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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
Lockdown isn’t easy for anyone. It is particularly hard to do when you are isolating on your own or when you are confined without a garden; fresh air; or nature.
It’s also pretty tough for us equestrians. We go from living very active lifestyles, to suddenly being limited to going out once a day.
While some are fortunate enough to have their own land and plenty of space to move around in, without venturing right out into public spaces - others are not so lucky, and are scared to leave the four walls of their flat or apartment.
Some are joking about going stir-crazy, but the way that the virus (and subsequent isolation) is affecting mental health is very real and scary.
Our main advice to anyone right now, is to be kind to everyone!
Check in with your loved ones! If you’re suffering with anxiety or depression, checking in with someone to see how they are coping will help you just as much as it will them!
This is having an impact on so many people, so please – keep being kind. Reach out (not literally, social distancing and all that!), send messages and pick up the phone.
So how can we practice social distancing and stay locked down, but still effectively care for our horses?
If you have your own yard:
Practice social distancing with anyone who has to come in (like farriers, anyone delivering feed, or vets).
A couple of ways to do that are:
Some people are choosing not to ride, in case they fall off. That’s their decision and a very noble one! However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything at all!
Here are a few ideas of what to do when you have access to your horse and yard but are electing not to ride:
1. Have a tack room clear out! Get under all of the feed bins, go through any boxes and clean out the cobwebs! Anything you have decided to get rid of, you can clean and put aside to sell when lock down ends.
2. Deep clean the stables, wash under rubber mats, scrub the walls down, and maybe even give them a lick of paint! We have our stables painted white on the top half of the walls, and dark blue at the bottom, to keep from any stable stains showing. This protects the wood too!
3. Teach your horse tricks on the ground. Rowan can bow!
4. Lunge over poles, fillers, tarpaulins or anything your horse struggles with. Try the ‘one pole challenge’ too!
5. Free jump! If your horse struggle with straightness, try setting out ‘V’ poles to bring them in to the middle of the fence, if a horse hates doubles, grids or bounces, you can set out a free jumping grid.
6. Bridle training – teach your horse to put their head into the bridle and reach for the bit. This will save you time when it comes to hacking out and will only cost you a few treats to do!
7. Longrein ‘out hacking’ to work on hacking alone and confidence out and about.
8. Loading practice! Even if your horse loads well, the extra practice won’t do any harm!
9. Teach your horse lateral movements from the ground! This is another example of how to make your life easier when you get back to riding!
10. Take the time to reconnect. Groom out that winter coat, sit and draw, eat your breakfast in their field, do some carrot stretches. For more inspiration, check out Horsemart's article '5 Ways To Spend Time With Your Horse During The Coronavirus Lockdown'.
Those who are still riding may be doing so because they are a professional, have a very hot horse who will be lethal to get back on after some time off. Whatever the reason, that’s totally up to them and no one should be putting any pressure on for them not to ride until the police or government are asking riders to stop!
If you are still riding, here are some ideas on how you can spend this time:
1. Take part in the Little Bentley Eventing jumping challenges! We’ve been having a lot of fun with this, and even won the challenge on the second week, out of hundreds of entries!
2. Try ‘Dressage Anywhere’ competitions.
3. Check out some new pole work exercises on the A.P.Equine & Canine McTimoney Chiropractor Facebook page! Here is our recent attempt!
4. Train your horse to do lateral work, like leg yielding, half pass, shoulder in and pirouette. Sarah Williams has some great tips on how to perfect your leg yield > 'Leg-Yield Tutorial With Sarah Williams'.
5. Use grid work to improve your jumping! You can use different exercises for different things. We like to do a bounce, one stride, two stride for progressive stride lengthening, you can do it backwards for the opposite effect! Just a line of bounces is great for a horse who likes to put a long stride in, or a line of one or two strides to lengthen. Try using ‘V’ poles or cross oxers to improve straightness over fences!
6. Learn and ride different dressage tests, keep working on any weaknesses, and then show off your test to whoever you’re isolating with! Then, learn a new one… Before you know it, you’ll be at Medium level!
7. Do some mounting block training using positive reinforcement.
8. Work on your horse’s fitness – as well as your own. You can do interval training in the arena to help this.
9. Work on lengthening and shortening your trot and canter on the flat. Count your canter strides between two arena letters and try to get more or less each time!
10. Practice making your center lines even straighter using leg aids and poles to help you.
Please note: Although it has been advised to avoid riding so as not to put extra strain on the NHS in the case of an accident or fall, this is currently just an advisory and is still down to individual discretion. The information on The BHS (British Horse Society) states "There are no specific government guidelines for the question around whether we should still be out riding at present... Decisions can only be taken based on individual circumstances but our choices should always be mindful of the potential impact for ourselves and others."
If you don’t have your own yard, it’s important to follow the rules that your livery yard is putting into place for people’s safety. It may be possible to have staggered times, and still get to see your horse if you wear gloves and disinfect fixings.
If you have no access to your horse, here are a few things that you can do:
1. Clean tack!
2. Make video edits from riding clips, and have a play with filters and techniques.
3. Watch Heartland and horsey movies! If you’re feeling a bit lonely, you could connect with your friends over messenger or Face Time so that you can watch together!
4. Read up on your idols, many have biographies, blogs or videos – think about how you can implement their methods into your own training.
5. Plan, set goals, and take this opportunity to think about where you want to take your riding, without any pressures from outside influence.
6. Try equestrian Pilates, yoga, or online workouts to keep fit and bring your A game when you get back to riding! Not sure where to start? Why not try some of the exercises listed here > 'How To Maintain Rider Fitness At Home During The Coronavirus Lockdown'.
7. Find new Equestrian YouTubers to keep you entertained, we’re Hesteyri Horses!
8. Route plan new hacks! There are a few different apps which can help you do this, our favourite is the Ordnance Survey app, which is what we used to plan our route from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 2018. You can discover new bridleways and work out how to make round routes.
9. Learn dressage tests and practice them on your bedroom or living room floor!
10. Back up your pony pictures and videos! We have 3 hard drives which are organised by horse’s name and by date within those folders, and it makes life so much easier for finding an exact moment in time!
We really hope that some of these ideas help to boredom-bust and keep us all a little more entertained! Please remember that your mental health is important, particularly at this time. If anyone is in need of someone to talk to, please call any of the help lines, or just drop us a message and we’ll do anything we can to help! You can find us on Facebook or Instagram.
Stay safe and strong, happy and healthy.