With the sudden arrival of winter up here in midcoast Maine, we have suddenly been spending a lot more time in the indoor arena. As always, we feel so fortunate to have a lovely indoor space during these snowy days, but it is an adjustment after the freedom and variety of the fields and trails. We always aim to keep the training process fun and interesting for everyone involved, and so we stay busy indoors with a variety of caveletti poles and obstacles.
Any horse can get dull with repetitive arena work, and particularly for the young horses we make every effort to keep things fresh. Poles and obstacles make for a fun new challenge, and they allow us to work on a variety of important skills at the same time. Trot or canter poles scattered around the arena help teach young horses where to place their feet, and for more experienced horses they allow us to work on rhythm and balance in a more entertaining way. By raising poles off of the ground as caveletti, we can work on a horse’s strength while laying the groundwork for future jumping exercises.
We love our obstacles, as they are also a great way to enliven a ride while simultaneously furthering a horse’s training. For the naturally more quiet and steady types, objects such as hanging ‘noodles,’ tarps, or noisy obstacles like crinkling plastic underfoot can really help to keep a horse interested and attentive to their rider. For horses who are by nature more cautious, the gradual process of helping them to understand and work through the obstacles can help to build their trust in people. If a horse is nervous and insecure, the obstacles provide a way to build confidence as they ‘overcome’ each challenge, all within a relaxed and controlled setting.
Many of the obstacles are intended to prepare a horse for potential real life situations, with the hope being that a horse will trust his rider and react calmly as a result of his experiences in the arena. When introducing a new obstacle we always begin on the leadline, before progressing to under saddle work once the horse is at ease with the challenge. Happily for our non-riding animals, the obstacles are a great exercise for everybody– our donkeys and minis also enjoy the experience! Although we always love riding outside, being snowed in has its benefits and can be a lot of fun too. Happy winter riding, everyone!