A new year can bring a fresh perspective on life, many of us will make resolutions and hope to stick to them! A new year's resolution that many people make is to be healthier... That could mean doing more exercise, eating healthier, losing weight or just drinking more green tea! But what does it mean for our horses?
Could we be doing more to get our horses at peak performance and health? Of course! Here are a few ideas that might help make this year great for you and your horse!
Use the beginning of the year to start planning your season or year.
If you are a show jumper, have a look at competitions run at local yards, you could get in touch with other show jumping friends so that you can compete or train together, you could even lift pool!
If you enjoy eventing, whether affiliated or unaffiliated, you could have a look at cross country schooling, and find out which courses open the earliest, or just get in contact with your favourite places to train to ask when they open for the year. Don't forget that lots of venues run arena eventing competitions to prepare you for your competition season.
Dressage is much the same as show jumping, look for local competitions or clinics and try to improve yourself and your horse as much as possible! The great thing about dressage and show jumping is that competitions run all year round, you can use these disciplines to help you get started on your event season!
Is hacking your discipline? You can still plan your year! Have a look at maps or your area, are there new routes you could try out? The Ordnance Survey maps app is great for this and can be used while you're on your way too! You could you box over to a bridle path to get a change of scenery, and you could also have a look at fun rides near you as they can be a great way to meet new people and a nice way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon!
Ride as much as possible, the fitter your horse is, the healthier they will be! Don't wait for the beginning of the year, or for summer, or for Monday. Start chasing your dreams now! Fitness is key in helping to prevent anything from lumps and bumps on your horse's legs to building up muscle for preventing sore backs!
If your horse has been out of work for a while, assuming your horse is turned out for a few hours a day, you should be riding in straight lines in walk only for a few weeks, then move up to trot work (hill work is fantastic for building fitness and muscle). Next, work on your canter; the best canter work comes from good trot work so strive to work your horse in a good contact in all three paces! Collected canter improves the muscle across the top of your horse’s neck and back, this is vital in preparing for strenuous work! After getting your horse fit out hacking, you can take them into the arena and start some more intensive schooling.
Hacking is great for your horse, schooling sessions need to be much shorter than your hacks as the sessions in arenas are much more challenging, being a tighter space to work in, and with the surface taking something out of them. If you hack for an hour, your time in the school should only be about twenty minutes long!
You should also try to vary your work. If you work your horse five times a week, maybe make a few of these hacks, a jump session and a flatwork session. If you plan on doing more schooling, could you add some simple serpentines or poles to make the work more interesting for your horse and hold their conversation?
Jumping is a great way of loosening up and keeping your horse's stress levels down. A good, forward canter is also something your horse needs, sometimes the only way to get an open canter is while out hacking but horses need to run, it's in their DNA! If you don't feel confident enough to jump or gallop, could you ask someone else to ride your horse every once in a while to open them up a bit?
What you feed can make a massive difference to your horse's health so, try to research what the best feeds and supplements could be, based on your horse. Check out our Feeding blog post for more information on how best to find feeds suited to your needs.
Goal setting is really brilliant for everyone, not only to give us something to work towards but also to give us a sense of achievement, however big the challenge has been! Check out our goal setting blog for more on setting achievable goals which will help further your riding career!