Riding in the cold and the dark

In a word, it sucks.  As I often say, “I can ride in the cold, and I can ride inthe dark. But I really, really hate riding in the cold AND the dark – together.”

 Add in the factor that any riding in the dark these days has to be done in the round pen and the ‘suck’ factor increases exponentially.

And I discovered something else about riding in the round pen the other night. It makes me dizzy. Don’t ask me why. I was looking up and really not focusing on those metal rails constantly whizzing by. But there was just something about it that made me feel slightly off-kilter.

Faeryn was the round pen victim the other night. She’s gotten short shrift since I’ve been focusing on Fling this week. Her right canter is much, much better and I would call it “good” now. The left – could not get the left canter to feel right, no matter how much I tried. It felt good the last time I rode her in the field. Maybe part of it was my round pen aversion. I will ride her tonight and see what I have. And of course, the weekend is coming up – two glorious days of 10+ hours of daylight – and rain is predicted each day. Not only that, I am supposed to take riding lessons both days.

Fling is working very well, despite the fact I have not had a lesson in more than a month now. That has not been intentional, but between the holidays, and Christmas and New Years’ both falling on weekends, lessons were in short supply. And last weekend, I was scheduled to take one on Sunday which turned out to be a perfectly rotten cold, rainy day. No one wanted anything to do with lessons that day – trainer or students!

So I’ve been plugging along on my own. And I really hope to heck when we go in for a ‘checkup’ this weekend, the ‘dressage docs’ will pronounce us good to go and not ‘diagnose’ any huge problems!

My ongoing challenge with both Fling and Faeryn right now is staying quiet and not interfering (aka “pumping”) at the canter. Fling’s canter is more collected some days than others – I was getting a bit concerned about it on Wednesday, but last night her canter felt great and super collected and we even did a few schooling pirouettes. However, I have not seen video of me riding her in almost a year and that concerns me a little. Mike is going to come Sunday and video my ride and I hope that a) proves useful and b) doesn’t make me burst into tears or run from the room screaming when I watch it.

But I am growing a bit weary of the cold. We’re not used to extended periods of ‘cold’ — we tend to get a day or two, and then it warms up, so we don’t have time to get real cranky about it. 😉  The horses ahve been wearing blankets each night and turnout sheets during the day all this week. Today has been the first day they’ve gone out without their sheets all week.

People in the north would scoff at what we consider ‘cold’ and rightly so.However, as I have discovered growing up in Houston, there are two factors to how cold we think it is here. Factor One. If you grew up in a mild climate, you most likely never learned how to actually dress for cold weather. Down here, when it got cold, you threw a coat over your short sleeved shirt.  Which would do little to keep you warm.  Factor Two: Just like our heat, our cold is ‘damp’ too. And that makes a huge difference. I could not believe when I went to CO snowskiing that I was never cold. The damp cold really does seem to ‘chill you to your bones.’

But, the beauty of living to be 50+ is that sometimes you learn something. And although I will never ’embrace’ the cold – at least I have learned how to dress for it. First, lots of layers. Second – DOWN! I discovered Lands’ End down vests about two years ago and REALLY stocked up on them during our awful winter last year. They’re great for riding, since you can peel them off when you warm up. This year, I have discovered honest-to-goodness down COATS!  LE has some that are not too bulky, and are short enough not to interfere with your butt in the saddle. 😉  The first one I ordered arrived on Tuesday – just in time for our current cold snap. It got field tested quite quickly.  The other thing I have discovered is polar fleece socks. Plus polar fleece hats, neck gators and scarves. And, last but not least, thinsulate gloves.  These lovely ‘high performance’ fabrics have kept me riding when I really, really just want to sit on the couch with my fat, furry cat, Bubba, and eat popcorn and watch TV.



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