24 February 2015

Winter Horsemanship

It is not easy to keep a warm blood horse in northern Finland in winter. My horse, Vanja, is not the problem: She is a darling.  But there is no place to ride. All the fields and forests are covered with one meter of snow. You can only move in the road, but the horse need good winter shoes with studs, because the road is often icy and slippery. Sleigh ride works better that riding on the road. This old sleigh we have is a real treasure; it comes from my husband's grandfather. I have been repairing and restoring it a little bit. At the moment it looks like this:
Sleight made by grandfather's father

I have an old set of horse harness (for working horse), and when my horse was younger, she used to be able to wear it. Five years ago I was really lucky and found a girl, who studied to be a horse caretaker. She took my horse with her to a big farming and riding school for a few months every winter. So, this is actually the first winter in long time, that my horse is staying at home. And now the old harness seems not to fit her anymore. I have been trying to adjust it, but it always seems to rub at some point. Maybe my horse has become smaller or her skin is more sensitive now because she is older. I got a set of new harness (for carriage) from my friend. Now I try to connect peaces of old and new to make a harness that works both for the old sleigh and for the old horse.
Trying to connect old and new


Because winter is the season for huskies, I don't even try to train the horse much - just to somehow maintain her till spring. Her winter time program is very simple. I put her out every morning with warm rugs and lots of hay and I take her in stable every evening with a little check, brush, feed, hay and water. Once on a weekday, often Wednesday, I take her in a long leash and make her run, stop and turn around me on the yard. This way, I hope I can keep her head and my connection to her, still working. Once every weekend, often Sunday, I take her for a long sleigh ride and let her run as much as she wants. This way, I hope, I can keep her body and condition still working.

Here is a short film about our typical sleigh ride and care taking after it:


When summer arrives it's time to shift focus. Off-season for huskies is high season for horse riding. Maybe it's good to look at this film from last summer to remember why I have a horse:


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