We are all experiencing a very difficult time right now as barns have closed to the general public. We cannot ride our horses, or take our riding lessons. And this is usually the time when we are doing our homework to get ready for our show season.
We have entrusted our horses to the barn owners and essential staff. Some are getting ridden lightly, most are getting just turn out , daily grooming and care. This is where I give a special shout-out to the owners and staff, as they are working diligently and the horses seem very happy. When we look back on this time a year from now it will be a faint memory, as school and riding lessons will once again fill our day.
So now what?? Hopefully within the not-too-distant future we will be told that we are allowed to go back and ride our horses. Where do we start? How much will we be able to do? How soon can we start jumping? These are some of the questions I hope to answer with this article.
With all team sports on hold, most of our physical activity is pretty low. I just want to advise you to try to keep yourself in good shape. I have been participating in the Joe Wicks program daily. You will find it on YouTube. He has developed a little workout session for kids that are out of school and bored. He tries to make it fun, with various exercises representing superheroes, imitating animals etc. It's a good workout consisting of two 10-minute sets with a lot of shutouts to people around the world. He has nearly 1 million followers daily. I tell you I am in a good sweat when I am finished. I highly recommend it to keep yourself in shape. Remember you too are losing your riding legs!!!
Now what about our horses?? They are not on strict stall rest, so they are keeping a fairly low fitness level. Most of the turnout paddocks are either muddy, icy or still full of snow, so they're not running around playing as much as they could be. When we start them back I think it is important to remember that you do not want to make their muscles sore by trying to catch up on all that you have missed out on in 1 week.
I will definitely gear my riding lessons around bringing horses and riders back so that both horse and rider do not experience a lot of stiff and sore muscles. Generally a lot of walking and even some exercise for yourself at the walk, standing up in stirrups sitting slowly etc. When you trot take lots of walk brakes, light work at the canter in a light seat with frequent transitions and maybe not jumping the first week. A 4 to 5 day work week for both of you will be plenty.
Week 2 we can start to do a little bit more. Hoping to get them back to where they were, as far as bending and listening to your leg, but I feel we still have to take a lot of breaks in the middle. We can introduce some pole work and easy jumping by the end of week 2.
By week 3 we can introduce a little more jumping and start a little more solid program with more lateral work, transitions, extensions and getting them nicely submissive. And if all goes well week 4 we should be back to normal routine. If a horse has been totally off on stall rest, it usually takes six full weeks to get him back, but these horses have had turnout and some have had light exercise.
We also have to keep ourselves in mind!! You don't want to wake up the next morning remembering the pain of a riding lesson. I promise to not make you work without stirrups for more then 5 minutes the first week, 10 the second, 20 min the 3rd and maybe 30 by the 4th. Just think what you all have to look forward to.
I cannot wait until we are all back in the saddle again. Until then I think the horses don't really miss us too much!!! They all seem pretty content. Maybe this mental break will be exactly what we all need. Stay safe out there guys. If we all do our part to lay a little low for a while, maybe we can eradicate this virus.
Catch ya'll soon
When she’s not in the barn or the riding ring, this 21-year-old is studying social work at Laurentian University with the hopes of someday working with children or seniors. This year, Isabelle’s goal is to move up to the 1.10 and possibly the 1.20 in the A shows of the trillium circuit with Red, the horse she’s owned for six years.