Weekly Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Make The Most of Your Winter Season

Kate Chadderton is an Australian native who operates her competition and training business in Annapolis, MD and Aiken, SC. She’s back again to share tips and advice with EN readers. Keep an eye out for new tips from Kate!

Kate Chadderton helps members learn how to train their horses to make improvements. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Unless you’re able to relocate to Aiken or Ocala for the winter, then this is probably the least inspiring part of the year. For a lot of riders it’s indoor riding only as the ground has frozen, or if there’s no indoor then you’re completely reliant on the weather to dictate when you can ride and what you can do. I suggest to my students who stay in the north to take this time of the year to take it easy, it’s only January and there’s a LOT of the year left to go! Work on your position, do pole work even ground work and long lining. However if you are keen to prepare for the spring events there are plenty of things you can do.
Find some good clinics and use the quiet time to get some fresh ideas. Whether you have a full time trainer or not, a different set of eyes and exercises can be really helpful. Choose clinics which focus on the phase you and your horse finds most difficult. If your goal is to lower your dressage score by 5 points this season, go to dressage clinics. If you’re planning to move up early in the spring, go to a clinician who will push you to jump at the edge of your comfort zone. Any good clinician will have a decent course and exercises set up, and they are built in ground crew! Clinics are also a good excuse to get your horse away from home and into an unfamiliar arena.

Ground poles are an easy way to mix it up in your arena. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Ground Poles
There are LOADS of exercises you can set up with simple poles on the ground. If you’re lucky enough to have a lot of poles, then you can easily find online exercises to emulate. Even if you only have a few poles, you can still get creative and set up new exercises. The great thing about poles is that you can practice them in your jump or dressage saddle and you can do them almost every day if you want, as there is no wear and tear on the horse unlike jumping. One of my favourite exercises involves just 3 poles, set up in a triangle formation. You can use all three corners of the triangle to school your horse in the walk (near the pointy end of the formation), trot (a little further away from the pointy end) and canter (near the base of the triangle). You’ll know soon enough if you have the wrong line or pace! Remember, if you’re copying something you see online, trot poles should be set at 4ft and canter poles at 9ft.
Editors note: Check out our Tuesday Video from Flexible Fit Equestrian USA for some inspiration. 
Fitness can be difficult to get and maintain in a ring, so take any good weather you can to get out and trot or gallop! It doesn’t matter if your calendar says that today you’re working on your 5 loop serpentines or square halts, get outside in the fresh air! The serpentines will wait for another day.
Schooling Shows
Shows are along the same line as clinics, they can get you out of your home arena and somewhere with more atmosphere. Although not as much pressure as the real thing, they can aid in keeping you and your horse tuned up and ready for when spring finally arrives.
Like I said in the beginning, don’t panic when you see all the pictures of the competitions in the south. There’s still a LOT of the year left! And it’s great for your horse to have a little slower part of the year.