Spring is right around the corner, but sometimes after a long winter, it’s hard to get motivated to get back in the saddle, especially if you’ve given your horse the season off. Here are ten tips to get those riding vibes back and encourage you to get your buns in the saddle to start your spring off right.
- Start small.
There’s no need to overwhelm yourself and your horse with an intimidating training schedule. Just a few times around the arena at the start of the season has physical as well as mental benefits for your horse. This is also a good time to remind him how to behave under saddle if he’s the type to conveniently forget manners after time off! A short ride also helps break up your horse’s day, especially if he’s stabled.
- Mental stimulation.
Riding engages your horse’s mind and makes him think. For a short ride, ask for some small circles, turns on the forehand, or leg yields to remind yourself and your horse that he’s not a drone, but a responsive being to your body language.
- Exercise for you.
Forget the treadmill and weights—one great reason to hang around horses is because heading to the barn is much better than shuffling to the gym for exercise! If you’re a number cruncher, think of it this way: just thirty minutes of riding can burn more than 200 calories.
- Use your tack.
How much did you spend on that pretty saddle and bridle sitting in the tack room, currently getting all dusty and stiff? Riding helps keep leather supple and there’s no point in having the stuff if you aren’t using it!
- A fit horse is a healthy horse.
Asking your horse to work helps keep his joints, ligaments, and tendons supple. Riding also increases muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness (both for you and your horse).
- Set goals.
Think about your plans for the summer. Want to go on some long trail rides? Or maybe you’re going for that blue ribbon at the local show. Having a goal to work toward is an instant motivation booster.
- Practice makes perfect.
It’s true: the more you ride, the better rider you become. Even if you’ve been in the saddle twenty years, there’s always something new to experience or a skill to master. And, the more you ride, the less sore you’ll be!
- Do something different.
Boredom with the same old indoor arena can hamper even the horsiest of horse lovers, so get imaginative. Put some poles on the ground or lay out some barrels to weave around. Don’t have barrels? What about filling up some water buckets? You can safely make obstacles out of many items lying around the barn. This can help cure cabin fever and even encourage improvement in certain riding elements, such as tight turns and stride lengthening.
- Pair up.
Riding with a buddy is twice as much fun as going it alone, plus you can use each other for motivation.
- Quality time with your partner.
Your horse is your partner. Riding frequently helps increase the bond you both share. This helps you work as a team, which, in the end, is what it’s really all about.
Where Did Our Love Go?
Anna O’Brien, DVM, is a large animal veterinarian in Maryland and a frequent contributor to Horse Illustrated magazine and @annaobriendvm. Follow her on Twitter: