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Guinness on Tap by Austen - 6d ago
The L Program is coming to my barn this month, and I am so excited. For those of you unfamiliar, the L Program is described by the USDF as an "educational training program teaches judges to evaluate the correct training of dressage horses." However, it's far more than that, focusing on teaching the basics of judging and movements as they apply to the requirements of the lower levels. Most of it is open to all USDF members, and it is held in multiple locations and at different times throughout the year.
Fun fact: I've always wanted to sit in on the L Program.
The program is split into two parts, each one consisting of 3 sessions. The first part focuses on the basics of evaluating the basics of a ride and judging. This part is available to all USDF members, regardless of status or show record. The second part focuses less on general education, and more on the practical skills of judging. This second part is geared more for those who truly want to pursue judging, and is only open to USDF members who meet certain competition requirements. The entire program is very useful for anyone who wishes to show dressage, or further understand judging from an objective standpoint.

My barn is hosting Part 1, Session A this year, with well-known S and 4* judge Lois Yukins as the instructor. At the end of last year, a call went out requesting volunteers to ride different levels for the program. Most spots filled immediately. Somehow when I inquired later (after Bast had proven he had settled at the farm), a training level slot was still open. Obviously, I applied.
I mean, we're kinda training level capable, right?
My submission required video proof my horse and I could execute at the level required. This video came about during the time I was heavily experimenting with bits for Bast, trying to reduce his mouth-gaping tendencies. It took quite awhile to get, but finally was managed. (click for video)
Bast Work | February 2018 - YouTube
We were accepted! I am so looking forward to riding for the program at the end of the month, and hope desperately Bast and I don't make fools of ourselves. Apparently this portion of the program does not require us to ride the entire test, only portions of movements as requested. For more on this session, check out this video from USDF. I think we're capable of everything asked of us, though our canter departs are still a bit questionable at times and Bast will often gap his mouth in transitions or at the walk.
Small steps make up training, right?
I can't wait to update you guys on how our ride goes at the end of the month. I'm hoping I get to sit in on some of the instruction, because I've always been interested in judging and better being able to evaluate ride quality. Plus, Lois Yukins has been tough on me in the past (rightfully, haha). It'll be interesting overall to hear what she has to say.

Anyone out there ever done the L Program or think about signing up for it? Have any of you ridden for a similar program?
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Guinness on Tap by Austen - 1w ago
Though he may be small, he is feisty...
The plan has always been to try Bast back on field board. As I've mentioned multiple times, I think field board is the best way for a horse to live. Wherever possible, I want my horses to live out 24/7. At my current barn, field board is not only the most healthy way for the horses to live, it's also the most affordable. As I'm juggling two horses in the Washington DC area, that's important. So, I have been trying to prepare Bast for field board since day one.
"I've been practicing my pawing!"
He's been doing so well in his transition to the farm, I have high hopes for his transition back to long term turnout with a group. At the other farm, he was out for all but 6 hours a day in a large group. His herdbound tendencies were minimal once his ulcers were treated. Back at the fancy farm, he's shown little to no herd bound tendencies. We've kept him on ulcer meds during all stressful transitions to mitigate a return to last year's issues.

Bast was able to return to his old field, which is amazing. He's familiar with two of the three horses out there already. Plus the new horse is an excellent boss, meaning Bast shouldn't find himself in charge of the herd. That's a position that has made him quite insecure in the past.
"I used to rule these two." -- Bast, probably
The initial introduction was between Bast and the two horses he knows well and was turned out with last year. Things went so smoothly, it was as if the three of them had never been separated. Bast threw a few squeals and front feet, but the three settled into grazing very quickly.
Three happy amigos.
The new horse in the field was being ridden when I initially turned Bast out. When he returned, I was interested to see how he and Bast would interact. I knew this horse was much more dominant, and also very willing to fight for his food. I wasn't sure if Bast's tendency to stand his ground would get him in trouble.
"Sup, dude. You wanna go?"
Bast definitely tried to start things with the new horse. He was throwing his front feet around and squealing up a storm. He definitely thinks he needs to impress this guy in order to impress him. Of course, Bast is literally a pony compared to all the other horses in this field. So, I suppose I understand his big man attitude.
Seriously, though. I own a pony. Apparently.
Overall Bast's transition to field board was very smooth. I'm glad we chose a quiet weather day to toss him out. He won't have to fight for his space in the shed for a few days, by which time the hierarchy should have shaken out.

