Kaswyn and I had a lesson yesterday. Even though we've been typically working for 35-40 minutes each ride, our lesson was only 30 minutes. This was because I decided to have my lesson outside instead of in the indoor arena.
I did this for two reasons. The first was that the barn felt really stuffy and oppressive, even with the big aisle way fans going full blast. Sure, it was hot outside, but at least the air seemed to be moving around a little bit. Once you get a sweat worked up even a little breeze can cool you off a lot. Imagine that, sweat doing what it was designed to do!
The second reason is that I wanted my trainer's opinion on how Kaswyn looked working outside. Since we've started working again I've been very protective about where I ride my horse because I don't want another setback. The footing in the indoor is very consistent, so I had been riding in there because I knew what I was getting. However, a few weeks ago I decided to try the outdoor arena.
First, let me just say that the barn, arenas, pastures, and property are top notch where Kaswyn is. The only problem is that there is too much footing in the outdoor arena. It's a sand based footing and when there is too much footing then it gets too deep. Imagine walking on the beach. Then imagine doing a workout on the beach. It's much harder than a normal workout. So I've been reticent to ride outside because I don't want to hurt my horse again. My trainer and the barn owner are working to remove some of the footing, but it's a big job.
Once I heard Dr. G. say that deep, soft footing is good for joints and bones (because of it's shock absorption qualities), but it's bad for tendons, ligaments, and muscles because it's so much harder to work in which causes strains, tears, and pulls. Shallow, harder footing is bad for joints and bones due to the concussive force generated by the horses' stride, but it's better for tendons, ligaments, and muscles because it's easier to work in.
Anyway, I worked Kaswyn a few times very lightly outside, just to see how he felt. I quickly felt that the footing was deeper than inside, but I also felt that the sand had a nice "spring" to it. The deeper footing was forcing Kaswyn to pick his feet up a little higher in order to get over and through the footing, which gave his stride a bit more suspension. Unfortunately, when I went back inside to work the footing felt very flat and dead. It seems to me that there isn't enough footing inside now that I've ridden outside. It's true that my horse doesn't have to work as hard inside so there is less suspension and jump to his strides, but I also feel like there is very little rebound of the footing under my horse's feet.
We ended up having a very good lesson, and my trainer thought that he looked very good. We kept it short because we didn't want to overdo it and have Kaswyn pull something. I'm still undecided about where I should be riding him. In general, I feel more comfortable inside because I'm trying to play it safe to keep my horse sound and working. However, now I'm also concerned about the indoor footing being too hard, even though I try and ride off of the track where it's less packed down. Also, I can see the advantages to working in a little deeper footing sometimes. It's better on his joints and bones, and gives more spring and expression to his gaits, and works the muscles necessary for my horse to push up and off the ground for nice suspension.
So I'm in a bit of a quandary. Of course the ideal situation would be perfect footing both outside and inside. I can dream, can't I?