Hopefully after this strange and stressful spring we have all been reunited with our horses now and everyone is adjusting to the new “normal” as we figure out a way to adapt to the threat of Covid-19 while enjoying summer fun at the farm. How’s it going at your barn? Depending on where you live, what kind of program your barn runs, and what the physical set up looks like, I hear the situation varies greatly from barn to barn.
Many people have asked how we coped with coronavirus restrictions at the barn where I board and I’m happy to share, but with one major caveat: what works at our barn may not work for another. Every set up is different and barn owners / managers have to figure out the best way to protect themselves, staff, boarders and students. I board at a small, private barn. There are no beginners, no kids, no group lessons, and no difficulties in maintaining physical distance from others at all times. Here’s how it played out from March until now:
Phase 1: Lockdown
Like many stables in Ontario, ours followed the recommendations put out by Equestrian Canada and Ontario Equestrian, allowing only essential staff on the property initially. The majority of boarded horses there are in a full training program so they continued to be groomed and worked lightly 4-5 days a week by staff during the lockdown. The retirees and those not in training enjoyed a vacation with plenty of turnout. Staff provided photos and videos to owners several times a week, and kept us updated via a private Facebook group and weekly group video chats.
Phase 2: Weekly wellness checks
When it became clear that the restrictions were not going to end after the first month, our barn owner decided to allow boarders once a week wellness checks with our horses as part of the essential care the animals require. These were held outside only, with no access to the barn, rings, or other facilities. One-hour visits were strictly scheduled with gaps between each visitor to prevent overlap, and detailed protocols in place for hand and car sanitizing, glove use, the use of our own leads and grooming equipment, and an outdoor dropbox for safe delivery of medications, supplements, and other supplies. Grooming in the paddocks and hand grazing in designated areas were allowed on days the weather and horse behaviour permitted; riding and lungeing were not.
Phase 3: Return to riding
Whrn the solicitor general finally clarified that boarders in Ontario were allowed to access their barns and to ride their horses, we were ready. Our trainer and barn staff had been drafting schedules and protocols for weeks, hoping that we would soon get the green light to resume riding.
Boarders were allocated 90 minutes total on the property, including grooming, tacking up, riding, and untacking. Gaps were scheduled in between each visit to avoid more than 5 people being on the property at once. Other restrictions included a maximum of two visits per week per boarder, all tack and equipment kept in boarders’ cars, and access only to the grooming stalls and the outdoor arena.
We had originally discussed grooming and tacking up outdoors, but with our grooming stalls located next to the double main doors and offering plenty of space and ventilation, the barn owner felt that would be a safer location for both horses and riders. We were meticulous about not sharing any equipment and about disinfecting the crossties and grooming stalls after each use.
Phase 4: Gradual return to “normal”
When the provincial government announced that riding stables and lessons were allowed to resume operations, not much changed for us initially. We continued with our established schedules for visits and private lessons, and continued using the outdoor ring only and restricting access to facilities in the barn. The barn added signage and implemented a sign in / sign out procedure to facilitate contact tracing in the event of an infection.
When the CDC issued updated guidance showing that transmission of the virus via touched surfaces is more difficult than previously thought, the barn owner opened up more facilities to boarders including the wash stall, tack room, our individual lockers and the indoor arena during inclement weather. These changes were easily and safely accommodated thanks to our barn’s unique set up. The wash stall is separate from the rest of the barn and has exterior doors nearby on three sides, allowing for plenty of ventilation. The indoor arena also has numerous doors and windows, allowing it to be essentially open on three sides. Our tack room is a large open space with full walls of windows on two sides, and individual hooks so that nobody has to touch any equipment other than our own.
Bleach solution, disinfectant spray and sanitizing wipes are readily available in all areas, and boarders are expected to disinfect any common surfaces that we touch. The barn staff is working extra hard as well, disinfecting counters, sinks, stall latches and other surfaces throughout the day to maintain a safe environment for everyone.
