This is my first winter at this barn, really at any barn since until this year I've been too much of a wuss to ride in the winter. I'm not a fan of being cold. I have poor circulation and little hands and feet (compared to the rest of me) and I get cold very easily. But the desire to ride my own horse (and some additions to my wardrobe) have managed to quell the aversion.
The most annoying thing I'm noticing about winter riding is the crowded arena. The horses don't really have turn-out in the winter so they're all a little fresh and everyone tries to lunge before they ride and everyone with yearlings brings them out to lunge, too. Yesterday there were 5 horses being lunged at the same time in the arena. I was squeezed into a tiny postage-stamp sized corner. I don't mind that totally because it's easier for me to keep him paying attention when he's close, but that size circle is not big enough for him to really burn off any energy. He wants to canter and he wants to trot out, but he has a hard time collecting his canter in a small circle. He's SO much better riding at the canter. He's slowed down SO much and he's relaxing his neck easily. He still has his moments, of course, but there are wonderful, wonderful strides and laps now. Tonight he kept loping nicely and then along the long wall (on right lead) he would veer into the middle and NOT respect my inside leg OR my outside rein and go back to the wall. I brought him down to a posting trot (still weird to post in a western saddle, but I'm over it) and made him go away from the wall and then towards the wall and away and towards, just to remind him that he needs to pay attention to my legs. My seat isn't perfect and I was probably leaning too far forward at those times so my leg was less effective maybe. He knows what he's supposed to do, he just has these little moments where it's like he flips me the bird and says "This sucks and I'm done." but if I keep after him he comes back to me. We actually had many many nice laps tonight both at a working trot and a western jog where his head and neck were stretched and relaxed and I could loosen my reins and reward him. I know he's getting it. It's so much fun when he does that. Gives me a chance to check MY position and sit up tall and stop watching his poll for a while.
I work tomorrow until 4 so I'll see if the weather/my mood are conducive to riding. I wouldn't get there until the evening lessons were on and its SOOOO busy during those times. I'm going out on Friday midday so I should probably have at least half the arena to myself. I'm going to work on lunging in the large circle and in the small circle too since that's what seems to be required during these busy winter months. It's tough having only one place to ride. At least in the summer the lessons are in the outdoor so the indoor is usually free. PLUS the horses are turned out during the summer so they need a lot less lunging. Luckily my teaching schedule for the rest of the year has my classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can ride some afternoons and avoid the after-school rush.
I keep putting ointment on his scraped hock. The stall cleaner didn't clean stalls until I was there this evening and we came back from riding to find a beautifully cleaned stall. Fresh shavings over the entire stall and his hay (which he had spread around) put into a neat pile for him in the corner. I don't usually get to see what the stall looks like when it's been done so it was nice to have confirmation that they do a nice job.
Question for those of you who board/have boarded: Do you tip/gift your barn staff during the Holidays? I wouldn't even know where to leave a tip...on the stall door? In the main office? What do you do?