I'm assuming Bast will end up in his favorite place, second in command. Both my horses have found themselves here, and I kind of love this placing. The second in command horse isn't messed with and has some authority, but he's not in charge of making all the super important decisions. Overall, it's a very low stress position. Both my boys have been very happy occupying this role.
"Get back here! I wanna be your tiny lieutenant!"
Bast's adjustment period will be long. I want to give him the chance to get back into the routine of living with others, while also trusting and listening to humans. It's a difficult balance he's sometimes failed. I also don't want him to lose too much weight. We've increased his feed recently, and will need to decrease it on field board due to lack of available feeding times. However, I think he'll be fine.

The increase in turnout, addition of horse interaction, and excellent pasture should keep him healthy going forward. And? Should he decide this situation isn't to his liking? I'll just put his brother in his place and send him back to the old farm.
You're on notice, son.
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Guinness on Tap by Austen - 1w ago
Winter's almost over, it's time to look back!
Bast has been in a stall at the fancy barn for 2 months now. It's time to look back and evaluate his training and changes. He's made some improvements I don't even notice, so I feel like this is very needed. Let's look at things in a basic overview fashion.
Super chill, super fab.
Changes made:

1. Bits. In the last two months, I've tried 4 bits on Bast. I went from Pig's KK bradoon to Pig's old stainless eggbutt. When the eggbutt was met with positive results, I bought a copper eggbutt. That one was rejected forcefully. Finally I tried a nathe, but was not wowed by it. Bast leaned on it, and did feel comfortable going into my hand, but was not quiet in his mouth. We went back to the stainless eggbutt, which Bast seems happiest in. This bit is the longest of the bunch, and I leave it hung low in his mouth. It's weird, but works.
Mouth shut and quiet? Awesome.
2. Sitting trot and seatbones. Spraining my ankle in January made me ride more in sitting trot. I quickly realized I wasn't applying my seat bones evenly in the saddle. Fixing this has led to a lot of sore abs and an upset crooked pony. However, the work is paying off in straightness and strength. Yes!

3. Bridle. We finally received the cheek pieces from Eponia, and put my lovely Gatsby bridle back together. This means we ditched the drop, which Bast never responded to well.
I do love this bridle.
4. Regular hacking introduced. We've been getting out a couple of times a week for little walks through the fields, and even working on some of the more difficult terrain surrounding the farm. I'm so proud of Bast for crossing calmly through deep puddles and mud, though he still likes to nervously leap creeks or streams. With every hack he gets braver, which makes me happy. We've even graduated to trotting and cantering on our hacks, with super results.
Also galloping in snow is super fun, and a new positive experience.
My goal with Bast overall has been to build his experiences in a positive manner. I have been stressing him in little ways, and allowing him to "win" those experiences. That's resulting in a curious horse with growing confidence. That's exactly what I want in a partner, and I'm so happy that work is paying off!

Training Milestones

1. Canter transitions. These were the first things to break when we came back to the fancy barn, and will probably be the first thing to break when Bast loses his relaxation for a long time. He is not only back to cantering off my aids, but even nicely stepping under himself and into the gait most of the time. This is still a work in progress to make consistent, but they are so much better than they used to be.
Look at us cantering calmly off into the sunset...
2. Lateral Work. While Bast occasionally still thinks my left leg is total fake news, he's progressed from working on leg yields to working on solidifying the shoulder in, playing with half pass, and moving lateral work into our warm up. It feels like years since I couldn't manage a turn on the forehand with my stiff horse. Personally, I think the half pass work is going to be as much of a breakthrough for him as it was for Pig. Something about moving sideways and being responsible for your own balance seems to soothe the TB brain.
Not exactly lateral work, but supple nonetheless.

