I saw recently a debate about trotting on roads on one of the networking sites, so here is my opinion.
When we were younger we were always told never to canter on the road; avoid slippery roads, walk carefully along it when it`s very shiny; walk down hill. They were the golden rules we abided by. So we regularly trotted along the road, or up the steep hill (hence why our ponies had hindquarters the size of Clydesdales) I don`t remember a single one of them having a splint. Or a days lameness.
Now everyone says “beware of concussion injuries from trotting on the road”. Exactly how much trotting are you doing?!? And how fast? Surely the faster you go the heavier the footfall, the more the concussion. Or are we riding weaker boned animals, who are more susceptible to concussion injuries? Are people going out for hacks and hammering along the road for two hours a day? In which case I fully accept that their horses will suffer some form of shin splints, the way human athletes would. Or are the roads harder? Are people using more roads compared to tracks, mainly because of urbanisation reducing the number of available bridleways? Are these people balanced riders?
I remember training for my stage II, when you learn about fittening a horse for hunting or competing. The BHS tells you to trot to strengthen the tendons. Yes I know the BHS can be quite old-fashioned …
But they do have a point that just working on soft ground risks pulling or damaging tendons. Then what if you go to an event and the ground is classified as hard? And all your preparation takes place in the school? Surely you are at high risk of injuring your horse? So what are the options? Withdraw any competition with “hard ground”? Only enter competitions that you know have a soft surface? Or train your horse so that his body is well adapted to cope with all conditions?
When hacking in wet conditions do you stay in walk? Surely a little trot on the road a) to warm you up, and b) is better than trotting or cantering on the uneven, slippery tracks. Then in mid summer, aren`t the tracks almost as hard as the roads? I find that when I hack in the winter I tend to stick to roads and have some trots, especially a steady one up a hill to really get my horse working (helps when you have a few fresh riding school horses too … send them up the hill and then they`re sane enough for the client lessons) and in the summer, we revert to the tracks and woods and have lots of fun in there.
Swings and roundabouts; and everyone has an opinion, and I`m sure some horses can cope with hard ground better than others so a big factor is knowing your horse, particularly if they have a previous injury. But surely it is better for the horse and for you to mix and match so that they can work safely and happily on all types of terrain, and then you have a lot of variety in your hacks. I don`t think people can rigidly stick to one viewpoint and the judge people for being on the opposite side of the fence.