Using the Chill to get Closer


When I was young, I was very involved in competitive figure skating.

skating kid

                                  my 12th birthday at Sun Valley, Idaho

During the winter, we’d train about 5 hours per day.  During the summer and early fall, we’d skate 9 hours daily so we could learn new jumps and spins.  In the spring after competition season, we took a break.

Based on my observations of horse shows, the vast majority of them are events that I’d like to avoid.  Most competitions involve disregarding the horse’s well-being so that humans can preen in front of and judge each other.  Many racehorses are broken down by the time they reach 5 years or even younger, before their skeletal systems ever get a chance to mature.  The same goes for cutting or reining horses, who are fried by the time they’re 5 due to severe overuse injuries that are sport specific.  If they’re not physically broken, too often they are mentally fried from being handled without regard to their mental and emotional well-being.I could go on and on about this, but–

–that’s not my point today.  If I’m not in a warm climate in the winter, I set tasks for myself that will cause my horse to want to be more physically and emotionally bonded with me that don’t involve learning new skills under saddle.  I challenge myself to get (not just physically) closer to my mare when it’s freezing out, or when we are just doing things in her paddock.  I use treats occasionally, but not often.  I use them as a bonus for doing something desirable, never as a bribe to cause her to do something.  This winter her face and ears are my “getting closer” project.  It’s not goal- or timeline-oriented and it’s soothing and relaxing for both of us.  It reminds me of the easy and relaxed spring skating schedule of my young years.

May you enjoy being bundled up and spending time with your horse.  Don’t forget your silk wild rag!



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