We still have a schedule, handwashing and disinfecting protocols, sign in / out sheets, and everyone maintains physical distance and uses their own equipment; I expect those changes are here to stay. However, with gatherings of 10 people now allowed in Ontario, we no longer have limits on the length of our visits or number of days we can come each week. It’s a small barn with a limited number of staff and boarders; on the busiest day in normal times we’re unlikely to have 10 people there at once. In short, it’s starting to feel like normal - or at least as normal as things can be right now.
How are things going at your barn?
I’m particularly interested to hear how those with group lesson programs, trail rides, camps, or beginner lessons are coping. Are you able to provide the physical assistance needed? Are masks required in those situations? How have you adapted your programs and operations to protect staff and clients while hopefully seeing revenue levels start to rise again? If you’re reading from outside of Ontario, how do your restrictions and regulations differ? What can we learn and share with each other? Let me know in the comments below.
If you've been to a Toronto-area dressage show in the past few years, you've probably noticed Jennifer Black and her Clyde / Hackney cross Brixton. At 17.3, his size alone makes him hard to miss. With few amateurs competing at the FEI levels, and even fewer of them doing it on a draft cross, the pair stands out from the crowd.
I've enjoyed watching this pair with amazement (and no small amount of envy) as they moved up the levels consistently year after year, conquering a new level each year. In 2018 they made their FEI debut at PSG and Brixton was named Small Tour Horse of the Year by Equestrian Canada. Last year they moved up to the I1 level and Jennifer was EC's Reserve Small Tour Rider of the Year.
For the last two years I have had the pleasure of boarding at the same barn as Jennifer and Brixton, and watching them train in person. And now it's my pleasure to introduce them to you!
Meet Jennifer Black
Horses: Brixton (2010 Clyde x Hackney gelding), Modern Art aka Momo (2018 Hanoverian filly)
When did you start riding, and specifically focusing on dressage?
I started riding when I was 6, doing pony club, then hunters, then eventing. I started focusing on dressage in 2013 after a 10-year hiatus from riding while I was in university. I knew I wanted to show and dressage was my way to do that.
Where did you find Brixton and how long have you had him?
I bought Brixton in 2013 from his breeder (Shady Maple Farm) as 2-year-old. I chose a draft cross because I wanted an A+ temperament, meaning if I couldn’t ride for weeks, I could get on and not die.
Who do you train with?
I started Brix under saddle on my own. I was looking around the internet and saw a video of Meredith Risk competing with a Clyde / Hackney cross named Jacob in the I1. I thought why can’t I do that? So when he was almost 4 we started training with Meredith at Nobleton Dressage, and we've been there ever since.
What were your goals then and how have they changed?
My initial goals were to give Brix a good foundation and hone my own dressage skills, and maybe get out to a few schooling shows. When I evented, dressage was something you suffered through to get to cross country. I knew there had to be more to it than that.
Once we started training and competing, my goal changed to seeing how far we could go together. And level after level he kept surprising me, and I kept surprising myself. Our first show at Training Level was in 2014 when Brix was turning 4, and we made our FEI debut at PSG when he was 8. I'm very proud of that progress. My personal goals now are to do a decent Grand Prix at some point, whether it’s on Brixton, or Momo, or another horse.
What is your competitive highlight so far?
My biggest highlight was probably the Saturday I1 at Angelstone last August. I rode a pretty great test (almost clean) and could have cried when I was leaving the ring. It kind of felt like it all came together and Brix tried extra hard for me. It was pretty special.
It's quite rare for an amateur to progress up the levels this far and this quickly, let alone on an "off breed" horse. What's the secret to your success?
Success is progress. Some days that’s nothing more than bending your left elbow and some days it’s getting a clean line of twos.
The biggest factors in attaining success for me have been having an excellent, supportive trainer, and clearly defined goals. Make sure you have a trainer who repeatedly produces the results that you want to attain, both in their own horses and with other amateur clients . Do you like the way the horses go? Do you like the way the trainer rides? Do you share the same philosophy?
