Thursday, July 21, 2016

Horse Training At 100 Degrees

I've got a competition looming, so naturally NJ has decided to go full sauna on me. How does one train a horse when the heat index is 107? Very carefully.

NJ heat is a brutal combination of sun and humidity, and NJ only has this type of weather for a couple months out of the year. It makes it hard to acclimate, and that takes a definite toll on my horses:  Jack sweats like a $3 whore just standing still, Spider turns into a salted slug, and Spots and Beau refuse to leave their shady stalls. 

But, I'm still going to a show in a week, so I've got to figure something out. My solution: lots of walking. 

Particularly over raised poles.

The walk is a seriously underrated gait, as you will notice by the number of horses either jigging or zombie crawling through the walk work at most dressage shows. I'm definitely guilty of the jigging, and I've got the scores to prove it. So, might as well work on that walk when it's too hot to do anything else!

Dressage rules define four different walks: Medium, Collected, Extended and Free. Those four alone are more than enough to keep me busy for a half hour or so in this ridiculous heat. But, in addition to the "rules", you can also perform all the lateral exercises in walk. This is a great way to introduce the lateral movements to a young horse, re-affirm them in a trained horse, or sharpen your own aids for them without the bouncing and speed of the other gaits. (Those last two are definitely what Spider and I need!)

The walk is also good for building suppleness and relaxation, something a Thoroughbred always needs work on. Fingers crossed that all this walk work builds the suppleness and relaxation I need for Spider to not anticipate his flying changes and then totally flub them!


  1. I walk so much. Courage has to learn every.single.thing. in the walk before I can even think about doing it at a faster gait. Denny's not kidding when he says it's a great way to get a horse fit though. OMG.

  2. I love the walk - it's the basis for everything else, and if you don't have a good walk, you've got nothing else.

    We've got the 100+ heat index thing going on here, and luckily I don't have any competitions to work towards, so no riding right now for me and my beasts.

  3. Ugh, the high here is 94 this weekend and I'm going to a horse show...

  4. NJ is tropical. I agree that a lot can get done at the walk. I love practicing lateral work at the walk and then picking up the trot or canter and it just feels like all his joints got greased. Good luck at your competition.

  5. I walk quite a bit myself! Have fun at the show. :)

  6. I'm super guilty of neglecting the walk but it is SO useful. Good luck in your prep! We are melting down in Maryland too

  7. My mare is recovering from an injury, and we are in the all walk portion of bringing her back into work. While it really stinks that this is happening, I am kind of glad to have an excuse to work on her walk, a gait that I have been neglecting since the canter has been such an issue for us for most of the time that I have owned her. Our walk work is going to be super solid by the time we get back to full work!


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