As we continue into the depths of winter after the holidays, it can be difficult to stay motivated with several numbingly cold months still looming ahead. I have been trying to get in as many rides outside as possible before the ground freezes- and more so before I start losing motivation to keep riding.
While the lucky ones travel south for the winter, the rest of us are stuck up north dealing with
snow rain and frozen muddy ground. If you’re anything like me, it can be hard to accept that this is really the best time of year to just take a break. No matter what you’ve accomplished, whether your green horse finally started to understand its canter leads this summer or you did your first FEI event with your longtime partner, both you and your horse deserve time off, both physically and, maybe most important, mentally.
This past month I’ve had a little trouble accepting that fact. I knew that this was the best time of year to take a break, but when you’ve been pedaling without brakes for so many months, it feels strange to stop moving, even for a minute. I had gotten better about taking days off here and there when I was busy with my college applications, Christmas gift shopping, and doing things with friends and family, but I think I really needed a few consecutive days off.
Unfortunately, my time off ended up being a little forced, because Murphy developed an abscess.
While it is an inconvenience to have a horse with an abscess, I am grateful that it was the explanation to Murphy’s sudden lameness, as opposed to an injury. I am also grateful for the time off that we got a bit unexpectedly. I’ve since started riding again, and we both feel refreshed and ready to tackle riding through the winter months.
I have definitely learned a thing or two about how to keep myself occupied while taking a break as an equestrian, and I hope that these tips will help you cope with the boredom and restlessness that time off may bring.
1. Stay Active
This is the most important one for me. Going from riding everyday to not really doing anything takes a toll on my body, mindset, and overall energy level. I’m not saying you have to go out and run 10 miles or pick up lifting, but be sure to go out and take a walk or do a few minutes of cardio to get those endorphins flowing.
2. Make a List
I know lists don’t work for everyone, but for me this is key to keeping me on track when my routine is irregular. I write down everything I need to do in separate “to-do” categories like college applications, homework, and chores. I will admit, I don’t necessarily get everything done on the lists I make, but it definitely keeps me on track and I get more done this way than if I try to keep track of all the tasks in my head.
3. Keep Your Schedule Open
One of the most important tips I can give is to avoid planning too much. It can be easy to get swept away by saying “yes” to everyone, but be sure to make time for yourself and everything that you need to get done. That way, you can plan more spontaneous things and won’t feel overwhelmed with the burden of too many plans.
4. Let Yourself Relax
This might be the hardest one of all! Like I said earlier, it can be hard to just suddenly stop all when you have been going nonstop for so many months. But, keep in mind that this is one of the only times of year where you and your horse will get a break, so take advantage of it! While it’s important to make lists and be organized so you don’t completely fall off track during your break, it’s also important to carve out time to relax and reset to start out motivated in the new year.
I have recently seen many articles about balance as an equestrian, and I think breaks, especially during the winter, are an important part of balance. I encourage you to remind yourself that it’s okay to take a break when you and your horse need it. Start the new year off refreshed and well on the path to achieving balance in your life as an equestrian.
Do you take a break from riding over the winter? How long do you take off? If you don’t take a break, what is your reasoning?