You also have to ride as often as you can. Just keep showing up, even when it gets hard. You won’t get to where you want to be without putting in the work.
With respect to preparing for horse shows, watch the pros ride tests in person or on YouTube, including the lower level tests. You may not have the same fancy mover but there is a lot to learn, for instance how they ride their lines, and where they start their movements. It’s a wealth of information.
What have been the biggest obstacles / setbacks for you?
As an amateur, the biggest obstacles are always time and money. Not only does it cost money to care for a horse, and to pay for good quality lessons, training show fees and more, when I am riding, I’m not billing, so I’m not getting paid.
I’ve learned that there are actually enough hours in the day if you wake up early enough. Being super organized helps as well, and planning your day/week out in advance. I also find that riding and being around horses in general gives me the energy to do a great job for my clients, and to be organized at home (although my husband would like to have me around more). Inevitably you will miss social events and get home later than you’d like.
For competing, I save most of my vacation time for the summer so I can have days off before and after the horse show, which makes it less stressful. I am lucky to have a somewhat flexible schedule, and a trainer who will accommodate me. Also if I can’t ride, I know my horse is getting a good training session in with Meredith.
I have been lucky with only a few setbacks with Brix. I had one really bad test in July last year. About 50 people were watching and I could barely keep him from barrelling through the ring. We pretty much just rode the pattern and kind of did some of the movements. I let myself cry for 5 minutes, and then gave him two days off, and then rode the test in my first lesson back. I immediately felt better.
The biggest setback is that Brix currently has an injury. He is supposed to come back 100% but it is hard to lose the season (even if there is no show season due to COVID) and it will be particularly hard getting him in shape again.
What's the best advice you can offer to other amateurs with competitive goals?
My most important advice for amateurs is to (1) work with a good trainer and (2) just ride as often as you can.
Make the time, even if it means waking up at 4:30 am to get to work early so you can make it to the barn in time for a lesson. Don’t miss an opportunity to train if you can help it. And most importantly, enjoy and spend time with your horse; they’re not machines
.Writing for a number of equestrian magazines has given me the amazing opportunity to meet, interview, and feature some of my dressage idols. Almost all the articles I write are about professionals competing at the highest levels of the sport, or rising stars working their way onto the international scene. They are incredible and inspiring athletes, but not necessarily relatable to the average amateur on a budget, with a less than fancy horse, juggling to fit lessons, training time and shows in around work, family, and other commitments.
Amateurs like us represent by far the majority of dressage riders in Canada. Many of us will never compete any higher than First Level - if we even compete at all. We do the best we can with what we have, setting goals that fit our skills, budgets, and available time. If we meet our goals - whatever they may be - then we are successful and should be proud of our accomplishments, no matter how big or how small.
But what about the amateurs who aren't like us? Over the past few years, I have met some amazing Canadian riders who have impressed me with their accomplishments, whether reaching the highest levels of FEI competition or overcoming incredible personal challenges just to get in the saddle. I wanted to profile some of their achievements and their stories, so decided to to start a new blog series called Amateurs (Not) Like Us.
The first amateur in the series has inspired and influenced me personally, so stay tuned for the first installment, featuring Jennifer Black and Brixton. And if you know an incredible Canadian amateur with a great story to share, please let me know!
I try hard to keep this page a positive place, but every once in a while I see something that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s time to re-share this great blog called "Please don't suck when you go to the barn," from Jorna Taylor because, based on what I’m seeing out there, a LOT of people are really sucking right now.
So many posts and comments on Facebook, Instagram and horse forums complaining about barn schedules, rules, and restrictions - the schedules, rules and restrictions designed to keep the very people complaining about them safe!
Two weeks ago, a lot of us in Ontario didn’t even have access to our horses. Now stables here are open for boarders and lesson students alike. We should all be over the moon. Instead people are whining about what they can’t do and what’s not allowed, or bitching that Barn A is doing one thing and Barn B isn’t.
