How is everyone doing? We’re in the midst of some unprecedented circumstances all over the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But we take some comfort in knowing that we, as a horse community, are in this together.
Still, situations are changing by the hour. Some boarding facilities are beginning to limit or even suspend operations, which can be difficult for horse owners who now have to adjust to another new routine.
It’s important for horses to maintain some sort of routine. This presents a variety of challenges in today’s environment. Spending time with your horse when possible and working with barn staff to ensure a routine is established can help alleviate stress that comes with this.
Even if you aren’t able to ride or spend an extended period of time at the barn, there are still some details you can polish during this downtime period. There’s no better time to work on some basics and details, so that when this comes to an end you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. You can view some more general ideas in our previous blog here — and we’re always looking for more ideas! The more we share as a community, the less “on an island” we’ll all feel.
Responsiveness to Aids
No matter what discipline you participate in — or even if you only ride for fun — a horse and rider will always do better together when the horse is responsive to aids (and when the rider administers aids correctly). With that in mind, this is something that you should always come back to check on periodically.
Even on the ground or on the lunge line you can practice this. If your horse is trained to respond to vocal encouragement, you can practice this in any setting. When riding, easy “check-ins” such as leg yields or side passes, transitions, circles, and backing up are all useful for finding areas that could use some improvement. Right now, you might have more time on your hands — put it to good use by putting some polish on your aids, and emerge on the other side of this downtime with an even stronger partnership.
Ground manners are an important part of every horse’s behavioral catalog. Having a horse that stands politely and respects the space of humans is not only more pleasant, it’s also safer to be around.
So if your horse has shown some naughty habits with the farrier or refused to stand still when tied, now is the time to start working on these behaviors. Not sure where to start? First, start by thinking like your horse. Here’s a helpful video with more information:
Fitness is another element of horse management that must be well-managed. Of course, right now may be a challenging time for fitness as there is no return for competitions in sight as of yet.
Managing a fit horse or getting a horse fit during this time will be dependent on your own circumstances and plans for the year. However, horses often thrive better on a consistent program of sorts. Incorporating some light fitness work will benefit most horses. If you’re looking for a way to create a light fitness routine, check out the 7-week Hylofit Training Club plan here.
We all have bad habits. Maybe your left shoulder dips a bit too much over jumps. Maybe your balance could be improved on your barrel runs. Perhaps your horse struggles with his changes more in one direction than the other.
Whatever your bad habits are, take the time to work on them now! Enlist the help of a coach (some coaches can even help you remotely, if you just ask!) and have them work through your bad habits. Having eyes on the ground can be immensely helpful for this.
We know it’s challenging to feel in control and in a good routine right now. With any luck, in a few weeks’ or months’ time we’ll be talking about competitions and training hard once again. But for now, remember to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your animals.