It takes me upwards of 40 minutes to drive to where I board Tonka. Every day the drive feels like too much, but then I arrive, see that my horse has been cared for impeccably, and get to ride in this:
This indoor is big, airy, and filled with sunshine. The footing is perfect, which isn’t something you can say about what’s outside!
But there are downsides to riding indoors for months. I get the indoor arena rider’s slant. Look at how my head perfectly mirrors the line of the wall!
I self-correct. I take my own advice and look, focus and go, but it’s a constant battle to stay plumb and balanced.
It’s not just me. Tonka, too, has the indoor arena slant. Horses, though, don’t lean away, they rely on the wall. I taught dressage lessons this past weekend at an indoor in Connecticut. I had them ride down the long side eight feet off from the wall. Even my student on the upper level dressage horse could feel the wall pull them like a magnet back over.
It doesn’t help that riders and horses are asymmetrical. Humans and horses are innately right or left-handed. We’re tighter and weaker on one side than another. We have old injuries. We get arthritis. Tonka has mild changes in his left hock, so it’s more difficult for him to engage that leg.
I try to ride actively and equally both directions, but I’m sure that I don’t. I ride patterns, I get off of the wall, I use my eyes.
But the best solution to that indoor arena slant is to get out, even if it’s just to walk carefully around snowy paddocks. Take your feet out of the stirrups and swing your legs.
Breathe that fresh air. Relax. Sit deep and plumb. Look ahead as if you have somewhere to go.
I couldn’t do this without first training and exercising in the good footing of the indoor. And I couldn’t get the beautiful movement of dressage without walking outside like this.