Everybody needs to take a deep breath and put themselves in their barn owner’s shoes. No two barns are alike; no single set of policies or recommendations is going to work for every barn. If your barn owners / staff are older, immune compromised or otherwise at higher risk for COVID-19, your barn will probably have more restrictions. If your tack room is tiny and unventilated, or if you don’t have grooming stalls or wash stalls with adequate physical separation from the rest of the barn you probably don’t have access to them right now. Maybe you’re keeping your tack in your car. Maybe you’re grooming outside. That’s ok.
Whatever policies your barn staff have put in place are for their safety and yours. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do have to abide by them for a while or find somewhere else for your horse to live. Their barn, their rules.
This is not business as usual and very little in our world is even close to “normal” at the moment. Maybe it never will be. Having even an hour of barn time feels like a vacation from the craziness of the past 2 months. It’s a privilege that should be cherished. Our horse time may not be perfect right now, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.
So please, even if you are feeling frustrated, cut your barn staff some slack. Appreciate their desire for caution stems from a desire to keep everyone safe. Think about the pressure and responsibility weighing on their shoulders, and how they would be affected both personally and financially should a disease outbreak be linked to their business. Instead of bringing them complaints, bring them a bottle of wine and say thanks.
Please don’t suck. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a province where barns are open, please enjoy your horses.
The province of Ontario has been under a state of emergency since March 17, 2020. And since that date, horse owners, riders, coaches, trainers, and facility operators have been in a state of confusion. Initially all indoor recreation facilities were ordered to close. Soon thereafter, all outdoor facilities - regardless of size and whether public or private - were added to the list. Equestrian Canada and Ontario Equestrian consulted with legal advisors and government representatives before issuing recommendations that under the state of emergency, riding facilities should close to boarders, unless boarders were providing essential care that couldn't be provided by barn staff. Furthermore, they clarified that "essential care" was defined by the minimum basic standards of care outlined in Canada's Equine Code of Practice.
Seems pretty clear, right?
Stables are listed as "essential businesses" allowed to operate in order to care for the welfare of the animals. They are included in the same category as aquariums and zoos, where staff are allowed to provide care, but customers / members of the public are not allowed on the property. And so the search for loopholes began. Are boarders actually members of the public? Some felt not. Is it essential for a horse's well-being to be ridden by its owner? Some felt yes. Does the five-person gathering limit mean you can have as many people on the property at once, as long as no more than five of them are gathered in the same area? Astonishingly, some people apparently think so.
There is a resource for anyone seeking clarification on which businesses can remain open and how they are to operate during this time - The Stop the Spread phone line. Several local barn
owners have called 1-888-444-3659 and the answer they received aligned with the EC recommendations: No boarders allowed on the property unless providing an essential service or medical care that can't be performed by barn staff. Feeding, mucking and turnout? Definitely essential. Hoof care and medical treatments prescribed by a vet? Essential. Weekly wellness checks by owners (if the facility is comfortable allowing it), could even be considered essential.
Seems pretty clear, right?
Other local facility owners have called the same line and the agent had no idea what the rules surrounding boarding barns should be. Some have received conflicting advice from the OPP, local by-law officers and their provincial MPPs. Our provincial and national sport governing bodies say they are advocating for us, but we have yet to receive one single, consistent, legally binding message about what is allowed.
Let's be honest - there are many people out there who simply won't believe the rules apply to them no matter what they say. While the laws are confusing, the overall message from healthcare workers and government officials has been consistent and crystal clear from the beginning: everybody should stay home as much as possible and only go out for essentials such as food, medication, and exercise / fresh air in your own neighbourhood. There is no reasonable way to stretch the imagination far enough to include group trail rides or lessons (and yes, these are happening) on a list of essential activities. I'm baffled by the people who believe the stay home messaging doesn't apply to them.
Action and answers
We need clarity and consistency as the provincial government builds a plan for gradually reopening businesses over the next few months. The best, most effective way to achieve that is for every facility operator, trainer or coach to communicate directly with their MPP. Our government members need to hear directly from the people who vote for them, and the message they receive must be clear: riding stables need to be explicitly included in the first wave of businesses allowed to re-open.
