Taken from the article in the latest issue of Horsemanship Magazine
What a year we already have ahead of us: with our planning and goal setting from the December issue, and our hacking preparation from the February issue – we are already set up for our best year yet with our horses.
Let’s take a look at what we can do in the last four months of the year to keep up our momentum – and do even better.
In this article we will look at what we can do in September, October, November and December to have our best year yet…
“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
– Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885
What a wonderful September lies ahead: with all the hacking advice from our last article, we will be ready for some of the fun rides that will take us into beautiful places in the lovely autumn sunshine. So here are our tips for having your greatest September:
Sign up for some fun rides: one each weekend will keep you busy! On the first one, go with reliable friends (the ones you have practised your hacking games with) and plan to be the last group leaving. This way you can focus on enjoying the experience without worrying about anyone overtaking you. If you chat to the organisers they are usually happy to help you with this. Then, in the next fun ride you can be earlier in the running order and build up your confidence through the month
Fun rides are a great way to ride in places that are usually out of bounds. This September (2015) there are already rides planned for Okeover Park in Staffordshire, Burghley – where you can ride alongside the four star cross country course and Badminton. Most of these rides are sponsored or fundraising, what a way to celebrate your horse AND raise money for a good cause.
If you get four good run rides under your belt in September, you can call yourself a VERY happy hacker!
“There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir: We must rise and follow her, When from every hill of flame She calls, and calls each vagabond by name.”
― William Bliss
October is when autumn really takes hold. Crisp weather, cold bright days… what a month for riding. This month is the perfect month to:
- Start hacking out alone: just you and your horse out on those days where you can see your breath, nothing beats it. If you have played the hacking games where your horse is used to others going out of sight, you can also build up his confidence riding out alone. After all, he isn’t really alone – he is with you, isn’t he?
- Take a beach ride! Most beaches are now available for horse-riding, and without having to worry about heat, or sunstroke, this is the perfect month for exploring this wide open space. Go with a coach if you want support – or just a few good trusted friends and you will have the time of your life. Remember to start slowly, allow your horse to get used to the new environment – and on day 2 or 3 of your visit you will be having a great time, both of you.
- Do something new: take your horse to a show, or a clinic (one of the clinicians you went and watched earlier in the year) and do something completely different. Try a western horseman, a classical master or something more relaxed like a Trec workshop. You and your horse have a foundation by now to get the most out of these experiences.
“So dull and dark are the November days.
The lazy mist high up the evening curled,
And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze;
The place we occupy seems all the world.”
– John Clare, November
November is when the weather starts varying, the nights draw in and many of us with horses get frustrated with our lack of horse time. Don’t despair! Everything we have done up to now means we are set to have a good winter this year, and we can have fun and make progress whatever the weather – and we don’t even need daylight and dry weather to do this!
This month, think about taking up something that doesn’t require having a clean smart horse for tacking up: try Horse Agility! These events are often held during the winter in indoor arenas and are a great way to work on building your horse’s confidence, meet other people and get out and about during the winter months. Most Horse Agility trainers plan themed events, so Halloween, Bonfire night and Christmas are all excuses for building some creative obstacles and dressing up!
Another thing to try this month is Liberty play: using your experience from horse agility you can create an obstacle and without even unrugging your horse, you can spend thirty minutes in the field playing with it. This keeps your horse mentally sharp, builds your relationship, and can be done with little preparation even in a damp field. If you have an arena or school, you can do this too: using your relationship, and rewards like scratching itchy spots or treats, you can have fun and enjoy your horse on the cold damp days of the month.
Learn new things: the dark evenings are a great time to read books, watch DVDs or get groups of friends together for study evenings. You could learn about positive reinforcement, learning theory, confidence building, classical riding – almost anything if you find the right resources!
The cold is coming.
December’s winter solstice.
Start of the season.
~Robert Pettit, “Winter Solstice”
Let’s be honest: with Christmas coming up and the shortest day, not many of us have much time with our horses this month. So why not do what a friend of ours does and just give yourself and your horse’s a rest this month? The horses will appreciate the break, and while the occasional horse agility or liberty session, or short hack on the sunny days will keep things tuned up, don’t stress about doing too much this month. If you have been following this series you will have done plenty this year already – and it will have been your best year yet.
December is the time to think seriously about winterproofing your lifestyle: what can you do to make life as easy as possible this winter? I am sure Horsemanship Magazine will have some tips about that nearer the time!
Maybe instead of stressing about how little time we have with our horses, we can relax, give them some time off and instead, think about is how we can do the same next year – how can we take what we learned THIS year, and make NEXT year the best year yet?
Here’s a question for you: What went well this year?
Make sure we track what worked for us this year, so then we can do these things AGAIN next year! Write them down before we forget, and we will increase our chances of having another great year in 2016
Here’s the other thing: think about what got in your way this year? What stopped you from doing things? Was it confidence (yours or your horse’s)? Was it knowledge? Skills? Experience? Friends to do things with?
If we spend December identifying what the obstacles were, we can make a plan for tackling these ready for next year. We can work on confidence, increase our knowledge, practise our skills and build our experience…
And make EVERY year, our best year yet!!!