GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
School starts crazy early in my neighborhood, and the sight of those big yellow buses heralding the end of summer vacation got me thinking about hectic times of the year and changing seasons and all the things that can challenge the enjoyment we find in our barn time.
Always seems like back-to-school busyness runs right into that pre-holiday rush, all while the daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter. At least here in Arizona the weather gets better for riding – those 110-degree days in July were the pits, and we’ve still got some heat and monsoon humidity, but relief is in sight. For many of you, autumn falls right into cold, windy and wet weather that can change horse time from a pleasure to a chore.
So, what do we do when outside influences cause us to cut our horse time short? I’d say most of us spend at least some time feeling guilty, beating ourselves up because our horses miss us or our serious training schedules are compromised. We feel rushed when we’re at the barn and we feel bad when we don’t get there and neither of those are the kinds of energy we want to carry with us.
I just want to remind you all that when other obligations require your attention, you can choose to alter your expectations and, thereby, instantly decrease your stress level. Whether you just can’t face being out on cold, dark evenings (that’s one of mine!), your work or family commitments take up all your energy for a while, or a change in your health status means you need to spend more time taking care of yourself, it’s okay to take a break.
And that’s true even when you were just about to master flying lead changes or you finally got brave enough to go on long trail rides or you’re committed to going to a specific number of shows next year.
As long as your horse is appropriately housed and fed and gets some exercise and interaction with you, he or she will be just fine if you need to reduce your barn time. In fact, you might find that a change in your horse-related routine is a good thing. For example, it’s very common for horse owners to find that the necessarily different interactions they have during a long injury rehab can change their relationships with their horses in profound ways.
If you’ve ever had an intelligent, active horse confined to stall rest or consigned to hand-walking for a long period of time, you know just how creative you have to be to keep him happy and engaged and safe to work around. There are all kinds of exercises you can do, games you can play, that keep the horse’s mind engaged and keep tone and suppleness in his body. This kind of work doesn't take a lot of time, but it does require you to tune in to nuances of balance and posture and to notice what makes your horse happy or bored or challenged.
You might find that taking time off, spending less time with your horse but making that time more rich and interesting for you both, yields surprising benefits. You’ll never know if you don’t give yourself permission to try!
NO PAIN, ALL GAIN: MEETING THE NEEDS
OF OUR EQUINE TEACHERS
Is being a school horse the best job in the world, or the worst? On the plus side, they generally get three meals catered and daily housekeeping, plus treats from their grateful students. On the minus side, their backs get pounded by people trying to master the sitting trot and their mouths take the brunt of many a balance mishap.
Of course, it all depends on the school and the management, but lesson horses can have long and happy careers. That requires a high level of commitment from their human teaching partners and consistent time spent minimizing the effects of novice riders on the horses' bodies. read more
CONFESSIONS OF A RECOVERING
Hello. My name is Judith and I'm a perfectionist.
You'll find people like me everywhere in the horse world. We're the ones spending years learning how to ride that perfect circle, execute that perfect rollback, create the perfect roundpen horse, run the perfect barrel pattern … you name the discipline, you'll find us there. Perfecting tiny details. Spinning and spinning in the same exacting place. Never getting anywhere because, of course, nobody and nothing is ever perfect. We are, in short, constipated by the need to be perfect.
For me, the drug of choice was dressage. I've always had grand dreams – not to compete or win medals, but to train my own horse to Grand Prix. I've ridden horses at that level and even beyond, I've taken many many many lessons and clinics, I ended up with Lipizzans because, you know, that bred for dressage thing? Four-and-a-half centuries ought to count for something.