I think I speak for most amateur and junior riders: we don’t get nearly enough time with our horses! Barn time is wedged between work, school and family commitments. Many riders not-so-jokingly refer to barn time as their ‘therapy.’ Why is that? I think it’s because horses invite us—really require us—to leave behind all the busy-ness of our lives and be right there with them.
It used to be easier to leave things behind. Thanks to technology, we all seem to move faster and stretch ourselves farther than ever before. We take our work everywhere with us, and we are increasingly distracted. This is true for all of us—adults and kids alike. Given the pace of life now, how do you put your other commitments aside and make the most of those precious few hours on (and with) your horse? The central goal is to be in the moment with your horse and yourself as much as you can. By truly being in the present you’ll be a much more effective rider AND you’ll enjoy yourself more!.
Here are some of my ideas—I’d love to hear yours!
- Clear your mind. Try to reduce distractions and create boundaries around barn time. Barn time starts on your drive there and includes your set up and grooming time. Prepare yourself to take it all in! There are many different ways to clear your mind—some people listen to music; others use breathing or stretching exercises. I have a few quick meditations that help me put boundaries around my barn time and shed the outside noise.
- Connect with your horse. If you can, groom and tack up your own horse. Again, if it’s possible, give yourself enough time to really connect with him on an emotional level. How’s his mood? Does he seem ready to work or is he distracted? Connecting with your horse gives you useful information as you plan your ride and also helps you develop your relationship with him.
- Set an intention for the ride. As you get on, take a few breaths to settle in and be present in the saddle. It’s during this early part of the ride that I like to remind myself of a couple things I’m working on, both for me personally and for my horse. I temper my expectations with what I know about his mood and how I’m feeling too.
- Enjoy it. For me, gratitude for my time in the saddle allows me to feel a deep sense of joy. When I’m joyful, and really appreciating every moment, is when I ride my best. I recently heard of a trainer who instructs her amateurs to ‘ride like a kid’ when they go in the show ring. Just that thought—riding with the freedom and pure joy of a child—loosens up their minds and allows them to fully own their ride.
How do you prepare yourself to ride? What works and what doesn't? I hope you'll share your thoughts!
How can I give you a Leg Up?