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Fun and Joy Even in the Heat

Connecticut weather has been like a tropical forest. We had a great spring, let's not forget about that. It was nice and cool and no bugs on the trails. You might have set goals for yourself this season to train certain levels to go to shows. Hot weather times are for practicing reality and flexibility. As in the winter, there are times when it is not appropriate to ride. Exercise is unhealthy in severe cold and severe heat for both horse and rider. Can you survive it? Possibly, but at what cost? It's important to focus on the process as well as the goal.

Another option, go swimming with your horse! Actual swimming should be short moments then let the horse get all 4 hooves on solid ground. When they are swimming, allow your horse's head full freedom so they can stretch it up there to breathe. Hold mane and just float behind them - don't try to stay sitting on their back while they're swimming. When their front feet hit the ground again, that's when you should make sure you're centered over the back. When all 4 feet hit the ground again, the back will come up to meet you. Hold on to some mane because it will feel like your falling backwards. If you have good footing at your swimming hole, try a bit of trotting with the water at their belly. It's a lot of work (imagine your running in a pool) so not too long. What's cool about this is the slow motion effect that gives it tons of spring. If you haven't ridden a piaffe or passage, this is what it feels like! I love to ride in the water, but when it's really hot and muggy, the horse flies that look and sound like airplanes will be out for blood- yours and his!

I'm also recovering from a 2nd back surgery (L5, S1). Technically, I can start riding soon. I will practice self-control and see what the physical therapist says. I'm taking this time to take care of my horse in other ways besides riding. I'm giving him showers (with anything peppermint or menthol cools them down even more) and towel drying. He loves towel drying. When we're both cool, I take specific care of minor cuts and any sign of scratches from the dampness. By now he should be dry enough for bug spray application. I spray everywhere but use my hands or a soft towel for the face. I use Puffs with Vicks to clean out his nose (he's usually snorting from the bug spray). I use sterile soft gauze pads to clean out and around his eyes. Those gauze pads are also good for cleaning out ears. And every other grooming I put some gloves on and clean out his nether regions. He's happy and content, and we enjoy each other on the ground as much as riding. No time spent in each other's company is wasted time.

Another use of time not riding can be spent working on pasture improvements and maintenance. You can plan this in short 20 minute intervals to go inside to hydrate and cool down. Organize the tack room. Clean tack inside. Organizing and cleaning can be done in short intervals as the weather allows. When I was younger, I worked outside all summer. I generally had 36 hours off a week from summer horse camp. I only stopped recently because my body has been overworked. All those times I pushed through pain and discomfort have taken their toll on me. Of course I enjoyed myself too, but I didn't HAVE to work as hard as I did. Outside of summer camp, I was always working 2-4 jobs and taking classes for some degree. I have 11 years of college under my belt with 2 degrees and professional certifications. I was very strong, athletic and healthy. I got away with that pace for a long time. I'm here to tell you, it's not necessary to ride in uncomfortable weather or when you or your horse aren't 100%. There are other things to do that are just as beneficial to your horse and ultimately riding your goals. Your horse wants you to be happy and healthy. Take care of yourself just as much as you take care of your horse. Horse folks sometimes need a reminder for self care. Soon enough the weather will cool down. September and October are awesome for riding. Lately, so has November and even parts of December here in northern Connecticut.

So maybe you have it in your head that you will ride your horse a specific number of times a week, a specific routine, with specific tack. Well, I used to be a big planner too. It's taken a long time, but I really am learning how to go with the flow. Plans can change; that's normal and okay. How you respond to the change can make the difference between making progress or taking steps back from your ultimate goals.

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