Are you getting a little unmotivated to ride now that it's cold, and you just watched everyone go to Florida for the winter? Do you find it hard to keep you and your horse in shape when all you want to do is curl up and hibernate all winter? Here at Verden, it’s important to keep both horse + rider in shape to prepare for the upcoming show season.
Since the cold often keeps your rides shorter with mostly flatwork, it’s a great time to focus on your strength and balance. Yep, that means no-stirrup work. Don’t just work on your posting trot without stirrups. Add in two-pointing. Make sure to do circles, serpentines, and ground poles. Remember that you trying to strengthen your balance for a course, not just plodding around on the outside rail.
The key to making boring, and often painful, conditioning exercises more bearable, is to make them fun! No one enjoys no-stirrup work (especially in the cold), but doing it as a team makes it a little more fun. You seem to muster the strength to go 5 minutes longer when all of your peers are suffering with you. If one person accidently sits before 10 rounds in a two-point, you ALL start over.
Want to take it up another notch or two?
Here are some of the regular no-stirrup exercises we do at Verden. Two riders trot alongside each other, with each rider holding one end of the same crop. Not only do you have to work on balance, you have to keep your horses at the same gait with only one hand on the reins. If you’re a jumper, I’m sure you’ve gotten left behind in the take-off at least once (I have). We routinely lay back and then snap up into position on our horses so that our heads touch our horse’s butt and then back into position. While at a trot and canter. With no stirrups. It’s not easy, but helps us stay in the saddle come show season for those unexpected take-offs (and gives up great abs!).
You’re probably thinking that it sounds like you’re doing all the work, and wondering how your horse stays in shape. Along with your never ending no-stirrup two-point, your horse will have to be able to pace himself, move forward when you ask, and collect himself again. Already do this on your own, and wondering how this is any different? Mirroring a horse of a different size, speed, and stride is much harder than it seems. Think that still sounds easy? Not so simple holding a crop between riders and having to stay together without letting go, over fences, and even having your trainer stand in between you when you pass. (Just a taaaad nerve-wrecking)
Remember “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” - Tim Notke
So bundle up and let’s get ready for the season!