When most people think of fall they come up with things like shorts and sweatshirts, hot chocolate and bon fires, football season, and apple picking. J.P. and I like to take this time to focus on lower impact fitness techniques to give her a break from a long summer of showing while focusing on other important skills by going “back to basics”.
No Stirrup November
Feared, sometimes hated, but necessary, No Stirrup November is not just for equitation finalists! It does well for any discipline of rider who is looking for a more solid seat, a secure leg, and a tight core (which pays off after Turkey Day!). If you have a NSN buddy to help you out by swapping stirrups and withholding them from each other until the end of the month it can be fun, seriously! Start off slow, focusing on walking and sitting the trot on the first week and posting trot and canter transitions the second week. The last two weeks I focus on rhythm control, being able to change the tempo to all three gaits and really paying attention to my body. Some days you may only be able to ride for twenty minutes and that’s okay, the goal is to strengthen your body! It does get easier the more you do it!
Dressage December is my horse’s version of time off. It’s holiday season, it gets dark super early, and family comes home for the Holidays. I may only have time for a thirty minute ride before having to run off on my next adventure but I don’t want to neglect my horse. I make this month strictly no jumping time and I focus on a different exercise weekly. I may do turns on the haunches or forehand one week, shoulder-ins/shoulder-fore the following week, work on circles and serpentines the next week, and basic lateral work the last week. I also will try these exercises a few times without stirrups, towards the end of my ride to help tie in all the work we did the month prior. The goal here is to encourage my horse to stay supple and loose under saddle and also getting a good low impact work out in a possibly shorter amount of time.
This month I focus on incorporating some gymnastic exercises a few times per week. I like to start off with trotting and cantering poles the first part of the month building on them to add in cross rails, small verticals, and oxers to help sharpen up my horse and improve our form. I do recommend to work with your trainer to work up to the level that you and your horse are comfortable with. The goal here is to maintain athleticism and to help manage J.P.’s need for speed in the cold weather. It’s always super helpful to have my trainer on the ground so any adjustments can be made quickly and efficiently.
This is the month where I bring everything together, it’s probably my favorite month because I get super creative with everything we’ve worked on. I can practice cantering poles on a circle before starting a grid, or trotting through a raised grid with no stirrups. I try to integrate everything that we’ve worked on over the last few months, the possibilities are endless! Since my sassy mare can be opinionated about our agenda I tend to constantly switch things up by this time, making sure that J.P. isn’t able to anticipate our exercise. If I’m with friends, we usually make an obstacle course of it which may or may not consist of every pole we have on the property, so I will also note that as a courtesy you should pick up after your ride!
My trainer and I always work closely together to ensure that J.P. and I are in tip-top shape. She may think I’m crazy sometimes but let’s be real, who’s not crazy about their horses health?