Since winter has finally hit Texas, I have had a pretty wild horse. I posted about some of Chance’s antics the other day in Galloping into 2016. Literally. While he was a bit calmer the next day, I was unable to ride on Monday thanks to that pesky little thing called work, so yesterday he was crazy. I had to lunge him twice before I was able ride. It is pretty common for our typically calm (well, calm-ish in Chance’s case) horses to act totally nuts when the temperature drops. I am not sure if they like the cold better and are overly excited, or they don’t like it very much and are resentful that we are forcing them to work in it. It depends on the horse perhaps. No matter, it is important that we find a way to deal with their excess energy since most of us do not fancy taking the winter off – at least in the South where is really never gets cold enough to justify a hiatus!
Yesterday, I got on Chance and trotted him a few steps. His head was straight up in the air, I felt him building, and he shook his head when I slowed him to a walk. He also was acting pretty spooky. He is not really a spooky horse, so when he acts that way I know something is up. Also, he usually starts out a little on the lazy side. Although he is a pretty hot horse, he starts out quiet most days. He just does not get excited about flat work. Once we start jumping, he will perk up and can be a little feisty. When he starts out feisty though and doesn’t settle quickly, he is really wild. Knowing our horses well can help us to gauge how frisky they are feeling, and what to do about it. Personally, I don’t think you can get much accomplished when your horse is about to jump out its own skin (like Chance yesterday); so I typically opt to lunge for a bit. Had I not lunged Chance yesterday (or Saturday), we likely would have just argued and fought the whole time – or worse, he would have bucked me off. Sometimes horses just have extra energy they need to get out. Letting them get it out on the lunge line, in my opinion, is oftentimes better than trying to ride through it. I lunged Chance for about fifteen-twenty minutes, then I hand-walked him around the arena. He was still acting spooky and silly, so I lunged for another ten or so. Then I got on him, and lightly hacked him around for ten or so minutes. He worked longer than he usually does, but he had more energy to burn. I did not want to work him too hard, but I decided to get on him for a few minutes just so that he stays in “I’m going to be ridden” mode. I didn’t want him to think he got out of anything for being silly.
Another thing you can do when your horse is acting crazy is free lunge. Then they can really run and buck. Just make sure the gate is closed, tack secure, and that the arena is safe. Obviously, no one should be riding or anything while a horse is free lunging. Also, I would not recommend leaving a bridle on the horse; there is too much risk of the reigns becoming unsecured and falling over the horse’s head if he or she is really running and bucking. Free lunging is great if you have a horse that doesn’t go on the lunge line well.
Most importantly, we must have patience with our wild horses. Every horse I have ever had has acted a little nutty in the winter, and it seems that most horses do. We can’t expect them to be perfect angels all the time. We just have to handle their craziness the best we can during these colder months (or weeks if you live in Texas).
Best of luck with all of your winter rides!