you name it!
However you choose to spend the first weekend after the unofficial “end of summer,” we at TSB hope it is with your horse, and it brings both of you relaxation, friendship, and hope for the autumn ahead.
You can find all the books mentioned in this post, and many more, at the TSB online bookstore. CLICK HERE TO VISIT NOW.