Ever needed to take a break from your riding routine? That’s what I’m doing right now. A couple weeks ago I developed plantar fasciitis because I was being a little over zealous about riding with my heels down. If that has never happened to you, let me tell you, it is incredibly painful. Riding has been out of the question. I have taken a couple of weeks off from riding for my foot to heal, but in the mean time I think it’s been really good for both of us mentally as well. Me and Hot Rod were riding quite a bit during the week and I think we were both getting tired of our same old routine.
We have been working on the same specific things in our lessons and the also during our “homework” between lesson. Our brains were fried and we both felt a little arena-sour. Sometimes the very best thing to do is take time off before you get resentful. Or worse, your horse gets resentful and bad habits are formed. When I get really into my riding, that’s all I think about. In the evenings I scour the web for instructional videos and I reread all my favorite training articles. My family gets tired of me talking about it at dinner time. I also have a tendency to start picking apart my riding skills and I can’t seem to do anything right in my lessons. It’s all in my head, though. Taking this little break has helped me reevaluate my riding goals. It’s a mid-year evaluation of where we’re at, how far we’ve come, and where we want to go with our riding.
Hot Rod is enjoying his break as well. He’s moved out to the pasture for the fall and he’s enjoying just being a horse. Every time I drive by, his head is buried in the round bale. He has little scrapes on his legs and his bridle path is looking untidy, but that’s just what happens when you turn a “barn horse” out to the pasture. He’s loving every minute of it!
There are several things you can do to maintain your relationship with your horse while you’re taking a break from riding. I’ve really enjoyed pampering him with baths during the heat. Working on the ground is also beneficial and provides a certain level of “work” without getting stressed out. I don’t show Hot Rod in showmanship, but working with him on it really has improved his in-hand behavior. Who knows, maybe we’ll give it a try in the spring. Round pen work is one of my favorite things to do with horses, and sometimes it’s overlooked when you’re working with a finished horse, rather than a green horse. Clinton Anderson has some great DVDs on round penning your horse to establish respect.
I’m taking my break out of necessity because of my foot injury, but sometimes it’s the other way around. Maybe your horse is injured or recently had surgery. You can still work with your horse without riding. If the vet has recommended stall rest with in-hand walking, then if it’s possible saddle your horse before walking. It will make him feel like he still has a job to do and boost his confidence. There’s nothing better for recovery than making your horse feel like his old self in his normal routine.
Maybe it’s time for you and your horsey partner to take a break. Maybe that means just skipping a lesson or switching it up and getting out of the arena. Don’t forget that our horses can get bored easily with the same old riding routine. Try to keep your minds fresh, and you’ll reap all the more riding benefits!