Mid-Year Reflection: What are you working on in your horsemanship?

Reflection often seems limited to the beginning or the ending of events. We might set riding goals at the start of the year. Or maybe look back at the end of show season. But what about when you are midway through or more?

In looking at the calendar, the year is more than half over. And in my neck of the woods, Winter is about three months away. Since I don’t usually ride at home once the weather turns freezing, I don’t have much longer to ride Shiloh before he starts his Winter break.

I’ve been pleased at how Shiloh has ridden this year. We continue to work on basics like maintaining rhythm and bend through circles, stretching forward into contact and improving consistency in his gait. He’s so much softer and more pliable than he used to be. I enjoy working on those smaller details. It’s the wanna be horse-trainer coming out in me.

This month marks the third year that I have had Shiloh. I knew he’d make a good pasture-mate for Bear, and I liked his personality from the get-go, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to bring him back to being a decent riding horse after his spending five years at pasture.

He has always felt safe in the sense of being quiet, but he was so dull and tuned out that it didn’t feel very good riding him. He was super defensive about rein contact, even in a bitless bridle, and didn’t seem to have any awareness of my seat or legs. But now I feel good about the relationship that we have developed in the saddle. It’s very gratifying to feel and see the changes in him.

We’ve also completed a handful of field trips off the property this year, but I have yet to either take Shiloh out on a trail ride or ride him in a clinic.

You may recall my writing about how we left our Spring clinic just a few hours after arriving due to some pain issues I was experiencing. More recently, I canceled our participation in a much-anticipated Summer clinic.

I still hope to resume our field trips to a friend’s property and a local barn once we get past the worst of the hot and humid Summer weather. But considering Bear’s age and health issues, I decided it would not be wise to take him to the four-day Summer clinic.

I wasn’t confident that Bear would eventually settle into spending most of that time separated from Shiloh while parked in a stall. He’s been struggling off and on (mostly on) with separation anxiety during our short field-trips. I just didn’t think he would do well with an extended trip away from home.

By not riding in either clinic, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to do obstacle work, try my hand at mounted archery and refresh my skills in working cattle. I must say it hurts to type all that out. I so enjoy participating in horse adventures, and it bothers me to stay at home so much. But I don’t want my fun to be potentially at Bear’s expense.

Otherwise, Bear is battling the battle of the bulge. He was staying trim until just the last month or so. The excessive rain we’ve had this July turned his semi-dry lot into something closer to a normal pasture.

That translated into him gaining weight quickly in just a few weeks. Something potentially dangerous for a horse like him with PPID (Cushing’s Disease) and EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome). I am now working on adjusting his diet since I can’t exercise him as he is only pasture sound at this point in his life. As Bear’s farrier says, “There’s nothing easy about managing an easy keeper.”

In the mean time, I am working on finding a third horse to add to the herd so Bear can be left at home with companionship while I take either Shiloh or the third new horse out for the future adventures I’d like to enjoy. I’ve met some very nice horses along the way in that journey, but I have not found the right one for me yet.

I had also thought Shiloh and I might have videoed a few more gaited western-dressage tests by now in order to enter online shows. But I am still confronting the fact that without an actual arena with good footing (as opposed to just riding in my paddocks, pastures or round pen), it is difficult for me to ride the tests at anything other than a walk. As interested as I am in western dressage, I am not sure I’ll be entering any online shows this year.

While I feel like on the whole I’ve had a good riding year with Shiloh so far and I have really enjoyed our rides, the year hasn’t been without its frustrations and disappointments.

Long story short, I thought I’d give this update of mine in order to prompt you, dear readers, to think about what you’ve done so far this year with your horsemanship and/or what else you’d like to work on or accomplish before year’s end. Especially for those of you, who like me, may find their riding severely limited or non-existent from December through March.

If you have not done what you would otherwise like to do yet, you still have some time. Set that goal. Make a plan.

Like me, you may not get as far as or do as much as you would like, but you never know until you try. Whatever the ultimate results, I bet you can still have fun along the way.

What is YOUR mid-year reflection?

2 thoughts on “Mid-Year Reflection: What are you working on in your horsemanship?

  1. I was going to have gone to compete in a show last weekend. But Belinda ( my coach ) and I decided that I would not do that. I have lots of showing miles with Biasini. We have spent the Covid time working on improving his frame and self carriage and immediate response to my aids. I am not ready to show yet as I do not have the multitude of aids automatically in my subconscious. That would mean I would revert to my old way of riding just get the same old results. So shows have gone off the calendar for the moment. Interestingly enough I have found the Olympic dressage inspirational. Last week in my lessons Belinda told me my riding had come up to another level. So that is good. I would love to take Biasini out to work with cows! That would be fun.

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    1. That is wonderful to get such good feedback from your coach- who is an Olympian herself no less! I too am finding the Olympics quite inspirational. I like to hear how the athletes deal with challenges and the way they put things in perspective when their events don’t go quite like they planned. I think there is a lot to learn from them there. I bet Biasini would do great with cows. He looks so responsive and athletic that I imagine he could easily perform some fancy foot work to keep up with them!

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