3. Managing difficulties. As we've increased Bast's grain and changed his diet, he's started to come to each ride with an absurd amount of energy. Honestly, his individual turnout has probably contributed to this issue most of all. I am hoping when we turn him out with friends this issue will be mitigated. However, I've been so happy that 10 minutes of cantering has managed to restore his brain. All this work typically doesn't result in bolting if ridden tactfully, and the canter work can often reinforce the uphill tendency I'm trying to encourage. Overall, I'm so happy to have a horse who regularly gets better as the ride goes on.
Straight. Forward. Beautiful.
I have a ton more to say about his training, and some video to share. But first, we're going through some changes I'm trying to stay on top of. More on that tomorrow...
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Guinness on Tap by Austen - 2w ago
Winter's almost over, it's time to look back!
Bast has been in a stall at the fancy barn for 2 months now. It's time to look back and evaluate his training and changes. He's made some improvements I don't even notice, so I feel like this is very needed. Let's look at things in a basic overview fashion.
Super chill, super fab.
Changes made:

1. Bits.
In the last two months, I've tried 4 bits on Bast. I went from Pig's KK bradoon to Pig's old stainless eggbutt. When the eggbutt was met with positive results, I bought a copper eggbutt. That one was rejected forcefully. Finally I tried a nathe, but was not wowed by it. Bast leaned on it, and did feel comfortable going into my hand, but was not quiet in his mouth. We went back to the stainless eggbutt, which Bast seems happiest in. This bit is the biggest ofSo quiet the bunch, and I leave it hung low in his mouth. It's weird, but works.
Mouth shut and quiet? Awesome.

2. Sitting trot and seatbones. Spraining my ankle in January made me ride more in sitting trot. I quickly realized I wasn't applying my seat bones evenly in the saddle. Fixing this has led to a lot of sore abs and an upset crooked pony. However, the work is paying off in straightness and strength. Yes!

3. We finally received the cheek pieces from Eponia, and put my lovely Gatsby bridle back together. This means we ditched the drop, which Bast never responded to well.
I do love this bridle.

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I've been trying to make time to ride Pig occasionally. However, no matter how important I think routine riding is good for both Pig's mind and body, I cannot seem to manage to fit it into my schedule. While I stop by and see him fairly regularly, actually hopping on and taking him for a spin seems like ... a lot of work.

Especially when you consider he looks like this:
"Oh hai." -- Pig the Swamp Monster
The incredible amount of rain we've had this year has made all pastures unbearably muddy. Even for a horse who hates mud, its been impossible to avoid. Now with shedding season upon us, Pig is just coated in it. There's no way I have time to scrape all that off him to ride.

This is where the laziness comes in.
Who needs grooming anyway?
Last weekend I had decided Pig was going to get ridden. The weather was lovely (read: not raining or snowing or sleeting or otherwise precipitating) and I had the time and ability. Of course, when I showed up there were several stumbling blocks. The first, mud, I decided to completely ignore.

The second stumbling block? I had removed the bradoon from Pig's double bridle, having decided to use it as Bast's snaffle for a time. Unfortunately, I did not have it with me and had not returned it. With no other bit available, I decided to just strap down the snaffle cheeks and ride in the weymouth only.
So classy, y'all.
Pig didn't seem to care, though he was rather affronted when I hopped on him in the field without even removing his winter blanket. His skepticism continued as we marched up the hill with the dogs and headed towards the woods.
Asterid: "WHEE!"
Pig: "What fresh hell is this?"
We slid around in the woods for a bit, following the short trails. Pig tried to refuse crossing deep mud multiple times, despite my telling him he was literally covered in the dried form. We made it to the river overlook with minimal mishap (read: I did not slide off his winter blanket into the mud).
"Can we go home now?"
On the way back to the farm, we took time out to do some galloping in the partially dried out back field. Despite his age and growing decrepitude, Pig remains one of my favorite horses to ride. He leapt readily into the gallop and cavorted around. I never felt unsafe on him, despite riding him mostly bareback and without a complete bridle. He's such a good boy.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm good. Now why did you make me hike through this torture chamber?"
Hopefully soon I can manage to actually scrape the mud off Pig and maybe even tack him up. Until then, I hope you guys can laugh at our lazy rides. I have to admit, this is a new level of not caring that I didn't think I would ever reach.
We aren't the only muddy children on the farm, though.
Here's to getting the job done, even if you have to cut some corners!
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Do you find yourself trying to teach your young horse a lengthen his stride into an off balance canter, only to have him strike off in a powerful medium trot? How disappointing. Thankfully, this blog post will show you how to start teaching your young horse a lengthened trot, only to totally screw up his balance and push him into a canter instead. All in just 5 easy steps!

