8 horsey tips to get through this next lockdown
So we've all heard the news that a second lockdown is imminent.
Quite a few of us are uneasy about what this second lockdown will entail and how long it will last... AGAIN.
Especially when it comes to the implications for competing, transporting horses, and visiting the yard.
And although, we know from the last time that we will get through it and our lives shouldn't change too much with regards to looking after the horses.
(We are so lucky to still going to be up the yard every day, trudging around in the mud, and spending time with our four-legged friends.)
We can still feel at a bit of a loss for things to do and need something to focus on and work towards.
After all, equestrians are complete busybodies!
At the time I'm writing this, we are still waiting for the sports governing bodies to say whether shows will be going ahead in November, but it is looking unlikely.
Instead of us all collectively sulking, maybe we should try and just use this time productively to get stuff done that we would usually put off?!
So, in light of all things positive...
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your s**t together during this next lockdown.
1) Go back to basics
Whilst in full competition mode, it's hard to find the time, or to make the effort, to correct those little niggles that annoy you, but not enough to prompt immediate action!
You know the ones.
The, my seat isn't strong enough, my horse jumps slightly to the left, or my lower leg isn't secure enough over a fence...
Now is your chance to fix these!
Take those stirrups away, get those tram lines out, and practice those bounces!
All of these little corrections now will pay dividends when your back out competing! PLUS, it will give you something to work on!
MY CHALLENGE TO YOU...
Pick one thing about your riding that you want to have nailed by the end of lockdown...
Work on it,
And reap the rewards next season!
2) Get those poles out!!
Use the time to work on some pole work, gymnastics, and grid-work.
It's so easy to fall into the trap of jumping courses week in, week out, especially when your out at shows.
But the benefits to pole work can be huge!
And so worthwhile!!!
Pole work and gymnastics can help so much with rhythm and straightness, whilst increase your horse's strength and flexibility and, improve their ability to engage the hindquarters.
So stop putting it off, drag those poles out, and give yourself a new challenge!!
For some pole work inspo - click here!
3) Have a clear-out
If you are anything like me, you're a complete horsey junk hoarder!
There is stuff in my tack room that hasn't seen the light of day in years... but I cling onto it in the hope that it might come in handy someday...
Chances are if it's not come in handy to this point, it's not going to come in handy in the future!
Dig deep and get rid of it!
Having a 'spring clean' in November IS A THING! And a good thing at that.
Have a yard tidy day, give your tack and equipment a thorough clean while you're at it, and honestly, you'll feel so much better for it.
4) Get organised
When everything in life is so up in the air, it helps to ground yourself by adding a bit of structure to your routine.
Have you tried writing out a horse exercise schedule?
Write out your goals, how long you're going to ride for, and what you would like to achieve from each session.
And stick to it.
Even on a miserable day (Which there has been a lot of recently!)
Don't forget, even out on a hack around the block, you can still pop in the odd leg yield or transition.
Different types of training can be sorted into these categories:
Fitness training: Eg. Hill work hacking, canter, and gallop work, ideally for 20 minutes but depending on your horse's fitness levels, start off doing less and see if you can build it up or notice your horse finding the work easier.
Skills training: Eg. lateral work, gymnastics, or pole work session.
Strength training: Jumping, shortening and lengthening exercises, transition work.
The training that your horse is most likely to find the hardest is probably strength training, so build that up slowly and allow your horse to have plenty of rest days in between these sessions.
Download my monthly exercise planner here.
5) Look back on what you have achieved
It's so easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated when your plans have to be put on hold.
But at this time, it's so important to take the positives from what you have already achieved, rather than thinking about what you are missing out on, or feeling like your slipping further away from where you want to go.
Look at where you have come from.
Every single horse rider out there has improved from where they were a year ago.
So it's time to scroll back on your phone and take a look at what you were doing this time last year, or a few years ago, and feel proud.
Pop a comparison photo up on Insta and wait for the comments! (Make sure you tag me @killerqueenshowjumping so I can see too!)
Look at what you and your horse have achieved so far. I bet there was a time a while back that you didn't think you would get here.
Be proud of what you have achieved and make plans for the future.
6) Give your horse a holiday
OK, so this one may seem a bit counter-intuitive at the moment...
Especially following the above points!!
And I completely get that so many people will be relying on having their horse to ride to keep them sane this month, in which case this one might not be for you!
But if you feel like you can keep yourself busy enough, why not let your horse have a bit of downtime?
They deserve it!
A little holiday can do a horse the world of good, and what better time than now?!
I have just turned Isla away for a month now (I do always turn youngsters away for a bit over winter anyway, but I usually wait until the new year.) so expect A LOT more blogs from me while she's gone!
I find youngsters especially, find a holiday so beneficial, but older horses can equally benefit from just being allowed to 'be a horse' for a while.
I have never found a horse come back worse than when they went away, yes they might be a bit fresh, but you can manage that! On the contrary, sometimes I find that something a horse couldn't get their head around before their holiday, after a bit of time to chill in the field, that can work it out.
I had a nappy youngster a few years back. He would get it in his head that he doesn't want to go in one direction out of the yard, and he would also panic and spin if something scared him out on a hack (which was basically everything!) I put off and put off turning him away, thinking if I don't sort this napping out fully before turning him away, he would be a nightmare when he came back into work.
I was wrong!
Don't get me wrong, I didn't let him get away with napping and just expect him to miraculously turn into a different horse after a holiday. If he napped, I corrected him, but I hadn't managed to completely rule out this napping before running out of time and having to turn him away because I needed the stable for a breaker.
Dreading it, I bought him back into work after 2 months in the field. And you know what?!
He never napped there again!
I think the time away, to rest and mature did him the world of good and he realised that everything wasn't out to get him!
NOW PLEASE don't take this as a miracle cure to all of your horsey problems!!! A break may not always suit every horse, and it certainly won't fix everything!!
And if your riding to keep weight off, for example, a break isn't going to be possible.
But I do think it gives the horse time to relax, and enjoy themselves in their natural surroundings.
And who doesn't feel better after a break?!
Not only this, but also any little niggles of injuries that you had no idea your horse was working with, will have time to repair, and your horse will feel well, re-energised, and ready to work!
7) Have a bit of 'you time!'
An often unheard-of phrase for equestrians...
But now is the time!
Whether this is doing a daily workout, binge-watching your favourite Netflix series, or chucking a face mask on and have a bubble bath, whatever is your version of 'you time' is... take it!!
Maybe catch up with your favourite equestrian blog?! (Please be me, please be me!!)
Jokes aside, some of the bloggers that I love at the moment are -
Go check them out, they are amazing!
8) Try something new
If there is something that you have always fancied having a go at, why not try now??
Yes, you'll have to do it from the comfort of your home, but there are so many good online courses, YouTube tutorials, or blogs that you can use to perfect a new skill.
Who knows, maybe after this lockdown we could all be professional jugglers?! (other skills are available)
My point is this, use this time to learn something new!
One last thing...
While it's important to look after yourself at the moment.
We need to make sure we are looking out for others. So be sure to check in with your friends and family and make sure they are all OK.
Maybe set up a yard chat (if you don't already have one) in case someone needs to isolate and can't get up the yard?
Most importantly, keep safe!! xx