Eventing Nation: Make every foot count

Trapped in an indoor for the winter? Vermont eventer Lila Gendal finds a silver lining.

From Lila:

As the weather progressively gets worse, the size of our indoor becomes increasingly smaller … quite literally. Currently, there resides two tractors, one bumper pull two-horse trailer, a skid steer and an enormous dually farm truck. I think that might be it, although I may be forgetting something. The equipment has been jam packed in there like sardines. I have put standards and rails in front of the equipment just to be on the safe side and to give myself a visual for corners and straight lines along the short side.

Everyone always asks me, “How much of the indoor do you get this year?” I usually respond with the following: “As much as Rett will let me have!” In other words, I get what I get and am thankful I can even ride indoors! Would it be nice to have a full indoor to myself all winter? Most definitely. It would also be nice to have a heated indoor twice the size with rubber footing, but that’s wishful thinking! Unfortunately ,there are not enough covered buildings for the amount of machinery that the farm requires. Every shed and every building on the farm is currently occupied, which leaves the indoor for some open space. Instead of harping on the fact that I have less than three-quarters of the ring, I want to focus on the silver lining and realize that this situation has several benefits.

THF indoor as of Dec. 1. Sorry about the lighting.

For starters, my horses better be broke (come this spring) as far as my dressage work is concerned. I don’t have a ton of space, which translates to: EVERY FOOT COUNTS! Instead of riding 20-meter circles, which would be easier and less taxing, I am starting to make 15- and 10-meter circles. Instead of a “normal” serpentine of three loops, I am attempting a serpentine of three loops with a quarter less space to do it in. Instead of going all the way around the ring to the left and to the right, I am all of a sudden forced to be more creative with the space I have. Going around the ring as it stands would be equivalent to riding a very large 30-meter circle, which would get rather boring after a few times around.

Jumping time! My horses better be able to turn, sit and lift come spring as well! I can’t gallop my horses in a ring that size to any jump, and there would be no point in attempting that. Even though I am not jumping mountains in the winter, I do still jump a couple times a week and can really hone in on, oh, what’s that called again? Oh yeah … RIDE-A-BILITY! I have lots of time, under a minimal amount of stress, in a small area, so what else is there to do but work on really filling in any previously glossed over holes in my training?

Bottom line, I am in a unique situation with only myself as my motivator. Nobody is around asking when I am going to ride or if I want to hack with them. My training, my fitness and my horse’s training and fitness is completely in my hands. Sort of daunting, but also exciting at the same time. If I am able to sneak away for a couple weeks this spring and make the haul to Southern Pines, I would be overjoyed if anyone (and by anyone I am specifically referring to Denny) noticed how my horses are starting to get “really broke!”

For me, doing my homework from November through February or March and receiving affirmation or a “good” evaluation when all is said and done would mean the world. This would mean I DID accomplish great things in a tiny area. This would mean I wasn’t a bum sitting on my couch eating cake all winter. This would mean I can be left to my own devices and come out ahead at the other end. This is precisely where I look in order to find motivation! Where do you find your winter motivation?