Life sure has a way of keeping us on our toes. While most of the time we feel like we have things pretty well in order, there are times that life can seem out of control. Whether it’s a major life event that throws you off your game, or a small, nagging problem that doesn’t abate for weeks, it’s easy to get trapped in day-to-day details, letting life leach your energy and zap your spirit. Often, when time is short and spirits are flagging, the first thing to be reprioritized is time in the saddle.
Make an appointment to ride with a friend. With someone else counting on you, you’re less likely to postpone your ride for another day.
Phone a Friend
There’s a good chance you have some good barn friends in your life. Utilize them. Call a friend and set a date to go on a trail ride or a time to hack in the ring together. Actually scheduling saddle time is sometimes the only way to make sure you get to ride.
Do you take weekly lessons? Schedule a month’s worth of them now, and make it a priority to keep the date with your trainer. Just like work meetings, penciling in time for yourself is important, and might be just the thing you need to light your riding fire once again. Having “homework” from a trainer is good incentive to make sure you ride in between lessons and make a commitment to progress.
Watch and Learn
If it seems your riding mojo went missing, one sure-fire way to rekindle your passion is to find a horse show close to you and make a plan to head that way—sans horse—for a few hours. Instead of simply sitting in the stands, head to the warm-up ring and watch the professionals preparing for their ride. There’s nothing like seeing a truly great horse-and-rider pair to kick start your ambition to become a better rider.
Whether it’s a lovely dressage test, a foot-perfect reining or trail pattern, or a speedy jumper round, watching those you admire is a great way to find the inspiration to get back in the saddle.
Attending a show and watching riders you admire will help light a fire and get you inspired to work with your horse.
Find the Perfect Time
One of my horses was terminally ill last spring and for about six months I was heading to the farm (a 20-minute drive each way) three or four times every day. Needless to say, I was sleep deprived and operating in a constant state of emergency.
I was so tired. While I didn’t have a problem getting to the farm when he was ill (fear is an intense motivator!), I did have to really force myself to go see my young horse and ride after my older one had passed. It was so easy to focus on the things that had not gotten done when he was sick—spring cleaning, traveling, long-term projects.
For me, the key was going to the farm first thing in the morning, before life got busy and the day slipped away from me. If I went as soon as I woke up, there was no option to back out of hacking my little horse with excuses like “oh, I really should cook some dinner/write another article/finish this project.”
And, by riding first thing in the morning, I set a great tone for my day: I was relaxed and focused from having watched the sun rise from the back of my horse.
Make riding the first thing you do each day to prevent yourself from making getting caught up in other obligations. Or find a regular time that works best for you–a lunch break ride or after-dinner hack might fit your lifestyle best. Photo by Andrew Katsis – Own work, Public Domain
Don’t Have a Hard-and-fast Goal
When life seems to really take its toll, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s going to be OK. Work and personal stresses can seem unsurmountable at times, but you will get through. On days when you feel particularly overwhelmed, give yourself permission to go for a ride with no concrete riding goal in mind. Any exercise you do with your horse is beneficial, and building the trust between the two of you is just as important as nailing a lead change or perfecting a turn on the haunches.
So, go for a hack around the farm, but don’t mentally check out on your horse; hone in on the beauty that is around you as you wander through the grass and by the other horses. It’s easy to get lost in this details of this life and miss the beauty that is around you, all the time. As riders, we are the truly lucky ones. We’re exposed to nature every day—don’t take that for granted. Make a point to notice the details. Watch how the sun looks as it sets over the field; observe how your horse’s coat shines from good grooming; look at how his ears flick back to you when you tell him your troubles.
Just Do It
Like any other form of exercise, sometimes you’ll just have to suck it up and DO IT to get back in the habit of riding. Forcing yourself to spend an extra hour or two at the barn can seem silly with so many other pressing issues, but it’s important to remember that the physical and mental benefits make getting back in the saddle worth it, especially if it lets you escape your troubles for a few hours.
If you’ve lost your motivation to ride, don’t worry. Even the most dedicated riders can lose their desire to ride at some point, whether for a few weeks or a few months. Try some different tactics to help get you to the barn and kick start you inclination to get back in the saddle—pretty soon you’ll be wondering how you ever contemplated not riding!
Sarah Coleman has a soft spot for chestnuts
with chrome, including her off-the-track Thoroughbred that she competes
in the hunters. Based in Lexington, Ky., she is the Director of
Education and Development for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.