There's ALWAYS a POSITIVE!
As a horse owner or rider, many people have found it challenging to continue with their regular equine related routines. With social distancing, barns being closed, lessons and clinics being cancelled as well as the fact that the show season being pretty much washed down the drain, it has changed the way a lot of riders are viewing their summer plans and goals. It doesn’t have too!! As an equine body worker in Cochrane Alberta and a horse owner I know this can be challenging but the best thing we can do is STAY POSITIVE and busy with our equine companions.
I've had a few clients contact me since all this has began asking what are they supposed to do when they are unable to have their horses worked on, or can’t do lessons or in some barns, can’t even see their horse. We’ve come up with couple ways we can try and turn this into a POSITIVE and make the best of it!
One of my favourite things a client has told me about, during COVID, is that she LOVES how she could can CONNECT with her horse again. With many people working from home, time at the barn seems to be less rushed (for those who are allowed). This is the perfect chance to take the time to spend with your horse and BOND on a different level, like you used to as a kid. Compared to the stick routine you might be used to. Lessons may be cancelled, I see this a POSITIVE! Get back to doing ground work and exercises, connect with your horse off their backs and make them stronger both MENTALLY and PHYSICALLY for when you are training again!
Just because a body worker can’t physically come out and work on your horse, doesn’t mean there are not things at home you can do to help. This is a GREAT time to focus on those HORSE STRETCHES and HORSE EXERCISES that may have been given to you at some point or another by your equine body worker, or in a lecture or a class you attended. HORSE STRETCHING will help improve Range of Motion and allow your horse to become more supple as you are bringing them back. Additional exercises are great for HORSE STRENGTHENING everything from their hind end, core, back, to their front end and everything else in between. If your horse is generally a tense horse, or one known to have “issue” areas, there are many at home massage moves and areas that can be worked on during this time that horse riders and horse owners can do to help their horse feel their best. Even a good curry comb brushing gives them a nice easy massage and increases circulation. Finding out what stretches or exercises are best or what to do for a certain muscle or area is as easy as contacting your CIECBW body worker and talking with them about what you're seeing or feeling or areas you want to work on. It’s easy peasy to do when everything else is on hold and it helps keep your horse feeling great!
When we are focused on HORSE SHOWING or the next HORSE COMPETITION coming up, one thing a majority of riders tend to do coming out of winter, is forget the basics as well as the horse fundamentals of proper equine conditioning. During this COVID pandemic with shows, competitions, rodeos and pretty much all other equine related activities being cancelled, it gives riders the time and a chance to step back and reassess areas that they feel they’d like to improve. Most horses have had extra time off over the past couple months, they may not be in the shape they would normally be in coming into May. This is a PHENOMENAL OPPORTUNITY to take the time and bring them back slower and stronger then usual.
Lets face it, most Alberta Equestrians know they have something coming up and the main focus is that. Jumping lessons, getting the height in, doing technical rides, making sure the team is ready for the ring. Barrel Racers, running the patterns at home, focusing on clocking and turns and getting ready for the next race. Cow horses, working the flag or cows, keeping their brains in the game, working on movement and turns so that they are staying sharp. Reiners, working on patterns, sliding stops, spins looking forward to the next show and what will be involved. It’s a completely normal and common thing to focus on.
This COVID-19 pandemic gives us the opportunity to step away from that and focus on YOUR HORSE. Focus on conditioning them slower and more in depth. This could mean anything from changing it up in the arena to going out for more hacks and trail rides where you can be long and stretched out or add in hills and objects to step over. Depending on the current condition and/or age, this could also mean taking things slower, walking longer, spending more time strengthening and trotting before adding in the canter or lope, breaking in the wind slower. Adding in more pole or lateral work to your rides rather then just focusing on a barrel pattern or jump pattern or a collected dressage move. WITHOUT THE PRESSURE of having to be ready for a specific event, this also gives the chance to work with your horse on an area of weakness. Take this extra time to slowly run a pattern and get that perfect turn around a barrel, or perfect a move that’s tough. By taking the time to condition properly, this will help the horse's body to better strengthen, condition and allow for SAFER and IMPROVED PERFORMANCE.
NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME!
Allow your horse to become stronger PHYSICALLY and MENTALLY. Get back to the basics. Love doing the LITTLE THINGS with your horse! Just because summer is looking different, doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it!
Author: Teresa Humpage EST, EEBW