During the summer, many of you enjoy the long summer break from school and the opportunities to have fun with your horse are endless. Or are they? As I was preparing to write this feature article, a post appeared on my Horses Forum from one of the regulars who hated to admit it, but she was bored with her horse. She loves him dearly but is tired of doing the same old thing every day. How could this be?
To the non-horse-owning person, the prospect of owning your own horse and being able to ride day-in and day-out may seem blissful. But for many, the reality of keeping a horse at home, or at least alone, can mean lonely rides on trails that become oh-so-familiar, or hours of circling in an arena. It can be hard to get up the enthusiasm to head out to the barn/field and ride your horse.
So--what's the solution? Well, as they say, a change is as good as a rest. So the best advice I can give anyone who thinks that they and their horse are stuck in a rut is to try something different. But what, I hear you ask...
Blaze New Trails
If you habitually spend hours in the arena schooling your horse or riding around your own property that you and your horse know with your eyes closed, it's time to hit the trails! Before you go, you need to do a little homework first.
- Take a drive, or a bicycle ride, around your barn area and scope out some suitable new trails to blaze.
- If your horse is not used to traffic, try and find some off road trails (in our area, about the only place we can get off-road is alongside the creeks and bayous--rivers and streams--but luckily one backs right onto the property)
- Trail riding is much better if you can go with some friends. The horses give each other confidence, and if there is a problem, there are more people to help out. And besides that, it's just more FUN.
- Place an ad in the local tack store, local riding stable or feed merchants for people to ride with you. (There is safety and fun in numbers)
- For something a little different, pack a picnic! Either take it with you in saddle bags or have a non-riding friend or parent meet you with the goodies at a predetermined place and join you for a picnic. Take your horse's halter and lead rope with you and let him snack on some grass while you eat your sandwiches.
- Riding on the beach can be fun. If you or one of your friends have a trailer and you don't live too far away, head to the coast for the day. It's worth checking first to make sure horses are allowed on the beach you choose. Call ahead to make sure, or to get suggestions for alternates.
- If you already trail ride, but want to try something more adventurous, visit the American Endurance Riding Conference's website for information about how to join, as well as hints for new endurance riders (including a list of experienced endurance riders willing to take a "newbie" under their mentoring wing) and a calendar of events.
- Horse & Mule Trail Guide, USA has a wealth of information about trails and overnight stopping places, listed by state. This is an excellent resource if you are planning a vacation getaway with your horse.
- The British Horse Society is very active in working to keep horse access and rights of way open across Britain.
Try Something New
Another way to relieve the boredom of doing the same thing every day is to try another discipline. You can imagine that if you are bored with your routine, your horse probably is too.
- Look through the bulletin board at the afore-mentioned tack shop, riding stable or feed merchants and check out the business cards of local trainers that you will find posted there. You can also check the American Riding Instructors Association. With a little luck, you will be able to locate one that will come to your facility.
- There are so many choices out there - you will be sure to find one that appeals to you - from the elegance of dressage, the excitement of barrel racing to the fun of gymkhana events and mounted games or the thrill of eventing.
- Look for riding clubs in your area--they will have organized play days, clinics and shows. These will give you and your horse a chance to get away from home, to meet others and make friends. The United States Pony Club has chapters all over the United States, but there are many other options too. Riding stables often have clubs for local riders.
- You can find out about horse activities and projects offered by the 4-H in your area by visiting the National 4-H Headquarters website.
- For something completely different, how about trying vaulting? If you are good at gymnastics, this offers a new twist for you.
- If you would like to work your horse at home, there are a wealth of educational horse books and videos available to inspire you.
- Even if you aren't ever going to end up showing at the Nationals, you can still have fun, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune. As one of the posters on the bulletin board suggested, junk yards can be great places to find equipment. Old barrels can be painted and set for running a barrel pattern (starting at walk and trot), they can also be used as jump standards, for the jumps themselves or for marking the corners of an arena. (Thanks to "mullee" for those suggestions!!)
- Fill some old one gallon milk jugs (the plastic kind) with sand -- to keep them upright in breezy weather -- paint letters on them and set them out like a dressage arena to work in. Even if you aren't doing "dressage", having letters (or any point of reference) around your arena can make your riding more accurate and give you natural places to do turns, transitions, circles etc.
- Invite friends over to your newly decorated "arena" and practice riding together. Teach your horses to go side-by-side at the different gaits and make up a drill team, consisting of different figures performed at different gaits. This can be great fun, and when everything works right, very satisfying!
Now it's your turn. Why not head over to the Equisearch Forum and tell us how you got out of your rut? What news things did you learn? What new trails did you blaze? We'd love to hear about it!