In a busy world, it’s easy to neglect self care. Set aside time for you and your horse, separately, for some reflection.
It seems that a common theme found in society lately is “Me Time.” I am constantly hearing chatter about others trying to find time for themselves. Take time to make time. Treat “yo’self.” It’s important— vital, really—for personal growth, rest and improvement in other areas of our lives. We’ve got to recognize and embrace little opportunities to unwind, relax and decompress.
So, as with most everyone else who breathes oxygen and has animals, it’s tough to recognize this. It can be especially tough when riding horses for a living or working on any type of timeline. Every day, there is a seemingly never-ending list of things that could be done. Every day, there are plenty of my own horses that need time and effort and energy, not to mention the imperative riding and work that our customer’s horses require.
But not long ago, I once had this gray pony mare that was really gentle and nice. I had trouble getting her to stop very well, and it became a bit of a hangup for both she and I. I rode this mare for a couple years, struggling and trying to make her better. Other people could get on her and tune her up and have her feeling fine, but I just always found myself eventually creating that same trouble spot on her.
So, after pulling out far too much of my own hair, and because she was young, pretty and had a nice disposition, I threw my arms in the air and said “To heck with this, I’m going to breed her to a phenomenal pony stud and turn her out for a year and a half.”
And that is precisely what I did. I got a great little filly who I am just now starting. Eventually, I brought my mare back in from the pasture, with fresh eyes, more knowledge and an appreciation for her good traits, and I never had an issue with her stopping again.
The moral of that story is my horses feel better when I don’t ride them. Kidding! Well, sort of. Although a year and a half off is extreme, it did open my eyes to the fact that a little time off can sometimes be a huge blessing in the training process.
I see it with so many people starting their horses. Get 30 or 60 days on them in the fall, turn them out and go back to riding them in the spring. When I halter break my babies, I try to mess with them five to seven times and then they get to go out and grow up for a bit. Even in our business riding two year olds, it seems that after 5 or 6 days of steady riding, two or three days of rest can make a huge difference on how quickly they learn things and how easily they retain them.
I’m really not sure the science behind this. We call it “giving them a little time to soak things up.” Maybe it allows training concepts to better settle in their minds and gives their muscle-sore bodies time to heal and strengthen properly. Or, perhaps they are just like us and need a mental rest once in awhile, too.
Whatever the reason, it’s a great thing for me to remember. I can’t say that I’ll ever turn one out for years again when things get tough, but I’ll do my best to see a well-timed break as a step forward instead of feeling as though my horses are falling behind.
Because ultimately, what better way to “treat yo’self” than to have a well-rested, willing equine partner, ready for whatever adventure comes next.