Practically every blog about horses tells you what you should be doing when you’re with your horse. But maybe you don’t own a horse yet; or, like me, you’ve left horses at home while you educate. What then?
When you’re in that place of ‘horselessness’ it can be easy to feel sad and wishful, but there’s no better time like now to get started on a fresh path. There are tons of things you can do without horses that will prepare you for horses, or make your relationship better when you get back to your herd.
1. Read, watch, listen.
Sometimes when you’re actively working with horses every day it’s not possible to get education from outside sources. Without horses, you have time to focus, get an objective perspective and start formulating a vision for the next steps in your journey. If you haven’t yet, I’d suggest visiting my post on reading materials. It’s a great place to start, if you’re not sure what’s out there. Peruse Amazon, watch your favourite equestrian YouTube channels, and get connected with sustenance for your brain.
2. Get experience with different horses.
There are always tons of clinics and workshops posted to Facebook horse groups, Kijiji and online horse networks. Some of these clinics use the host’s horses, so you get experience working with different breeds and temperments. Even if you don’t have a horse to participate, many of these clinics allow for auditors. It’s the perfect thing to do with an empty weekend or evening, and it gives you more experience with different styles and techniques.
3. Start doing Yoga.
Yoga (or any physical activity) is a great way to gain and maintain balance, core strength and relaxation. Perfect for equestrians! It may sound cheesy, but two days into my YouTube Yoga marathon I am already feeling A LOT better! I’ve tried Yoga before, using my mom’s old DVDs, but I just couldn’t get into it (maybe it was the buff guy in short shorts doing ‘downward facing dog’ that killed it for me). But I recently read an article by the Huffington Post that suggested some YouTube channels dedicated to ‘learn from home’ Yoga. So far, I liked Yoga with Sanela. She is great at teaching in front of a camera (a gift that some YouTube yogis definitely DON’T have), and her beginner exercises are not hard! Pain from previous injuries actually dissipates throughout the 20 minute session.
4. Try a different art form.
Horsemanship is an art, whatever anyone may say. An art form is whatever you do to communicate something, whether it be to an audience or a horse. So it’s really beneficial to start learning new art forms. Dance, music, painting and archery are just some of the art forms that I’ve seen have a big impact on horsemanship skills. Having experience in the arts will greatly influence how you approach horses.
5. Visualize, visualize, visualize …
What are your goals when you finally get a horse, or when you return to your herd? What is the first thing you’re going to do? At night, sometimes I dream about riding Storm (something I’ve never done, but am planning to do!) The situations that present themselves in my imagination offer me a chance to solve them in my mind. This can be helpful because it’s a form of brainstorming. The great gift of being human is how we can visualize what the future might hold. Use this gift to your advantage.
6. Journal your thoughts.
One of the most impactful things you can do for yourself is journalling. I keep a regular record of what’s going on in my life – not necessarily events, but emotions and ideas. It can remind you how far you’ve come and where you want to go. It’s great for releasing anxiety because your journal will listen without complaints. Friends really don’t want to live with your anxiety- your journal does! Getting this release will benefit your life as an equestrian as well because FYI, horses don’t need your anxiety either.
7. Love your body.
Now’s a great time to start making healthier choices. Horses need us to be healthy, happy, and agile. This starts from the inside. Some things you could do is start drinking more water, getting more sleep or eating more vegetables. I know I sound bossy, right? But horses will let you know when you’re not in the best of health. They can tell when we adopt weak postures due to internal pain or illness. This keeps us from being the best leader we can be. Before you can lead a horse, you have to learn to lead yourself.
8. Begin practicing spirituality.
Spirituality can be based in a religion for you, or it may be mindfulness, or a combination of many bits and pieces you’ve discovered within yourself. Bottom line is, spirituality is deeply rooted in trust, and so is horsemanship. Your horse has to learn to trust in you, but how can he trust in you if you don’t trust in anything? Finding something trustworthy to believe in, even if it’s in your own doubt, will create a safe environment for both you and a horse to learn in.
9. Simulate exercises/riding.
Get a friend, a saddle, a barrel, and some rope. Practice leading, lunging, and riding position without a horse first! I’ve spent hours doing simulating and you can never do enough. The first time I lunged a horse was a disaster, but if I hadn’t spent an hour simulating beforehand, it would have been even worse. Use educational videos or a friend’s instruction to guide you as you simulate. It can be really fun!
10. Seek out community!
Wherever you are, seek out a horsey community. Facebook is a great place to start. Look for blogs or forums. Community is a wonderful gift, whether you’re a beginner or returning to the equestrian world. Finding people who are likeminded will strengthen you and keep you motivated. At the same time, finding people who think differently than you is a good thing because your apt to learn a lot from them!
In a week I’ll be home with my dear Storm again, and I’m so excited!
Happy horse days to come!