Step 1: Turn onto the diagonal in the trot, preferably dumping your horse onto his inside shoulder in the process.
All weight on inside front. Perfect.
Step 2: Lean forward to encourage your horse to move forward. Imagine removing your butt from the saddle will help him lighten his hind end and put all his weight on his forehand.
Allowing your lower leg to swing back here will set you up for the following exercise.
Step 3: Once your horse moves forward, continue pushing him forward without supporting him with a half halt and strong core. Ensure your leg continues to stay too far back and dug into his sides. If possible, make your contact feel like 45lbs of dead fish hanging on the reins.
You'll know you have this step right when your horse feels like he is trotting sharply down a steep hillside.
Step 4: Once your horse completely loses his balance, he will tip forward and begin cantering with his hind legs in the air. During this moment, you will want to put your weight back into the saddle so his hind legs don't float away.
Taking your legs off in surprise and slamming your butt into the saddle without releasing the reins is always the right reaction.
Step 5: Sit up and ride that flat and rushing canter off into the sunset. Do not attempt to half halt or improve this gait, you'll probably totally fail at that, too.
Flat and hollow cantering perfection.
Sigh. Sometimes knowing better doesn't translate into better riding. This failed lengthening attempt proves that I make my fair share (and more, haha) of dumb riding mistakes. Thank god my horse has a stunning tail and a sense of humor I can admire, even when the movement itself is a catastrophe.

Anyone else failing at something this week?
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Imagine it's the middle of winter, and you own a young energetic thoroughbred.
Like this one.
Now, imagine this young thoroughbred has had restricted turnout due to extreme winds and cold. Imagine also his feed is high, as you try to put weight on his slight frame. While most of that feed is fiber based, he is still getting a fair amount of high octane goods. When you mount, his back feels as though it is made of 30,000 spiders hyped up on cocaine.
The insanity is palpable.
Finally imagine that not only is your horse comprised of a pile of coked out spiders, but you have also injured your ankle recently and must ride mostly without stirrups to avoid further damage.
Safety? What is that?
Oh, don't let me forget. Your horse is not the only one who is utterly mad with boredom and cold. Instead, the entire ring seems full of total insanity every time you ride.
Well now this is getting fun.
All this might result in your horse (with a spine made mostly of horrifyingly energetic spiders, don't forget) coming out of his stall a bit ... on edge.
You could call whatever this is "on edge"...
In fact, your hypothetical thoroughbred might tend to be a bit quick. He might tend toward leaping into a bolt. His resistance all requests to bend or stop might leave you a bit exasperated and desperate. But don't fear. There is one thing that might help you stop his reign of terror.
We're listening...
Slap him.
WHAT?!
You heard me right. If your young spider-filled thoroughbred is running hell bent around the ring, overwhelmed by his own energy and the antics of his asshole peers, there's only one thing to do. Pull him onto a circle, and when he tries to straighten his head and neck and speed away, lean forward and open hand slap that dumbass right in the face.
Or not. Your experience may differ.
In my real life experience, I ended up giving Bast single open faced palm to the face when he refused to listen to my outside aids. In a perfect world, a dressage whip would have backed up my aids, but I hadn't grabbed one. Luckily, a slap seemed to somehow thwack some sense into Bast. Once he'd cantered reasonably for 20 minutes in both directions, he was much more amenable to relaxing his jaw and bending around my leg. In fact, he's finished all of his rides this week 100% less tense and wired than he's started, which feels like a win. He's even been regularly foaming up at the bit, something he's struggled with due to tension.
Not yet regular lipstick, but he's getting there...
In the meantime, I'm trying to avoid these horrifying tension issues by getting Bast out for more exercise daily. Yesterday we cantered out the crazies, then wandered around the fields on a loose rein while the dogs ran wild. Bast was happy as a clam to just move his feet and explore.
I love that he's starting to enjoy hacks as much as I do.
Fingers crossed my personal bored thoroughbred finds more relaxation and enjoyment in his life, as the temperatures have increased and his turnout should likewise increase. To the rest of you in this position, I wish you the best of luck.
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Guinness on Tap by Austen Gage - 2M ago
Yesterday I sprained my ankle riding my horse. Yes, you read that right. I sprained it riding, not falling off.
Seriously though? How do you almost break your goddamn leg without falling off the horse?!
(All photos from before our move, because I feel like it.)
Honestly the whole thing was a freak accident, though weirdly I find myself cursing for shortening my stirrups and solidifying my position. This is what allowed the whole thing to happen.

