Hi there, I wanted to talk to you about something I hear and have felt quite a lot at this time of year. We’re coming towards the end of January and we’re into the depths of winter, which is just the hardest work with horses. I wanted to talk to you about finding the time to ride because I know for lots of my clients it’s a real challenge. People who are working full time jobs have families, have a life outside of horses. It can be really difficult to find the time to ride. So I wanted to share with you just a few tips to see if we can get you back into a routine with your riding and helps manage this time of year.
Find a focus:
So it’s important to decide on what you’re going to focus on before you even enter the arena – not just a focus for the year or the next few months or even this week, but a focus for the session. I want you to pick one thing that you are going to work on to improve either your riding or your horse’s way of going and coming up with an exercise that you can do to improve that one thing. So it might be that you’re going to develop your lower leg position in the saddle. It might be that you’re going to work on your hands staying in a really quiet, elastic place. It could be that you’re going to develop your horses responsiveness to your leg. Just pick one thing and aim to work on it in each session.
The second thing that is really, really useful is to set yourself a time limit. Now sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that if we’re not schooling for 45 minutes, then it’s not worth getting on. The more you convince yourself of that, the less likely you are to actually get in the saddle and go and have some fun with your horse. So set yourself a time limit. It might be 30 minutes, it might be 20 minutes, it might be 15 minutes. It might just be getting in the saddle, walking around the arena and coming back out. Again, if you’re working on your confidence or you’re getting to know the horse, set yourself a time limit, pop your phone in your pocket and set the timer. If you’ve got a spooky horse, maybe set it to vibrate, not beep!. Set a time limit because once you do that, you’ll become much more focused and you will ride a much more effective session.
The next thing you can do is plan to ride an effective warm up and cool down. Always allow your horse to time to loosen up in his body, get his brain settled and with you as the rider in the warm up, and also to reward the horse with a lovely stretchy down at the end of the session. Depending on your current situation, you might be on restricted turnout. You might be lucky enough to have access to 24-7 turnout, which is fantastic for the horse. Design your warm up and your cool down around that. If you think your horse is a little bit bright because he’s not getting much time in the field, try lunging for 10 minutes first to give him a chance to get rid of their crazy beans, then you can get on and have a constructive session.
The next thing on my list is to find and use a pole work exercise. Pole work is a brilliant way of focusing the rider and the horse and getting the horse work gymnastically, without doing masses of work. Now the way I love doing pole work, particularly when I’m short on time, is to build an exercise which has loads of different variations. I’m sure you’ve been there; you’ve built a line of poles and it’s hard work to keep getting off the horse and changing distances or you can’t think of how else to develop the work around those line of poles, and you sort of think, well, it’s very nice, but it doesn’t really do a huge amount for your horse. So I want you to find exercises that you can set up and you can ride in lots of different ways. You could ride them in water, you could ride them in trot, you can ride them in canter.. There are exercises out there that will allow you to do that. You don’t need millions of poles, and I know that not everybody is lucky enough to have 20 poles to set up a really complicated exercise. But actually finding those exercises using four or five, six poles that will give you options so you don’t have to keep getting off and shuffling poles around. By strategically planning your polework exercise, it makes it really more efficient during those 20, 30 minutes that you have to ride. If you’d like to learn more about using polework in your schooling, check out my Perfect your Polework online course – Bit.ly/PYPFEB20
Try to be really efficient in your preparation to ride. So what I’m saying is your horse doesn’t need to be beautifully presented at home for you to go and ride. Don’t waste an hour grooming your horse for him to look fantastic, and then you find, that you need to feed the horse, need to go home because that you’ve run out of time. Clean the bits you need to clean where the tack sits, and go and get on your horse! Don’t use grooming as a way of getting out of riding. Make your preparation really quick, really efficient. Again, you can set yourself a timer if that helps, but just get going. Get on your horse. Go and get it done because actually you know, you’re going to feel better when you’ve ridden your horse.
Write it down:
The last bit I wanted to share with you around motivation to ride and finding the time to ride is actually to keep a record at the end of each session. So this could be in a notebook you’ve got in the car, it could be on your phone, however you do it, it doesn’t really matter, but keep a record of what you’ve achieved at the end of the session. Very briefly, I’ve got six words that are going to help you make progress in your writing and start developing your writing in your horse – the first three words are “what went well?”. So just jot down some words, some phrases, some bullet points, about what you think went well in that session. What did the horse to well, what did you do well, what worked? The next three words are “even better if”? So how would that session be even better? It might be that your through the whole session, the horse’s impulsion improved. It would be even better if you could maintain and elastic contact at the same time, for example. This process then feeds into your next training session. So reflecting on your riding session or a lesson or a clinic or whatever you’re doing, doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s six words. “What went well, even better if”
So, those are my top tips to get you motivated, inspired to go and get on your horse today. Find the time program in. Give yourself a focus. Set a time limit. Find yourself a pole work exercise that you can do in many different ways with lots of different variations. Plan for a decent, warm up and cool down as well. Be efficient in your preparation. Keeping a record reflecting on what went well and even better if.
I hope you find that useful. If you’ve got any questions at all, please do get in touch. You can find me on Facebook @theeverydayequestrian or Instagram @the_everyday_equestrian_uk. I’d be delighted to hear from you!