Everyone has a busy schedule, me included. Actually, make that-me especially. One husband, two little girls, and two small businesses leave little time for my personal horses.
Time is a precious commodity in our home, so when I do have any time carved out to ride or train my horses, I use it intentionally. Here are my tried-and-true methods to use my time with my horses efficiently and effectively.
Before I begin, I make a set of goals for my time. I first decide how my time would be spent best, whether it be riding, lunging, or doing ground work. Then I make a quick mental list of the things I want to accomplish. They are generally smaller, short-term goals to help build foundations for bigger goals. For instance, I’m currently working on a lead change with my horse, Hot Rod. If I have an hour to ride, I might set goals to work on straightness and balance at the lope. Establishing this small step will set me up for the next ride to continue towards a lead change. Have a plan before you ever pull your horse out of the pen.
Budget your time during your ride or training session. For me, it’s always the cool-down I tend to neglect. I know how important a cool-down is to my ride and yet when I’m not intentionally budgeting my time, I will lope my ride away and poor Hot Rod gets a quick pat and is put back out to pasture. To remedy this problem, I have started using the stopwatch function on my phone. I will break up my ride into different sections and time them. Or, I will listen to a predetermined playlist to help keep my ride on schedule. Check out the Power Riding Playlist I’m using right now.
Use the time you have, as little as it may be. Did your day fill up with unforeseen errands and responsibilities? No problem. You don’t have to have an hour of concentrated training to meet your goals. If you have an extra 10 minutes, give your horse a good grooming. Use the time to scout out any injuries and assess his weight. If you have an extra 15 minutes, work on a showmanship pattern. You don’t have to show to practice showmanship. It’s a great way to boost your horse’s manners on the ground. Even if you have 20 minutes, you can saddle up just to work through your normal warm-up session. Walk and trot through serpentines to improve your horse’s suppleness. When spending time with your horse, quality always trumps quantity. Just because you have little time, it does not mean it can’t be beneficial time.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy your horse. Don’t forget why you fell in love with horses in the first place. Not all your encounters with your horse have to be strictly scheduled. Maybe you are like me and spending time outdoors with my horse feeds my soul. Sometimes, the most beneficial way to spend time with your horse is not to plan at all. I’ve had some of my favorite rides when I was flexible in how I spent my time.
Keeping an organized schedule with your horse is important if you want to achieve big goals and dreams. But every once in a while, let loose and enjoy the moment. Ride down country roads, lope in a big open pasture, ride bareback, let him hand graze on green grass. Your horse will enjoy the break and your bond will be strengthened.
By planning ahead, budgeting your time, and using your time intentionally you can reach your goals with your horse. But don’t forget to have some fun!