When it rains in pours. That’s how the weather in my area seems this October. The sloppy footing conditions around my property limit most of my rides to the round pen. Despite a thick grass cover, my open pastures and barn area are much too soggy.
While I very much appreciate having my round pen with its aglime footing, I get the sense that Shiloh finds the round pen monotonous. I work to make the rides as interesting as I can, changing the obstacles and whatnot, but I also value being able to vary where I ride.
For a change of pace, I decided to break up a round pen session with some work in my barn driveway. Rather than asphalt, my barn driveway is packed with the same aglime footing as my round pen.
I mounted in the roundpen and then rode Shiloh onto the driveway, trying to spend as little time as possible on the squishy grass between the two. At the end of each part of the driveway, I began by doing little half circles to reverse directions, going briefly onto the grass sides in each direction.
After a couple of rounds, I advanced to changing directions at each driveway end by doing either a turn on the forehand or a turn on the hindquarters. Varying the direction of the turns each time. Meanwhile, Bear and Piper chose to use Shiloh’s work session to take a nap. If you look closely, you can see Bear lying down in the photo backgrounds. Piper was resting behind him just out of view.
In between the turns, I switched between walking and foxtrotting. Sometimes asking Shiloh to foxtrot right from the halt just after completing the turn on the forehand/hindquarters. It’s good practice for us both. He’s kind of a slow horse. I’m kind of a slow rider. Snappy really isn’t our style.
But the short, narrow driveway prompted us to try to be a little more active and crisp in our movements than usual. Unfortunately, we loose some relaxation in the process. I then have trouble encouraging Shiloh to reach towards the contact. Especially when his adrenaline level shoots up early in our ride as seen in the photo below. But where’s the fun in life without some challenges.
In reviewing the photos of our work (kindly taken by my husband), I noticed that we were able to keep to the same line of travel. Just like riding in a newly dragged sand arena (or through freshly packed snow), the hoofprints tell the tale.
It’s a simple thing to ride a straight line. Yet weirdly difficult. I remember when Shiloh and I first started riding together that I couldn’t get him to go down a straightaway for more than a few strides. We’d bob and weave all over the place.
Shiloh naturally doesn’t move very straight. I can see it when he moves in the pasture. The way he places and turns/twists his hooves/legs as he moves through space is odd. It makes efficient forward movement challenging. All that to say, I was pleasantly surprised that we could keep to the middle as well as we did.
Driveway as rideway? It’s funny how when you are an equestrian that you see so many things in terms of horses. When I am traveling around and see a long driveway, my mind usually travels to thinking about how much fun it would be to ride on it. I know in the past when looking at properties for sale, I would consider where I could potentially ride in the absence of a designated arena. A smooth dirt or gently graveled driveway was definitely on my wish list.
How about you? Have you ever used a driveway as a training space for you and your horse?