Standing around can be fun, too

It’s hard being an adult amateur rider. It’s hard juggling and balancing a work schedule with riding, much less everything else — spending time with family, friends and the boyfriend, and doing boring grownup tasks, such as laundry, grocery shopping, etc.


Riding at Night

Exhibit A: Note how dark it is. Thank goodness the arenas are really well lit!

So when I get to the barn, most days it’s at night, after work, after dark — and I want to be able to eat dinner before midnight (and probably have chores to do at home). Sure, when it was summer and it got dark later at night or even still on weekends, we can amble around the property on the buckle because we have all the daylight to spare and can take our time.

During the weeknights, however, most people are already done for the day by the time I get there. They’re getting ready to go home, wrapping up their lesson, cooling off their horses, cleaning their tack, etc. The arenas are well lit and the barn is safe, but I still don’t like riding by myself and being the last one out there. As a result, I try to make the most of my time, meaning I strive for short but really productive sessions.

Sounds great, right? After all, there’s that quote, “Every time you ride, you are either training or un-training your horse,” and it would make sense that I’d want to ride as productively and efficiently as I can, right?

So I ride for maybe 20 – 30 minutes, tops, and it’s work, work, work and think, think, think for most of the time I’m riding. Super, I’ve instilled an even greater work ethic into a mare that already has a lot of heart and a fantastic natural work ethic…

…except there’s something to be said for just hanging out and standing around.

Sounds crazy, right? But it’s really not. Every time I get on, Sabra thinks, “It’s work time, we’re working, we must work,” and in her mind, it often translates to go, go, go — which isn’t really necessary in a horse that already has a lot of go. She also now anticipates, and anticipating and predicting what I’m going to ask before I ask makes us both antsy.

How do I get my horse and me to chill out? Lately, in addition to lots and lots of transition work (as in, trot to halt, halt to canter, canter to halt, halt to trot, trot to canter, canter to walk, walk to halt, halt to walk, etc.), we’ve been working on well, just standing around. I’m trying to change my mindset; for now, I’m trying to ask for everything nonchalantly (almost lazily), take lots of standing around and walking breaks, remember to breathe and convince myself (or both of us, really) that I have all the time in the world.

Hopefully it’ll help us learn to stand still when we’re in between classes waiting for our turn, too. Currently, we have to walk circles because Sabra won’t stand still when she knows it’s showtime.

I guess the point is, I’ve inadvertently trained a horse that already tries really, really hard to be a workaholic. Like mother, like daughter? Regardless, I need to remember that maybe it’s not always about training your horse and reinforcing good habits every ride; sometimes it’s okay to teach your horse to bum around and just chill out, too.

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