Here's what I suggest:
1. Email your MPP and cc the premier's office (List of MPPs and contact info here)
2. State your name, business name, location, number of clients and number of employees
3. Clearly outline the reasons stables should be specifically included in the first wave of re-openings.
Let's work together to create a clear, united voice and safely get back in the saddle.
Thought of the night (and a picture of my cute horse just for attention): not all of us are going to come out of this crisis ok. And I’m not talking about people getting sick or dying, although statistically, that will happen too.
There are a lot of wonderful stables, coaches, and lesson programs already hanging by a financial thread at the best of times, in order to keep costs down for students and clients.
Thousands of saintly school horses across the country still need to be fed and cared for, even as their facility’s income dries up overnight.
Boarders who scrimp and save every penny just so their horse can live somewhere with quality, trustworthy care may soon be forced to choose between paying board and buying groceries as work closures and layoffs spread across Canada.
Many barn owners and managers will keep feeding and caring for these horses, covering boarders’ and school horse expenses out of their own pockets even as their bills don’t get paid, because they don’t want the animals to suffer.
The financial support measures announced by our federal government will help, but are probably not enough for a lot of people.
What can we do as a group of horse owners and lovers? Besides paying our board and training bills on time (for those of us who can) I wish I knew.
At one end of the spectrum, we’ve got people wondering how to keep food on their own tables and hay in their horses’ bellies. At the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of very wealthy people competing in our sport, as well as working behind the scenes to financially support elite riders and competitions.
What about all the funds that would normally have been spent to get an army of Team Canada riders, grooms, and officials to the Olympics this year? Assuming the Games get cancelled, where does that money go?
Is there a way to redirect some of the funds that would have gone towards national teams, class sponsorship at shows, and elite rider support back into the grassroots of our sport in these extraordinary times? I have no idea what that would look like - perhaps an centralized emergency assistance fund managed by Equestrian Canada? An “adopt a schoolie” program where people could donate online to their local riding schools? I saw that idea proposed on Facebook and loved it.
Even in these trying times, many of us could spare $10 or $100 to help bridge the gap for those in need right now. And let’s be honest; many people involved in dressage could afford to spare a LOT more.
I don’t have any answers, only questions. As we hunker down for what may be months of restrictions, barn closures, and self-isolation, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can pull together right now. Hope springs eternal, right?
Self isolation- day 87.
Just kidding. Today is Friday. I’ve only been working from home since last Saturday and was last at the barn on Tuesday, but it FEELS like 87 days so far. If I’m not divorced or in jail facing homicide charges at the end of it for strangling my husband, please congratulate me. And I’m sure he feels the same! Losing access to my horse has made me much less pleasant to live with. At least his Mustang lives in the garage and he can take it out for a run every day.
It feels like such a first-world problem to whine about missing my horse, but I do. And selfishly, the one good thing to come out of this whole awful situation was the opportunity to fit a lesson in every day while working from home. I genuinely believe I was on the verge of becoming slightly less incompetent in the saddle. Oh well. There are bigger problems out there.
Aside from the whole global pandemic / threat of potentially fatal disease thing, there is the economic fallout to worry about. People in almost all industries except deliveries are being laid off and seeing their income dry up, while their bills keep coming in. This is particularly scary in our industry, where most equestrian facilities struggle in a good year just to break even. Horses still need to eat, shavings still need to go in the stalls, and hay isn’t going to suddenly get cheaper. Lesson income is now gone, and as more people face job reductions and losses, boarders will struggle to pay their bills. It’s a vicious cycle and I’m not sure where it will end.
