Welcome to lockdown! We hope that you are all keeping safe and healthy, and send our best wishes to everyone who isn’t able to stay at home.
While there is no official restriction on riding (apart from time), many readers will be following the recommendations of riding organisations, and either limiting riding to low risk activities, or not riding at all. With competitions and lessons cancelled, everyone is experiencing a significant change to their usual routine. So we have brought together some ideas for you to try out while the country stands still, and we find ourselves grounded.
Back to basics - clean your tack!
With everything going on it’s easy to forget that spring is synonymous with cleaning, and many of us would normally be thinking about giving our equipment a once over, even if we never get round to doing it. Use the extra time to give your saddle(s) and tack a really good clean, making note of anything that needs attention from a saddler when travel restrictions lift.
Support your local tack shop
Small tack shops already face fierce competition from online retailers and chain stores, and that pressure will only be exacerbated in the current climate as customers cut back on riding and stay indoors. Find out if your local tack shop can make deliveries, and consider supporting them - even if it is just by ordering saddle soap to make a start on the first suggestion.
Groundwork with your horse
If you have stopped riding, there’s no reason to pause working on your horse. Depending on your livery situation, you can still spend time on ground work. Lunging and long reining are both useful tools in training, especially for young horses. Depending on their age and previous work, focus on rhythm and balance, and incorporate trotting poles on the lunge.
If your horse has a tendency to push or barge, work on their manners on the ground. Walking out in hand (perhaps on your drive or around a paddock) is a chance to emphasise the importance of walking alongside you and stopping when asked, as well as teaching your horse to trust your judgement in passing scary things.
For those still riding at home and on a young horse, we have some tips on how to strengthen a young horse’s canter here.
Improve your rider fitness
Riders have always been guilty of neglecting their bodies, while spending lavish amounts of time and money on horses. How many times have you hobbled alongside a sound trotting horse, or sweated worse than your mount after a cross country round? Better rider fitness can give you a competitive edge, and make riding more comfortable for your horse. Thanks to social distancing YouTube is now packed with free exercise classes, from yoga and pilates (great for core strength and posture) to equipment free cardio. If you get hooked, subscription options like Beachbody on Demand can put you through specially curated programmes. Children can also be dragged in as a substitution for P.E.
That know-it-all on your yard? Would you like to have the thrill of telling her that her precious “dun” pony is actually buckskin*? Give your eyes a rest from Netflix, and dig out the horsey textbooks and management guides that have been gathering dust on your bookshelves. If you were a horsey child you probably delighted in learning about the origins of your favourite breed, or the correct way to manage a laminitis- prone pony.
At Whickr we have breed profiles and historical pieces to get you re-acquainted with your curiousity. Our most recent blog covering what a warmblood is, and three popular breeds of warmblood horses can be found here.
*Buckskin horses are essentially bay with one copy of a gene that dilutes their coat colour- the same gene turns a chestnut into a palomino. Two copies lead to cremellos and perlinos. Duns have a separate gene- the dun factor- which means that a horse can be both dun and buckskin…
An alternative Grand National
Equestrian events have been casualties of coronavirus, and the Grand National is no exception.This year a virtual Grand National will be held on the same day, with proceeds being donated to the NHS.
The iconic race is a sporting highlight that draws around £250 million of bets in Britain every year. For many people, being given a £1 to bet on the race is a childhood memory (always the grey horse, or one carrying pink silks!), and office sweepstakes are an annual tradition.
Bets placed on horse races attract a levy, which is re-distributed to the industry. This year, consider donating your usual bet to a racing charity. We have previously profiled The Racehorse Sanctuary, but you might also choose The Injured Jockeys Fund, Racing Welfare, or Go Racing Green.
Try a new discipline
Show jumping might not be your forte, and you might be bored to tears by dressage, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t compete with your horse. The non-Olympic disciplines are often overshadowed, and might not even be on the radar of some readers.
Do some research, and if endurance, horseball, vaulting, carriage driving, or even jousting takes your fancy, make it your ambition. Find their website and look for information about local groups or competitors, and speak to them about the best way to get started.
Get set for 2021 with your horse
Coronavirus might have scuppered your 2020 competition schedule, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be looking ahead to 2021, and using the extra time to ensure that you are poised for success.
Evaluate your goals, and find an event or level to target. Based on that, set yourself a plan- discuss it with your trainer if needed, and offer to pay them for their time to make up for income lost in physical lessons. Now might even be the opportunity to look at sports psychology tricks like visualisation.
Shop for horses on Whickr
Restrictions have stopped physically trying out horses, but that’s no excuse to stop looking at horses for sale!
The Whickr app makes it simple to find the horse of your dreams, and arranging a viewing for a future date will give you something to look forward to. Thanks to modern technology it’s never been easier to send videos and photos, which can give you an idea of a horse without the viewing.
If buying a new horse isn’t currently an option, swiping through the horses for sale on Whickr can make up for not seeing horses live at shows and events this summer!
We hope you find some of our things to do whilst grounded useful or entertaining. More than anything, we hope you are staying safe.