Let me back up. This story is getting out of order.

Bast is at that moment in his training where I'm asking him to work within a box daily. Most days he's the sweetest and hardest working of gelding brains, turning himself inside out to figure out how to make his body work the way I ask. However. Every other week, we have THAT RIDE.
THAT RIDE
You know the type. Everyone has them. The ride where you get on your horse and wonder if aliens took him in the night, whether changling horses are a thing, or if he fell in turnout and suffered a massive TBI complete with memory loss. In short, it's bad.

For Bast, these rides typically result in 20+ minutes of evading the box. Poor dear child, he thinks he's trying new things by shifting his haunches willy nilly in response to pressure, tossing his head, rooting the reins, and falling on first one shoulder, then the other. Little does he know, his brother was 500x worse. It's a rough life as a kid with a mama who has survived all this crap before.
This is not a piaffe. This is a child's tantrum.
My response is typical and effective. I shorten my stirrups, so my leg is very secure. I then I put my legs on and my hands as still and forward. We ride many changes of direction in a forward gait until he aquieses to my request to keep his haunches under his body and to flex throughout his ribcage. Like I said, he typically gives in within 20 minutes or so.
Ahh, much better, though still behind the leg and hand...
Yesterday, however, he was ready to die on this hill. I assume his lack of turnout the day before in frigid temperatures contributed to the attitude. My choice to address his balking at the arena door where we must stop to open it didn't help. He was jumpy to start, and already defensive. Still, moments of relaxation glimmered. Just before the incident, he had stepped into the most glorious uphill right lead canter of his life.

All this to say. I should have called it a day. But I wanted to prove a point (Ugh, why self? Does this EVER work?), and so we pushed forward for one more suppling trot set.

It started beautifully. Bast flowed into an uphill trot, moving into a shoulder fore to the left, a movement we struggle with daily. I sank into my right ankle, supporting his outside hind and reminding it to flex and push. That's when he decided he had one more evasion in him.
This shoulder in is so hard for him.
He spied the window in the arena side door. A window already passed 100x already, with zero change in view or light. And he, very uncharacteristically, spooked hard to the left. My right ankle, flexed and turned slightly out, took all my weight for a moment while I balanced.

That's all it took for a subtle pop to start causing me immediate and severe pain. I pulled up Bast, then collapsed over his neck cursing and panting. At first I worried the ankle had broken, but as I gingerly moved it, decided the outside stabilizing tendon had just peaced out instead.

After walking a good bit, I was able to finish out my ride and get off. (Ouch. Hai ground.) My Petries seemed to be supporting the ankle, and I was loath to take them off. However, I had to change them out to something more mud and ice worthy to get Bast back to turnout (which he clearly needed). The boot change took my breath for a moment, but was acomplished. The horse was turned out, and I headed home to a night of ice and ibuprofen.
I love these boots so much, but they do allow my ankle a lot of movement within the boot.
This morning the ankle is definitely still tender. I have hopes the whole injury is minor. I am able to walk mostly unhindered (going down steps is a nope, which sucks as I live in a basement apartment). The swelling is minimal, and my range of motion seems to be increasing already. Fingers crossed this is a short setback.

