Yesterday's lesson was good. It was cold and breezy but at least the sun was out. Riding inside was pretty much a given. I remembered to grab both the girth and Sunny's bridle out of the trailer when I hooked up, so both were nice and warm by the time I pulled in at Eric's.
While I still tacked up outside, I led Sunny in with his halter on, leaving my heavy jacket, hat and ear band, along with my heavy gloves in the truck were they'd stay warm. When my lesson was done, I cross-tied him - yet another new experience - and was able to untack and brush him off and put his cooler on inside where it was warmer. He's still a bit big-eyed at the indoor experience, especially with horses coming and going in the aisles and calling to one another, but I'm amazed at how calmly he's accepting everything. Cross-tying, for example - he didn't fuss or fidget at all.
Warm-up was bending and small circles, moving his hip in and out, but on a loose rein. We moved on to more half-passing. I think I'm finally getting the hang of it - and when I manage to ask properly, Sunny was responding correctly. I'm supposed to channel my inner dressage rider (do I have one?), turn my outside toe out and roll my heel up. And remember that Sunny's nose and hip need to be toward the way we're moving. So if we're traveling clockwise, and halfpass diagonally across the circle to the right, my right hand is still the inside hand, and my left leg should be asking his left hip to move over while my right leg holds his shoulder. Says the dyslexic... ai-yi-yi!
From there we moved on to collected trot sitting to rising transitions. Sunny was just slightly off on his right front - not enough for a head bob, but enough that he felt just slightly uneven. Nothing was swollen or warm, but he might have either a stone bruise or some soreness somewhere from kiting around the pasture in all the wind we've had. But he didn't warm up out of it, so we kept the canter work short and only asked him for the direction that would put less stress on that side.
Even with the easier workout, he was still good and sweaty when we finished, but I walked him until his neck, shoulders and flanks were dry, and curried him afterwards until only his girth-line was damp. Snugged in his cooler, he was 99% dry by the time I unloaded him at the farm. Still....
Here's where I need some advice...
This is the first winter where I've had the luxury of riding inside. But the horses live outside - they don't have a nice warm barn to stay in. I'd like to keep taking Sunny over for lessons as long as the roads stay good, but the temps are getting lower and lower, and he's getting fuzzier. Always before when I've ridden in the winter it's been outside, and I didn't generally have to worry about a sweaty horse when I finished. Now I not only have a warm, semi-damp horse, but I'm hauling him 20+ miles home in a drafty trailer. It was 17' when I parked the truck last night. I can't blanket him where he is - there're too many tree-branches and what-not for a blanket to get caught on. And I can't clip him, because without a blanket he'd be cold.
I didn't sleep very well last night mulling things over, and was up early this morning to drive out and check on them. They were both fine - Sunny hollered at me as soon as he saw me walking down the alley, and they both came trotting up to meet me at the pasture gate. No shivers in sight, both of them fully fluffed against the cold.
I know some of you have dealt with this type of winter-riding dilemma, what's your approach?