The clocks haven’t even gone back yet and you can already feel your horse riding motivation, or keenness for any activities that require you to be outdoors, dwindling at a rapid rate. However, your horses still need tending to day and night, plus, if you’re got big dreams for the next competitive season, the effort you put in with your horse over the winter months is going to be vital.
Giving your horse a break for a few weeks over winter, especially if you’ve enjoyed a jam-packed summer, can be beneficial, but if you’re hoping to make progress and come out all guns blazing next spring, a six-month hiatus from work is out of the question.
With this in mind, here are seven ways you can keep your horse riding motivation ticking over during the colder period…
1. Get clear on your goals
Having big dreams is important, but also overwhelming. Perhaps you have an ultimate ambition that you’d like to achieve with your horse, but you haven’t taken a step back and asked yourself what it will actually take to get there.
Therefore, setting smaller and more realistic goals — along with an ideal time frame of when you’d like to achieve them — can help you make more progress in the long run.
Want to win at HOYS? How about you start by trying to get your horse into the show ring at local level. What to qualify for the National Dressage Championships? Maybe booking some dressage lessons is a good place to kick off proceedings.
2. Plan your days and weeks
While we all wish we could play horses all day everyday, if you have a job, a family or a life to live away from the yard, ensuring that you’ve got a loose daily, weekly and even monthly schedule will definitely help you stay motivated and will hopefully go some way to reducing stress.
If you only have time to ride once or twice a week, ensure you know exactly what days you’re going to do so, using the other days to fit everything else in.
If it’s dark by the time you finish work on an evening, perhaps you can juggle your morning routine so you can get to the yard half an hour earlier to work your horse before heading into the office.
Looking at a monthly schedule, it’s always positive to have something to look forward to each month, such as a lesson, a training session or even a hack with a friend.
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3. Recruit a buddy
Constantly relying on yourself to keep motivated during winter can feel like an uphill battle. If you have a yard friend in a similar position, perhaps you can keep each other fired up through winter, while keeping each other accountable and also sharing duties if that works for you both; you do one morning, they do the next. Hacking out with a friend at the weekends is the perfect chance to off load, too.
Social media can also be a great way of sharing with other equestrians who might have tips, tricks, solutions or just a bit of sympathy to offer.
4. Get some lessons in the diary
During winter, the daily routine can become monotonous and very samey, so much so that you might let bad habits slip in, something that could be costly when you get back out competing. Therefore, it’s important to keep things fresh by booking in for a few lessons with a trainer to keep you on the straight and narrow, and to relight your fire for your discipline. Plus, your trainer can give you routines and exercises to practise at home so you’ve got a plan to follow.
5. Give yourself a break
While it’s important to look ahead, don’t forget to give yourself a rest and take a break. Winter is the ideal opportunity to wind down and let go of some of the stress accumulated over competition season. Remember that there is a life outside of horses and that weekends can be used for other things aside from competitions. Connect with friends and family, try out a new hobby, or maybe just have the odd lie in. This is your permission to book that holiday for some winter sun!
6. Reassess your situation
Winter is also the time when you should be reflecting on the year gone by, and ask yourself if you and your horse are on the right track. Has your season gone to plan, and if not, why? Have your and your horse hit a tricky patch, and what could you do differently to try and rebuild ahead of next year? Have you and your horse reached the end of your journey together and perhaps it’s time to find him a new home?
7. Remember your ‘why’
No matter how much you feel as though you have prepared yourself for winter this time, you’re going to have days when you question your life choices and your motivation for riding your horse will be at a low. Remember, it doesn’t last forever, and there is light at the end of the tunnel (on the 31 March 2024, to be exact).
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