I have to be honest. A few things went into this injury, beyond Bast's spook and my shortened stirrups. I've been neglecting stretching and working out for far too long, allowing my calf muscle to overbalance my weaker ankles. Plus the right stabilizer was already angry from a couple of weeks of hiking in deep snow and ice. One sharp movement at the wrong angle was all it needed to snap into an acute injury.

Let this be a lesson to us all. We cannot neglect our own conditioning, for that leads to injury just as often as neglecting our horse's. Thankfully I do think riding is possible, but I will likely give the snarky little Bast tonight off.
I still love you horse, and I know you didn't mean it. Though I did want to kill you.
I feel like my worst injuries have actually come from not falling off my horses, now that I think about it. I've had my nose broken a couple times, when the back of my horse's head met my face. I've had damage to my teeth from similar things. Not to mention the kicks and head injuries from dealing with easily startled horses on the ground. Probably falling off is safer for me at this point. Anyone else feel that way?
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Guinness on Tap by Austen Gage - 2M ago
Pure unadulterated happiness.
Yesterday I shared some epic photos of Bast and I galloping through the recent deep snow. Today I want to shamelessly spam you again, this time with photos of my happy huskies enjoying their favorite weather.
Seriously. This is the happiest little husky.
Not only did these dogs enjoy a long play session alongside Bast in the afternoon, they also spent plenty of time exploring the snowy streets of DC on Sunday and Monday.
"Lyra, is this your most favorite weather?"
There's something so magical about a heavy snow in the city. The entire place becomes quiet, and neighborhoods more isolated than ever. With the streets barely cleared and cars still buried in the snow, the entire place becomes a playground. Children and dogs alike frolic wildly through streets and intersections otherwise too dangerous.
28th street is usually not safe to stand in during morning rush hour...
I joke the city becomes a dog park. Off leash pups can be found frolicking everywhere. They tumble and play in the local parks, the side streets, and even alongside their cross country skiing owners. The nation's capital comes to a screeching stop, goes out in the cold, and enjoys the bliss of winter to the fullest.
Asterid would probably be a terrifying in a snowball fight.
There's nothing I love more than the cheer and camaraderie of snow loving city dwellers coming together to enjoy the rare and fleeting snow storms this region throws at us. When passing each other, layers protecting us from the cold unable to hide our gleeful smiles, we call out pleasant exchanges to each other. The aloof code of city people is forgotten in the wonder of a recent snowfall.
Though nothing can stop these city bitches from being aloof.
As you can imagine, this sort of atmosphere is absolutely impossible to resist. I found myself grabbing my camera and heading out early on Monday morning. The city was shut down, the light was beautifully perfect, and the dogs and I were vibrating with the excitement of everything.
So worth the cold fingers and damp feet.
The fun we had in our morning photo shoot made me antsy to get out to the farm. Not only did I crave galloping with my horse, but I wanted to let the dogs enjoy the snow to the fullest.
Lyra always loves snow.
Even with the city shut down, there's only so much room for the dogs to run around. I knew my wild wolfy girls would want to run in the snow until they no longer could. The farm is the only place I know where they could do this. It takes a lot of space and work to wear out a husky in the snow, you know.
I honestly don't know how I would keep these girls exercised as needed without the horse to help me keep up,.
The moment their leashes came off at the farm, they exploded with happiness.
Yeah, I doubt she has a spine sometimes too...
Both girls ran like silly things, which made me giggle over and over again. But not only did they run, they also played and leapt around.
One leap.
Honestly, it was so ridiculous.
Two leaps.
Asterid especially was ridiculous.
Three leaps, more...
Lyra is always much more interested in running, exploring, and hunting for imaginary snow lemmings. She's too regal to play hard too long. But even Lyra managed to join in on the silly play for a short time.
I love this gorgeous girl.
Honestly, I have these gorgeous animals in my life because I enjoy how crazy and full they make my life. Making time for them on a rare snow day is just one more way they cause me to enjoy life to the fullest.
