Lockdown is back — beginning in England on 5 November. But this time, we’re ready for it. While it is beyond frustrating to put our lives back on hold for these four weeks, there are many jobs and activities that riders and horse owners can get stuck into, whether you are able to see your horse under lockdown restrictions or not. Make this your most productive lockdown period with our suggestions...
1. Get your yard ready for winter
One of the biggest differences between this lockdown and the last is the season. With winter starting to set in, use this time to get your yard winter-ready. Check gutters and pipes are in good condition and pay attention to your gateways — consider laying hardcore to prevent poaching. The last thing any of us need is to have mud fever to worry about on top of Covid-19.
2. Focus on your schooling nemesis
We all have one aspect of training that we put off as long as we can — whether it’s working on improving your horse’s halt, putting a stop to his drifting to the left over a fence or even learning to check your diagonal without looking down. Well, with lockdown upon us, there’s no excuses. Use the time you might have been competing or commuting to nail your training bugbear.
3. Do some video analysis at home
If you’re not able to ride or see your horse during lockdown, don’t despair — you can still make this time productive. Dig out some videos of you riding, and previous dressage test sheets, and get a notepad and pen at the ready. Identify five key areas that need improvement and make a step-by-step plan for how you will address these once you can get back in the saddle.
4. Focus on your own fitness
We all know the importance of rider fitness and strength, but while we’re out and about competing and having fun on our horses it’s easy to forget about all the things we can do out of the saddle to make us a better rider. Use this time to work on your own fitness, strength and flexibility – whether it’s making time for a regular run, nailing your plank technique, getting stuck into yoga with an online class, or using whatever you have at home to work on your strength.
5. Perfect those plaits
Spent the summer eying others’ perfect plaits and wishing your own looked the same? Now’s the time to do something about it. The only way to get good at plaiting is… yes, you guessed it — practise, practise, practise. Check out our handy guides, or follow a YouTube tutorial, and your plaits will be the envy of all your competitors by next season.
6. Embrace online training
Just because you may not be able to book an in-person lesson with your instructor, doesn’t mean your progress has to suffer. Check whether your trainer is offering virtual sessions and get booked in. And H&H is preparing to launch a brand new eTraining Plan, with weekly e-lessons, access to top trainer’s advice, weekly test-riding videos with top judges and much more, so keep an eye out for that.
7. Try your hand at online dressage
If you regretted not giving online dressage a go during the first lockdown, don’t make the same mistake again. With various organisations offering virtual dressage judging — and even rosettes — all you need is a willing volunteer to video you and your horse in action. It’s also a great opportunity to show off those new-found plaiting skills!
8. Attack the tack room
When was the last time you spent a day truly cleaning and sorting out your tack room. Can’t think back that far? Us too. Use lockdown to go through all your gear, repairing or throwing out broken equipment, preparing a pile to take to your local second-hand tack shop or car boot sale once restrictions ease, and organising everything so it’s easy to find when you need it.
9. Assess your horse’s condition
Weigh your horse, and take time to stand back and take a good, honest look at his condition. If he’s put on a few unwanted pounds over the summer — or if he struggles to keep weight on once winter hits — now is the time to work out his optimum autumn/winter feeding regime. Consider consulting a qualified nutritionist — many will be only too happy to offer advice via phone or video call even though they cannot visit in person.
10. Become a planner
2020 has flown by in a Covid-tinted haze of scary headlines, Zoom quizzes and changed plans. But put your positive pants on and look ahead to 2021 — and beyond. While it’s tough to make any solid plans, there’s no harm in getting organised and filling up that diary. Think about your goals for the year ahead too — what do you want to achieve with your horse? Write down your ultimate goal for 2021, then break it down into manageable steps to give yourself the best chance of achieving it.
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11. Get in the festive spirit
We hate to say it, but it’s time to start thinking about the C word. No, not that one for once — we’re talking about Christmas. The usual festive celebrations and shopping trips may be in jeopardy, but why not use this time to put together a gift list that can be fulfilled online? Finding the perfect horsey Christmas cards to send to your loved ones is a good place to start…
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