Mugwump just did a post on riding outside the arena and the added benefits she is finding out for herself and her horse.
Having grown up in the middle of the prairie, I spend most of my time riding out in the open. We didn't have an arena, so even on colts with just a few rides on them, you had to head for the pastures to ride.
But, I didn't live full-time on the ranch. As a matter of fact, I spent most of my time in town. But, we have acreage at this house and always kept horses on it. So if I wanted to ride, I rode around town.
Megan and I live in the same house I grew up in and have our horses right out the back door. We have the best of both worlds-because to the east of our house is open prairie, that the owners have been kind enough to let us ride in and just 6 blocks from the house is the public arena. Which we take full advantage of.
But to get there, we have to run the gauntlet...cars driving past, barking dogs, kids running out of nowhere to say hi and bigger kids, with stereos blaring playing basketball at the courts. It's a full bore sensory overload for the horses.
But the thing is...it's a great training tool too. Can we say...bombproof? Okay, I won't go that far. Not every horse becomes immune to all of the sudden activity they can encounter on this 1/2 mile strip. But they certainly learn to handle it as good as they can. Which takes tons of time off of the training schedule.
At the far end of this street is the arena...
The "greenies" usually get hauled to the arena a few times before I start ponying them up there. I just like to get a feel for how well they are going to handle things and a few miles under their cinch before subjecting them to all the new sights, sounds and activity they may or may not encounter.
Today was Frosty's inaugeral running of the gauntlet...
Can't you just hear him saying, "But I don't wannna". He took everything in, but didn't spook at anything. He's such a good boy.
So good in fact, that I rode him home, rather than switch horses...
Most inexperienced horses need to be ponied back and forth a few times before I trust they aren't going to freak out over something. But Frosty also got loped today. He's soft and soggy. He was tired enough by the end of our ride...plus he's not really prone to spooking anyway...that I felt confident he could handle it. He did fine.
And actually, so did Moon! I decided to see if I could slip a barrel run in on him. He got pretty scotchy at first again. So we stopped, worked on picking that right lead up a few times and did it again. He did awesome. I don't ask him for any speed, just sit real quiet and make sure he keeps his shoulder up. He is just pouring the power into getting to the next barrel. I have a barrel racing tomorrow...and now I am actually excited to go.