Dogs, you're the best.
I know most of the US ended up coated in snow this week. Who else took their pets out to play?
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Guinness on Tap by Austen Gage - 2M ago
This. Is. Joy.
I've written repeatedly about my love of galloping my horses, but maybe I haven't mentioned how much more I love galloping my horses in the snow. After moving to DC from Indiana, I realized snow gallops would go from being something I enjoyed regularly to an extremely rare treat. The Mid-Atlantic simply does not maintain cold enough temperatures or receive enough snowfall to safely enjoy cavorting in the snow on horseback.
The warm snowless winters of this region dismay both myself and my beloved huskies.
But then Sunday happened.
This farm is so beautiful, especially when covered in snow.
Saturday, the repeatedly changing forecast called for 4-6 inches of snow at my house in the city, and 2-4 inches out at Bast's farm. Substantial snow by this area's standards. But by Sunday evening, that forecast was looking laughably inadequate.
This is way more than 2-4 inches of snow.
By Monday morning, downtown DC had received over 10 inches of snow. The farm was coated with almost 12 inches. The sustained cold overnight temperatures meant the white stuff was perfect, fluffy and light. Underneath the muddy ground was still frozen and stable. That meant only one thing...
"Hell. Yes." -- All three of us.
It was snow gallop time.
This baby horse wasn't sure about things at first.
I joke that part of the reason I keep my horses barefoot is to enjoy snow frolics at the drop of a hat. With their unadorned feet, my horses have never struggled with balled up snow or traction. We've always simply enjoyed a good romp, the deeper the snow the better.
Is it cheating to use deep snow to encourage higher steps in collection?
Bast wasn't sure about moving off in the snow at first. He took a long walk to find his confidence in the footing. He clacked his bit nervously, and moved slow behind for awhile. However, once he realized I would happily support him, he was ready to dig in.
Let's go!
We got off to a bang of a start when Lyra flushed a deer and Asterid set off after it. Despite my calling, Asterid continued to make her way across the large field toward the retreating deer. I knew I'd have to go after her. Thankfully, Bast has proven himself to be a handy cow-pony. This summer we frequently had to run down his cantankerous older brother, who loves to break his halter and go running back to his pasture. I figured he'd be up for running down the dog.
Obviously a struggle for him. Haha.
He leapt to the challenge with joy. And we made some beautiful galloping tracks over the virgin snow.
#racehorsemoments
Asterid came back once we got close enough, and never strayed again. In fact, both huskies had so much fun bolting around in the foot of snow, I worried they'd be too tired to walk back to the barn.
Asterid, you're a good dog. Even if you have selective hearing at a distance.
I let Bast stretch out a few times, which challenged the dogs to try to keep up. They can't, of course. But it's fun to watch huskies flat out run just for the joy of it. To enjoy for yourself, check out my video highlights.
Deep snow makes the girls struggle even more to keep up with my thoroughbred.
The ride wasn't long. I didn't want to stress Bast's legs too much in the deep footing. However, we did work on some dressage training while we had the added resistance of snow. I enjoyed how much more it made Bast use his back and lift his legs. We did some compression/lengthening work at the trot.
I'd happily take this lengthened trot.
We also did plenty of work at the canter, reminding Bast to keep his balance. He loves to pull me forward and lean onto his forehand, and the snow made him want to do this more and more. However, with some work his canter really became an uphill and beautiful gait.
Dressage pony in the making.
I wish we regularly had snow like this to practice. In the meantime, I'll be carrying the memory of our work in the perfect powder.
Always this trot.
I'll also be carrying forth the memory of our joyful galloping and partnership. These sorts of snow days are so valuable for both the break they provide in the monotony of winter training, but also the building of enjoyable memories between horse and rider. I value them so much.
Love this horse.
Anyone else love galloping in the snow? Do you use it for training, or just a fun mental break? Or are you just here for the epic photos? I know I am...
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