I cannot lie and not admit to being completely devastated about all our horse events being cancelled. I don’t even want to mention the C-19 word because it has sent our entire community into either panic or denial, with people either hoarding or literally running out of toilet paper!
The thing is… although I am not a hugely competitive adult rider, I take the competition season really seriously. All of my fitness for myself and my horse is planned and scheduled with the season’s events as small milestones, which ultimately keep me on track.
As soon as Capel got cancelled, I literally had a chicken parmigiana with a couple of wines and then backed it up the next night with all my favourite cheeses and a gin and tonic! Today is day 3 post the disappointing news and I am back to my usual healthy wholefood way of eating. My white joddies were a perfect fit ready for Capel, so I am here pondering how I am going to keep this going having lost what keeps me so motivated.
What I love most about our sport is being able to compete with yourself and see an improvement over time, no matter where you place on the field. I love nothing more than packing up my car and float for a weekend away with friends and acquaintances where we all get to share in our mutual love for horses. The cheese, chocolate, wine, gin, rum… they are often highlights! Mostly because all these things are a treat and enjoyed socially with all these special people in my life. If you are an eventer like me, I don’t need to explain this to you because you get it, it’s in our blood, heart and soul!
I was also so incredibly excited to wear my new cross country colours for the season with also a brand new white dressage pad that had blue trim to match Denny’s show name ‘Blue Suede Denim’. Anyway… minor problem in the scheme of the world.
All of us horse lovers and riders have this in common, so I am sure you are all feeling a little ‘What now?
First thing, take a video of yourself riding so that you can compare this in a few months’ time. This is really important for being able to reflect and see how far you have come. The smallest changes to your body can make a huge impact on your riding. Not sure about doing this, check out this one I recently made here.
Watch your video and decide what goal you want to set for yourself and your horse. This could be anywhere from being able to canter a 20 meter circle to moving up a grade in jumping height. The reason this is so important is so that you can work backwards with what strengthening exercises you need to put in place. Your goal might be to lose weight yourself so your riding and seat is more balanced, it could be for your horse to lose some extra weight so that there is less impact on their joints, and it can be even to have a more connective relationship together and nothing to do with health and fitness.
Other ideas to help with motivation could be finding a new instructor for riding lessons, it could be a nutritionist for yourself or your horse to finally get the energy and nutrition right, it could be taking a step back in your riding to work on trust and relationship investing in horsemanship lessons or online resources. No goal is silly!
I am great at setting goals because I do this as a job and help people get to them. I have no shortage of goals for the three horses I own. However what I am focused on at the moment is this habit I have where I struggle to give properly with my right hand. This blocks my horse’s movement on the right rein and also means I struggle to sit evenly on my seat bones, ultimately my horses all struggle with softness on the right rein.
Set yourself an action list of the things you want to do and then schedule your life to fit them in.
My action list includes:
- Weekly/fortnightly dressage lesson so I have on the ground support
- Increasing my warm up and cool down walking to double the time, this will allow plenty of time to stretch my legs and practice feeling my core and giving with my right hand. Repetition is a huge part of forming new habits and at walk this is the easiest pace to get it right.
- A new fitness program that has some exercises included that focus on core stability with isolating the left and right arms. Ultimately I am compensating for balance in my body by grabbing and holding that right rein. A great exercise for being able to use your arms independent of your core is a walking plank.
- Stop eating parmigiana’s!
- Lastly a before video!
Our competitions are often a really good indicator of how we are tracking with our goals, but a video is something really important for being able to reflect on your progress no matter how minor.
RIGHT NOW is the perfect time to start getting everything right ready for when things do kick back off. Set your goal and then find out who and what you need to achieve this.
If your goal is your own health, take before and after photos, track your current food choices and keep a diary so you can visibly see how much your nutrition has changed. Take measurements of your body or have someone help you with a flexibility test to see how supple your body is.
With all this going on, money might be tight for some of us. Not all goals need to involve money or regular lessons. There is so many free video’s and information out there that you can make so many changes yourself depending on your goal. Likewise you may be isolating yourself so instructors or personal trainers may not be an option for you. Find online programs, or pick a goal that’s within your means to work on.
It could be as simple as increasing your vitamin C intake for your immune system and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
The best advice I could give you right now… buy books or take some courses so you can learn some new skills for you and your horse. Doing an equine fitness course won’t make you a specialist in the area, however it will give you more than enough skills to get started on the basics. Equestricare have a great one for $10!
Ultimately no one knows how long all this C-19 virus isolation will last. In the end, our health and our relationships are the most important thing to consider. Oh and of course our horses! There will always be another Capel.