Lockdown has made keeping our horses entertained even more important than ever before. As lockdown 3 is reality, I have made changes to my horses’ usual routines to keep them as interested as possible in their work and to make a routine that benefits us both when the competition suspension is over.
Since mid-December, I took the decision to ride in only my snaffle bridle (NS trans-angled lozenge loose-ring snaffle) for at least a month. I have always been told by trainers how if you can achieve the feeling you want in a snaffle; you can definitely achieve it in a double bridle. I thought this lockdown would be the perfect opportunity to try this as no competitions are happening. To cut a long story short, this change has improved my horse’s way of going more than I thought was possible. His ability to move through his shoulder has doubled allowing myself to maintain a more powerful, active trot and canter all because my horse has maximum level and comfort. This has helped movements including half pass, flying changes and canter pirouettes. This is one reason why I am so passionate about Neue Schule’s bits as it has largely improved my horse’s connection when riding in a double bridle. The feeling I achieved over a month of riding in a snaffle has bettered my connection when I ride in my double bridle and has become a religious part to my horse’s routine. At least 2 of our training sessions every week I ride in the snaffle when I used to do this once or twice over few weeks.
An adverse effect of lockdown on my horses has been the lack of travel and change of environments they have been exposed to compared to their usual weekly outings. To keep the horses as occupied as possible, hacking has been so important to keep them engaged when training. As well as making sure there are turned out every morning until I ride after lunch, hacking round the woods and exposing them to scenery outside of their comfort zone has kept them entertained and excited to know what activity they are doing the following day.
Other than our usual supplements routine at the beginning of every training session, introducing pole work more often has been great to keep my horse active mentally and physically. My horse feels much stronger behind and more supple through his shoulder which has made asking for a more elevated trot easier for him. Pole work has also been very beneficial for his canter. Placing poles on a circle or as a square helps my horse develop an active canter and ensures his hind legs are coming under himself correctly and responsively off my aid.
Another way I keep my horse entertained is test riding every 2 weeks. I will ride either the PSG or Inter 1 test to keep my brain up to date with test riding. This is the perfect opportunity to iron out any mistakes or bad habits in a test environment and to better my approach when riding each movement. As my horse has the tendency to think he knows best, allowing myself to keep control of each movement has been a main focus during test riding. By doing this every 2 weeks allows me to focus and act upon improvements and make me even more excited for when competitions start again.
Lockdown has made me realise the importance of a day off to relax and rest. For the horses and I, recovery is more important than before as we have lots of time to train. This long period has grown my passion for this sport. I did not realise how much it changes my mood, giving me another focus other than university work and never fails to make me smile. My urge to compete gets bigger everyday as I cannot wait to show off all our hard work.
I am ever thankful for Neue Schule’s support even through this pandemic, and their products are always a key part of why my horses are in top condition.
For regular horse updates and to follow my dressage journey, please follow me on my Instagram, Facebook & TikTok.
Until next time, Olivia x