As riders, I’m sure we all recognise the feeling of realising that you’ve been operating on autopilot; running around like a maniac, going through the motions with your head not properly focussed on exercising your horse.
When this happens, it becomes easy to forget the simple stuff. We’ve all done it, and it often ends up with us on the deck. At best we lose our confidence, but at worst, we end up injured.
Here are some tips we’ve put together to help you juggle riding your horse with a busy schedule, for those times when you just can’t think straight.
Maybe you’re managing a job, a partner, a dog, and children, while squeezing in – dare I say it – some sort of social life!
These tips should help make exercising your horse that bit more enjoyable and easier.
Lunge your horse first
When you haven’t ridden your horse for a few days because you’ve been working late or focusing on after-school activities, begin with a 15 minute lunge. Lunging is a simple way to ensure your safety and take the edge off your horse, so remember to incorporate it!
Where suitable protection
Just like the lunging advice, no one needs to be a heroine at all times. As riders, we should remember our responsibilities beyond the horse world and getting hurt because you’re too proud to wear a body protector is foolish.
We’re all guilty of getting on a horse that is a bit fresh and then wishing we’d been better covered, so don’t let that be you!
Focus on quality over quantity
If you’ve done a good 20 minutes and you’re happy, give your horse a pat, cool down and be pleased with what you’ve achieved.
There’s no set rule saying you must ride your horse for 45 minutes and it’s easy to pile the pressure on ourselves. Imagine what you can achieve with an extra 25 minutes to yourself!
Plus, quitting while you’re ahead often means a better learning experience for your horse.
Feed your horse less
If you’re doing minimal work with your horse because you’re juggling a million things a day, but still feeding them the finest competition mix money can buy, it’s no wonder you’re struggling.
You’d be surprised how well a horse can look and feel on grass, hay, and perhaps one meal a day of chaf with a dipper of basic pony nuts. It’s also way cheaper – win-win!
Focus on what you and your horse are good at
Sometimes it’s easy to dwell on what isn’t working. Everywhere you look people preach about focusing on your weaknesses. While this is great advice when you have a riding instructor on the floor and loads of time to play with, when you’re in a hurry and want to avoid a mental breakdown, focus on what you’re good at.
If canter is an issue with your young horse, stay in walk or trot and allow yourself to enjoy the time you do have.
There’s always another day to ride your horse
We all have those days where we need to remember that tomorrow’s a new day. You might have work stress, a lot going on in your personal life, or just no time for dinner. Trying to focus on that while attempting to think about your walk to canter transition (as promised your instructor you would) is more than a little overwhelming.
As a rider, sometimes you need to know when to forget about today and start afresh tomorrow.
Horses are people too
We sometimes forget that even if we’ve had an amazing day and float into the stables on cloud nine, it doesn’t mean our horse feels the same.
They have emotions too – maybe your horse had an argument out in the field that they haven’t quite gotten over, and as a rider, it’s our responsibility to sense that.
If the mood isn’t right, spend the session focusing on your strengths, or even simply give them a pat, dismount and look forward to tomorrow.
We’re all guilty of forgetting the basics at times. Taking a deep breath and going through a checklist like this can really help with your busy schedule. I hope you find it to be a useful tool to give yourself that necessary half halt!
If you have any tips that lift you out of a crisis or there’s a key part to your checklist that I missed out, we’d love to hear about it!
Leave a comment and let us know.