It’s New Year’s Day, and you look ahead to a shiny new year setting yourself and your horse new goals, hopeful for a successful year. You keep battling those tough, three months left of winter; the endless mud, long days with less daylight riding hours and my gosh didn’t it rain! But you’ve made it and show season is in sight until bam, COVID-19 hits, something none of us expected.
Now, us horse owners are a resourceful lot, we’re tough as old boots and know how to find the best in every situation. We’re now 3 months into the pandemic and the new restrictions that have been brought upon our lives to protect us all. It’s a strange time, a scary time but it is an opportunity to reflect and refresh your horsemanship, your goals, your skills. I’ve put together a couple of my thoughts on how I’ve readjusted my mindset to cope with this situation.
It’s not like I didn’t know him already, but for the first time in two and a half years of owning my sports horse - Del, I’ve found his ‘scratchy’ spot, that makes his lip curl and his neck stretch to the floor. I’ve sat and watched him graze quietly around me, called him in from the field and spent time just being with him on the ground.
And you know what? For the first time in owning him, I’ve seen him lay down in the stable and he’s rested his head on my shoulder for no particular reason.
I’ve longlined youngsters before backing because it always had a purpose but never with our established horses. I made myself a new goal at the beginning of lockdown to improve Del on the lunge and practice longlining. We started off slow and doing the basics and built up to trotting through grids, turning on a square and exploring every field that’s accessible. Del and lunging have never gone together, I think its lack of practice from an early age; he used to run off and lean on the bit heading back towards the gate. But during lockdown we’ve persevered very slowly and making the vocal commands clear and I think the longlining helped hugely, we can now lunge calmly and effectively.
Having the extra time has been absolute bliss and not something in our normal lives we can always have. I know in my everyday life I take on way too much and hope in the future can make more time for tasks like these. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” as they say.
This isn’t ground-breaking is it? But how many times do we rush and chuck tack on to be able to get out for a quick ride, or leave their manes to be pulled for another week? Having the extra time has made me groom and Del’s coat looks amazing! I’ve always been rubbish at pulling tails but gave myself a goal to get better, I watched YouTube video tutorials, used (*top tip) Johnsons kids detangler spray and persevered.
My goal at the start of the year was to step up a level eventing, I can’t really see us getting to event this year, but we’ll see. At the start of lockdown, I re-adjusted my goal to improve my flatwork so that when we can compete again, we’ll be finely tuned and not just ‘get by.’ We’ve done a lot of pole work to build up muscle and control, especially focusing on canter poles, I’ve practised leg yielding out hacking and have attempted to introduce flying changes. The positivity is: We have no pressure to rush out and compete, we all have more time to practice the foundations of what makes horse and rider, a partnership.
Contentious I know, because we haven’t all been able to ride, or some have chosen not to. We made use of the time to explore new hacking routes and wow there are some amazing places we hadn’t ridden before. I urge you to explore more, check out a ordinance survey map and look for the green bridle path tracks, take a snack and stop for a break and enjoy the moment or plan a route that you box too, once it’s safe to do so.
Enjoying the opportunity to explore the countryside
I’ve discovered a brilliant new horse shampoo, from See Change Now- it’s a bar of soap in hessian bag that lasts as long as 3 bottles of shampoo, there’s no plastic involved and it’s 100% degradable. It also smells amazing and leaves the horses coats clean without any residue left over – we also trialled it on our goats! Check out the video review on my Instagram. I’m sure there’s a few things we can all change in to make a small impact on the environment.
This lockdown situation has been difficult on so many levels, but I think we can all find positives in our lives and things we’ll carry into everyday life in the future. Like making a bit more time for yourself and loved ones, stop putting pressure on ourselves to rush around and always step up a level. Owning a horse is a privilege and we work so very hard to keep them, if you can take a step back and asses your relationship with your horse and set yourself a little goal, I’m sure you’ll come out with a stronger partnership.
Alice is an amateur event rider and along with her Mother, Jane runs a friendly yard of competition horses. She has been riding since day dot, in fact, her Mum evented with her in her stomach! Growing up in Devon, Alice spent most of her time outside on Mum’s yard or at work with her Dad who’s a vet.
Alice riding with her Mum, Jane
Despite the competition yard environment, both her and her brothers were not remotely interested in competing, enjoying gymkhanas and countryside jaunts or building sandcastles in the arena! Taking some time out from horses as a teenager, Alice soon found her way back to horses. After university, she ended up in Cornwall, and along with her Mum took on a yard to start competing and bringing on youngsters.
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