When I heard about the Apt Cavalier #ForTheRider Campaign, I jumped at the chance to be a guest blogger so that I could share some of my tips on how to stay motivated during the winter months. Staying motivated and focused is something I am really quite passionate about. Ok, so that’s actually a slight understatement. I am very passionate about how to stay motivated and I love to help others to do the same.
Being an everyday rider who hung up the competition boots a few years ago, I understand how it can be a struggle to motivate yourself when the cold winter nights draw in with nothing to aim for. The motivated part of me struggles to comprehend the "nothing to aim for" comment made back then. It just doesn't sit well with me. How can you have nothing to aim for when you have a horse, or two, maybe three or four?! Regardless of if you're regularly competing or have a horse that you no longer compete, there will always be an equestrian out there who will need some sort of motivation at one point or another.
Some of the following ideas I'm about to share with you are greatly helped if you are a fairly organized person. I'd like to think as equestrians, we have to be organized to a certain extent with a fair amount of self-discipline thrown in for good measure. If you don't perceive yourself to be all that organized, you may find some of the tips useful, so please fill your wellies with as much of the information as you like. :)
By planning ahead, it allows you to maximize the use of your time. First of all, check the yard diary to make sure there are no school bookings that may interfere with your plans, that way you can work out what days you want to exercise your horse(s). Personally, I find if I know what day's I'm going to exercise my horse I will stick to the plan and not just "wing it" and see where the icy wind takes me. If I did just that, I wouldn't do very much at all. I use a handy little app called "Todoist" to help me plan my week. What I like about it is that it will show you your daily tasks without showing you the entire list in one go, which can be overwhelming. Even if you use a trusty pen and paper, use what works best for you. Our minds aren't designed to retain information, they are designed to process information so by planning out your week, it will help your mind stay less cluttered and allow you to achieve your tasks far easier.
Recently I decided to organize a weekly pole work evening at the yard where the early evening liveries put the poles out, and the later liveries put them away. That way we can all use them over the course of the evening, helping to keep variety into our horse’s exercise routine as well as sharing the task of putting the poles out/away. I find by doing this it helps to motivate us all to do something when usually we may give it a miss because "we aren't really feeling it today." I am overly organized so I did create a private Facebook group for the pole work evenings. This includes a weekly pinned post with the upcoming pole work date and a pole work floor plan diagram. That way everyone knows what exercise to expect and when, also allowing everyone to share ideas of what can be added to future sessions.
In winter, some of us give our horses a break after a busy season of competition, others use it for training, but what we all probably have in common is that we wind down a little and take the pressure off of our horses and ourselves. It’s the time of year where we can allow ourselves as riders a little more "me" time. In winter I try to exercise my mare 4-5 times per week, or every other day but no more than three days in a row. Most horses don't mind how much or little exercise they do, so long as they are in a routine.
If you do find yourself lacking motivation, just stop and ask yourself a few questions. 1. Is there wind, rain, hail or snow, is there really an excuse? 2. Does my horse look like he may need some stimulation as he is stood in for longer due to less turn out hours? 3. Is the school empty and ready to use all to yourself? Remember that feeling after you have exercised your horse knowing you wasn't really feeling it but you are so glad you did!
Its great being motivated and all, but sometimes life doesn't always work out quite the way we had planned. For instance, we may get stuck in traffic on the way to the yard and arrive a little later than normal, don't force yourself to rush and ride just because that’s what you planned for that week. Horses rarely appreciate being rushed and you won't feel any better for doing so either. Don't give yourself a hard time about it and try to put the time to use in a different way by grooming for a little longer and pampering your horse. That way you can destress and unwind from the long journey you had getting there. Sometimes horses do enjoy us just being with them as opposed to being busy around them. #HorsesAreTheBestTherapy