The state of emergency rules in Ontario have equestrians confused and wondering whether their barn really needs to close to everyone except staff, or whether sensible hygiene precautions and social distancing are enough. I can’t say yes or no; all I can do is share today’s statement from Equestrian Canada which includes the following advice:
“EC and the PTSOs recommend that facilities that host equestrian-related activities only allow personnel needed to take care of the facilities and our equine partners on their premises. This includes facility owners, facility managers, equine caretakers, providers of equine-related essential services (e.g. veterinarians, farriers), and boarders or owners providing equine-related minimum standards of care*. Non-essential personnel, including students, friends, family, the public, and boarders or owners who are not providing equine-related minimum standards of care* are encouraged to remain off the premises.”
*For reference, by “minimum standards of care” they mean the essential, basic requirements as laid out in the Code of Practice for Equine Care. If you are in a self-care barn, or your horse has complex medical needs that can’t be met by staff, you might be the one needed to provide essential care.
The staff at the barn where I board is well-equipped to provide basic care and much more. Caprice is in excellent hands. Sadly for me, based on the recommendation above, there is no reason for me to be there right now, but the barn staff is doing their best to keep us all connected by sharing photos and videos of our beloved equine partners. I am so grateful for their hard work and care. Reducing the number of people entering the property and using the facilities will help keep those workers who have to be there safe.
So for now I’m like many of you - working from home, stress-cleaning and organizing closets, enjoying long walks with my dogs, day-drinking on a regular basis, and attempting to entertain my children. Pro tip: a Disney Plus subscription for the month is the best $7 I ever spent!
Anyone wondering what best practice for stables during these times are, here are some basic procedures everyone should consider implementing. The wonderful owner, trainers and staff at the barn where I board have put many of these measures in place to make sure we can all continue to enjoy our horses safely:
- limit the number of people at the barn at once (restrict visitors, postpone shows and clinics and eliminate group lessons)
- limit the length of time boarders and students can stay at the barn (staggered entries)
- no communal sharing or serving of food, beverages, serving utensils, etc.
- no sharing of equipment or supplies
- frequent cleaning of high touch areas with dish soap, water, and elbow grease, along with interim wipe downs with disinfecting wipes
- require everyone to wash their hands with soap immediately upon arrival, and to wipe down any communal surfaces they touch, such as sink handles, doorknobs, etc
- require anyone who has travelled outside the country, or who is in close contact with anyone who has travelled to stay away from the barn for 14 days.
- require anyone with symptoms of ANY illness, or those who live with someone with symptoms of any illness to avoid coming to the barn
- consider offering services such as grooming, blanket changes, lungeing, etc. if not normally offered, so that boarders who should be self-isolating don’t feel compelled to come and provide basic care
For most of us, the barn is a safe space, a little respite of sanity amid a lot of craziness. Let’s all help keep it that way!
Discussion time: The following quote came from a poster on the Chronicle of the Horse Forum, in a discussion about why so many amateur dressage riders never get past Second Level. For a lot of people it ultimately comes down to time, money, and other life priorities, and that’s ok.
The problem is when people want to progress, and invest the time, money and sweat in progressing, but still fall short of their goals. Why? Poor coaching? Lack of rider ability? Lack of horse talent? This COTH poster had an interesting perspective:
“[The riders] I refer to as the "yes buts". These are people who want dressage to do it their way. They don't want to do it dressage's way. The ones who want to go to a dressage clinic in a western saddle on a horse they trail ride 3x per week and expect the clinician to be overjoyed at the prospect of teaching them western dressage.
The ones who insist that literally every professional they see doing the sport in pictures is riding incorrectly, and that the only person they know who rides "like the old masters" is some kook down the road who "studied with Nuño", charges $75 to longe, but wont actually get on.
You're never allowed to bend the horse more than 3 degrees, or you're doing rollkur; you're never allowed to actually pull on the reins like you expect an answer, so you should just barrel around murmuring good pony good pony and hope that eventually christ will lay hands on the horse and it will start voluntarily offering a half halt that actually goes through.
They will spend yeeeaaarrrss doing the training level Olympics with these pros and it doesnt occur to them that they havent seem an actual half pass performed since the 80's.
