I don’t know about the weather where you are, but it’s finally Spring here! And with warm weather come riding more, or possibly even riding for the first time since before winter for many. As a college student who lives 4 hours away from her horse, I’ve learned that you have to take things slow when riding for the first time in a while, especially if it has been a long while. Here are some of the things I do after a few months between rides.
The first thing to remember is that, if you haven’t been around your horse at all, everything from getting your horse is going to be like new again in most cases. Make sure you are paying attention to your horse, but don’t overreact. The first day you go out make sure you have a lot of time to spare to make things go smoothly. When grooming take your time and maybe even do a more thorough job than is needed, just to give your horse that little extra time to relax and get back in the swing of things.
The most important thing to remember is do not just hop on. My mare taught me the very first time that just getting on is not okay. Even though we had been in that arena for years and never had any problems, she was spooking at just about everything because it had all become unfamiliar again. The first thing I do, as long as no one else is in the arena, is free lunge her. That way she can go everywhere in the arena, buck and run if she feels the need, and I’m safe. If someone else is there I lunge her on BOTH ends of the arena and then hand walk her around the whole thing both ways. If she is still nervous I will then proceed to do more ground work, such as working and showmanship or line driving, until she is relaxed. Only once she is relaxed and listening to me will I then get on.
Now that your riding you still need to take it easy, today just work on the basics. Working on the basics is good as a refresher and its familiar and easy. If you try doing new things right away your not going to get far.
Remember to not ride to long that day, no more than an hour, and to end on a good note. The next day you shouldn’t need to do a lot of the ground work first, but if your horse is looking distressed then go ahead and repeat day one until your horse is back in the swing of things. I suggest not starting anything new for at least a week, just take it easy and go at your horses pace.