Resolutions For The Average Equestrian
For the average equestrian, whether of average talent or average means or both, resolutions can be daunting. Setting resolutions that include giant jumps or posh show venues can be exciting in the moment, but seem to set you up for failure upon further inspection. As a horse trainer, I consider myself a rider of very, very average means. I can’t afford to attend the biggest shows or ride the fanciest horses. In acknowledging that, though, there is power. There’s power to be honest with ourselves about our goals and their achievability, and we can set resolutions that will challenge us without crippling us. Here are some resolutions I encourage riders to make this year, and some that I’ve made for myself.
Speak up for yourself - and your horse.
I can’t urge riders enough to speak up for their horses in 2020. Lunging horses into the ground isn’t okay. Sedating horses to show isn’t okay. Using drugs to mask lameness isn’t okay. Pushing an injured horse to work isn’t okay. When you put your horse in training, you're their only advocate. They’re at your mercy to do right by them and speak up for them if necessary. If you find your trainer’s actions to be a little suspect (hint: if they use a code word for what they’re doing, it’s probably wrong) or something doesn't sit well with you, speak up. Your horse needs you to be his voice.
On a similar note - a few weeks ago, I wrote a post on facebook about trainers’ treatment of their students. You can catch up on it here. I won’t go into much of a recap, but I just want to encourage riders and parents to speak up for themselves this year. Don’t allow yourself (or your child) to be abused by your trainer. Your trainer works for you, not the other way around. If your trainer makes you feel humiliated, scared, or belittled, it may be time to reassess your working relationship. If it’s not working, be brave enough to say so.
Put in the hours.
There’s no substitute for hard work. On the goal worksheets for my students this year, I put a three part question. It begins with, “how will I achieve these goals,” referring to the ones they wrote higher up on the page. It then has three prompts to help shape their answers: 1) what have I already been doing that will help me, 2) what have I been doing that might hinder me, and 3) what can I start doing to help myself? Considering these three aspects is important, and the second prompt is especially so. Have you been procrastinating? Going for lazy bareback walks when you’re supposed to be practicing what your trainer told you in your last lesson? There’s definitely a time and a place for fun, relaxing rides, but make sure you’re putting in the hours if you want to see any progress this year.
Make fitness a priority - for both of you.
I can’t begin to tell you how bad my skin crawls when I see pictures on instagram of a rider jumping a 3’ fence with the caption, “first ride in two weeks and he was perfect!” You’re going to break your horse. Imagine sitting in the house being a total couch potato for two weeks, then going to run a 5k. This year, make your horse’s fitness and care a priority. I recommend working with your vet to determine the best plan of action, then holding yourself accountable for bringing it to fruition. Your horse will be much less likely to sustain an injury and much more likely to perform to his potential.
Guess who else can’t perform their best if they’re out of shape? Riders! Perhaps your horse’s left drift isn’t entirely his fault... Resolve to get fit this year, not just in a “I want to lose ten pounds like everyone else on New Years Day” way, but in a “I want to be the best rider I can be” way! Core strength, leg strength, and overall stability are crucial to riding your best. Look into some fitness classes if that’s your thing, or check out The Fit Equestrian for comprehensive, equestrian-focused, inexpensive fitness programs. Link up with your barn friends and organize a fitness club to hold each other accountable!
Savor the time with your horse.
We’re all guilty of rushing at the barn. Whether it’s skipping a grooming step or shaving a few minutes off your warm up, we all do it from time to time. Maybe you have a lot on your plate that day or you're just not really in the mood. Either way, since losing my childhood horse in October, I’ve had a different outlook on how I spend time with my horses. I found myself regretting every day I skipped the barn, every time I thought I was just too busy, every instance I prioritized something trivial over spending time with him. I’ve used those regrets as inspiration to savor my time with my horses.
Now, I never leave the barn without at least giving a kiss to all three of them. I spend more time grooming. I ride the long route back to the barn. I give a couple more treats. I’ve decided to savor every minute I have with them while we’re all here.
Seek out knowledge.
We live in a time when more information than we could possibly digest is literally at our fingertips, and yet I see kids seeking out knowledge less than ever before. As a kid, I devoured horse books and magazines. I read everything I could about anything I could, my room was covered in Young Rider posters, and I practically waited at the mailbox for the next Practical Horseman issue. Whether you’re a child or an adult, ignorance in this day and age is a conscious choice.
I urge you to resolve to seek out knowledge this year. Read books, magazines, articles on the internet. Watch videos. Listen to podcasts. Audit clinics. Watch your trainer ride. There is an endless wealth of information out there just waiting for you - go get it!
So there you have it, five ways you can make 2020 your best year yet. I look forward to seeing everyone’s successes this year! Let’s get it!