They are so obsessed with lightness and harmony that they literally never apply an aid with enough expectation that they get an answer to progress past training level. Yes, at all levels the lightness should be feather light - but this happens because the horse knows he has to LISTEN to light aids, and isn't allowed to just ignore them for decades.“
I see a lot of this in real life, and even more of it online, where self-styled experts gleefully tear apart successful riders and coaches, despite having no track record of successfully riding, training or teaching up the levels themselves. They cling to some ideal of what “classical” dressage should be, often without any real understanding or experience in training. My coach is fond of saying “There is no such thing as ‘classical dressage’ and ‘competition dressage,’ just good dressage and bad dressage.”
There’s nothing wrong with riding at Second Level or below forever, if you are having fun. There’s nothing wrong with not competing at all, if competing doesn’t bring you joy. But if your goal is to progress, and you find yourself stuck at the same level with the same problems year after year, something has to change. It might be your mindset, your physical fitness, your time commitment, your financial commitment, your coach, or some
combination of the above.
Have you ever felt stuck in the “Training Level Olympics? What did you change in order to progress? Head over to Facebook and join the discussion already underway there, or share your thoughts in the comments below.
Wondering where I’ve been? Lying on the couch, complaining about winter, trying to lose the post-Christmas weight and feeling sorry for myself, mostly.
A couple of weeks before Christmas I had a very minor (I thought) accident in which a sleepy horse got startled in the cross ties, (not his fault, poor guy) jumped up, and came down with his full weight on my foot. I was pretty sure right away that my baby toe was broken but wasn’t very concerned. It’s been broken before and back then all I did was tape it to the toe next to it, shove it into a boot and put up with a bit of discomfort for a few weeks.
However, this horse had winter studs and he landed on an area that contains a lot of very small bones. So instead of just strapping it up with ice and vetwrap, which is my go-to treatment for just about everything, I decided to be a responsible adult and go to the ER for an X-ray. The doctor said the X-ray was clear and sent me home with instructions to take Tylenol and ice it. “Perfect!” I thought. “I’ll be riding by the weekend! That was December 12.
This past Monday, February 3, I finally managed to put my tall boots on for the first time, get in the saddle and have an actual lesson. A short one, but still a lesson. Turns out my toe was fractured after all, and they missed it on the X-ray. Turns out a 1,000lb animal jumping on your foot causes a fair amount of soft tissue and nerve damage. Turns out 47-year-olds don’t heal as quickly as 17-year-olds. Who knew?
Anayway, I‘m back and it’s time to start focusing on some serious goals. In no particular order here they are and how I’m committing to achieving them:
1. Lose weight This one is important for my own health and the health of my horse. At the moment my two commitments to change are not eating after 8pm (my mindless snack window) and writing down everything I eat. Before Christmas I lost 5 pounds and at least managed not to gain it back, but haven’t lost any more, so it’s time toughen up.
2. Improve strength and stamina This one is off to a slow start with my injury but my commitment is to do something physical every day, whether walking to work, doing a yoga video, taking a Zumba class or going to the gym with my teenage daughter.
3. Worry less Although I have one of the safest, sweetest horses in the world, anxiety often rules my head when I’m riding (and in many other areas of my life lol). I still automatically check the amount of snow on the arena roof when I drive up, or get increasingly anxious as wind speeds increase. The mere thought of getting out of my comfort zone to a show, or a hack in one of our gorgeous fields makes me break into a sweat. So my commitment is learning some tools to help me turn off the “what ifs” and enjoy the moment instead.
4. Ride more. This one should be easy but it’s not. My goal isn’t to be excellent and I don’t have the drive, finances, time or energy needed to truly excel. But I do want to be competent and I do want to improve, which means getting my big butt in the saddle. My commitment is three rides a week, no matter what, even if I can’t always fit three lessons in around my work schedule. My part boarder takes lessons on the days I don’t, which helps ease the guilt about not making the drive to the barn as often as I’d like.
Will these commitments get me to my goal of competently riding a Third Level test? I won’t know until I try!
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.