Won’t Ride, Will Horse

Back in 2018, when I was recovering from my hip replacement, I wrote a guide called “Can’t Ride, Can Horse” with some suggestions for things you can do relating to horses when you can’t ride.  Nearly 2 years later, we are ALL in a fairly similar situation.  The BHS have said

“We advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as whether riding is necessary at this time.”

Personally, as you’ll see from my March Madness post, I decided to stop riding a few weeks ago but I have found plenty of things to do instead and have lots of ideas that I haven’t got to yet.

Most of these assume you can still see your horse/go to the yard. Under current UK rules, you are still allowed to tend to your horses -as that is essential to their welfare – unless your yard owner says otherwise or you are ill/shielding/self isolating as long as you follow social distancing rules.  I am in no way encouraging anyone to travel unnecessarily.  Please use your own judgement as to which of these are suitable for you.

Exercise

With the health of your horse in mind, if you are not riding anymore and intend on roughing them off, you need to decrease their exercise slowly.  If you are hoping to continue to exercise your horse – while the government still permits it – these ideas work too.

  • Walking in hand – I am aware that this isn’t an option for everyone but if it is safe to do so, walking your horse in hand is exercise for both of you!  Make sure you use a bridle rather than a headcollar if you are actually going somewhere!
  • Lunging – Lunging is generally considered to be a pretty safe way of exercising your horse (as long as you wear gloves and a hat).  Just be careful not to do too much as going around in circles does put strain on your horse’s joints.
  • Groundwork/Liberty/Trick training – There are so many activities you can do with your horse on the ground to improve your bond and have fun!
  • Stretches – If you don’t already do this with your horse, now would certainly be the time to start!

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Help

  • Buddy up – With key workers working more than ever, parents having their children at home and travel being restricted it might be worth buddying up to help others with their yard jobs. At my yard we are spreading our visits through the day and sharing some of the jobs while there is no staff
  • Adopt/sponsor – Some equestrian businesses have lost nearly their entire income probably for the rest of the year but still need to feed and care for their animals.  Many – my yard included – have set up adoption or sponsorship schemes so if you have a few pounds to spare, this might be something you can get involved with.

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Spring clean

  • Grooming – Now is the time to help your horse to lose their winter coat and to get rid of that winter grime.  I’ve tried out a lot of shedding tools but my favourite is the SleekEZ.
  • Bathing – The weather has improved and now seems like a good time to be giving them a spring bath.  Even though we won’t be going out to any lessons or competitions, I can’t wait to get my Carr & Day & Martin Stain Removing Shampoo out to turn Pea’s brown legs white again and set her up for a cool summer rather than a sweaty, hairy one.
  • Brushes – If you’re going to get your horse clean, now would also be a great time to clean your brushes.  I have some much loved Eqclusive Haas brushes and I just hand-wash them in a bucket of warm, soapy water then hand them on the washing line to dry!
  • Leather – Give your tack and your boots a “birthday”.  If you’re not going to be using them for a while, it makes sense to give them a thorough clean and think about how to store them without the risk of them getting mouldy.  Carr & Day & Martin do a product called Ko-Cho-Line which has been produced for this very purpose.
  • Rugs – If you have got the skills and equipment, now would be a great time to mend and wash your rugs but at the very least you can sort them and store any that you won’t need for a while.
  • Washing – It is not just rugs that need washing.  If you are not riding, you’ll be free to wash all your numnahs so that they are squeaky clean for use on the other wise.
  • Trailer/Lorry – We won’t be using our horse lorries and trailers for a while so it is a good opportunity to tidy, clean and sort them out (if you are able to access them without breaking government rules).  It is also worth considering the security of your vehicles as, while there are less people out and about, there seems to be a rise in thefts.

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Other

  • Photos – As well as sorting out your own photos (getting some printed and backing them up) why not check out official competition photos from previous events and order yourself some.  I’m sure the photographers would appreciate it in these tough times.
  • Evaluate – There is little point in planning a competition schedule at the moment because we have no idea when we might be out and about again but it is a good time to look back at the last year/season and reflect on what went well and what you intend on doing differently next time around.

March Madness

Last time I checked in to my blog I was riding high (literally) with my new dressage saddle and trips up the gallops.  Life was pretty easy breezy.  Since then, the whole world has completely changed with the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.  As I use this blog to document life it makes sense to write about this and how things changed during March.

March started with another trip up the gallops, a sunny weekend and the usual “living for the weekend” attitude – life was relatively normal (with the exception of a lack of pasta in the shops!)

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By the second week, I was panicking about coronavirus.  The yard runs on tourism (as does the area in which I live) and I’ve also got a lot of friends and family who are classed as vulnerable or who are self employed.  I was getting really worried about how the situation would affect everyone.  By the weekend, I was really worried about the possibility of carrying or passing on the virus and I started avoiding places where other people would be – that basically meant going to the yard when everyone else had gone or was going home but still riding.

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By the third week, the yard was set up with hand sanitising points and disinfectant sprays to use on anything that had been touched and we were told that restrictions would be put into place soon.  The news that schools were closing to the majority of pupils came halfway through that week.  I had been putting all my focus into giving the kids I work with all the support they needed and although I tried to make the week as fun as I could in the circumstances, it was really sad.  My lesson at the weekend had been cancelled and although I rode on the Friday night after work, the next day I made the decision to stop riding.  Although I haven’t fallen off for a long time, it didn’t feel right to still be doing something that is officially high-risk especially in the knowledge that if I fell onto my hip I would probably be worse off than the average person.

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The first week of working from home (bar some time in work) was surreal.  It was also when we were officially told to stay at home apart from for essential shopping, exercise and work.  I set up my office in the garden and the weather was beautiful.  I have to say, working on a laptop all day everyday is not my thing.  I really miss the variety and the humans!  At this point, the yard was closed to the public but in the evenings I used my essential exercise quota to walk there and walk Pea into the next village in hand – literally everyday I got asked “aren’t you meant to sit on it?”

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By the last week of March, only the leasers and liveries were allowed to go to the yard (that is a grand total of about five of us).  My weekly routine (working until later afternoon and then going to the yard) and doing some yard jobs (a bit of mucking out, sweeping, raking etc.) continued.  At the end of March Pea and I were both getting a little bored of walking to the village so I started attempting to do some liberty training with her.  Neither of us really knew what we were doing but it was good to do something!  There were also plenty of days where I just left Pea to chill in her field.

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I have no idea what the next few months will hold – there will certainly be no competition blogs – but I’ll be sure to keep recording it.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you?

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