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Sunday, 12 April 2020

6 Equestrian Things To Do During Covid-19

The UK is very much on lockdown with no competitions taking place, arena hires aren't possible and there's zero face to face coaching happening. Travel is only for essential purposes, which according to BHS guidelines includes a primary carer travelling to/from yards to look after your own horse so many livery yards with only full livery horses, have temporarily closed. Whether you're usually a competitive professional rider or someone who enjoys just a casual hack out a couple of times a week, equestrian life has temporarily changed for us all, and in my opinion post about equestrian life during Covid-19 I shared how I felt about it all... But no matter how differently we all feel about the current situation, we'll all have more time on our hands than usual, so here are 6 things that can keep you busy for the time being.

1. Get washing!

You'll be surprised at how much stuff you'll have that really could do with a wash, & I don't only mean your horse's rugs as they'll probably have to wait until the lockdown is eased, but take a look into your tack room because there will be HEAPS that you can get cleaning!
  • Saddle pads
  • Grooming brushes
  • Horse boots...& rider boots
  • Winter warmers - jackets, hats, overtrousers, wellies, gloves, coveralls
  • Tack including all those extra bits (literally) & pieces that sit forever at the back or bottom of some storage unit
  • Towels, bandages and wraps
Honestly, I've been through this list and you'll find plenty to keep you going! 

2. Work on YOUR Weakness

How many times do we sit in the saddle and think about what we want to improve about our horse, ready for the next competition or before our upcoming planned training session? And...how many times do we get into the saddle and think only about our own? Well, I definitely get suckered into this all year round...

Without spiralling into a doomed view, have a think about your own habits that annoy you most when you're riding. For me, I have three - sitting to the right with more weight down my right seat bone, my flexibility to turn to the right (think about checking behind you to the right when out hacking), and sitting tall with softer, relaxed shoulders. 

All three of these can be worked on in or out of the saddle. So spend a little time each day just focusing on a way to help you improve the things you really want to.

3. Make a checklist

We all have stuff that we don't need, so make a checklist of everything you need, and maybe break it into three - every day, competitions & wagon, and rider. Then spend some time going through ALL your equestrian items and mark them off against your list. If you have more than one, tick it off as many times as you have it...& if you come across anything you don't need, pop it to one side on a separate list.

If most of you are like me, this task will take up a good amount of time! 

Now, look down your checklist and highlight what's missing. Wait a sec, don't rush out and buy it, because, you can now also look down your list and identify plenty of "extras" or things that are surplus to your checklist. In there, you can decide if you want to sell things. Facebook marketplace & local equestrian groups on there as a great way to sell the things you no longer need or use, and it's a great way to put some extra cash towards the things you need. You might even find some of the things you need on Facebook too!

4. Spring cleaning...

I already suggested washing everything in sight, but you can also do some extra spring cleaning tasks around the yard, starting with your horse. Give your four-legged friend a good groom - it's a great time of year to get the moulting hair from any unclipped areas, but I've also spent time pulling (well, solocombing) Louie's mane, clipping out his ears and fetlocks, pulling (close shave!) his tail, and taking the scissors to his bridle track and have taken an inch from his tail. 

But there's still some more to go on my list...cleaning out my cupboard, rug storage box, feed bins, and taking all the cobwebs and dust from around the stable. So one evening that I've got some spare time, I'll tackle those ones too. 

How about your trailer or horsebox? Make sure you give that a good cleanout. Never do we have time to clean every inch of it (unless you're Andrew who keeps ours in tip-top condition 100% of the time!)... Make sure you replace anything where possible that doesn't look quite right and make a list of things that you'll need to do once lockdown is eased. Don't forget to keep giving your horsebox or trailer movement to prevent breaks ceasing and tyres cracking from sitting still for a long duration.

5. Do some horsey homework

So, there are two categories for this...with no different outcome! 

If you're continuing to ride, make each session valid but accept you have longer, so take a look at some exercises you can be working on in the school whether on the flat, over poles or over jumps. Try to pick ones that help you work on your horse's current level of ability, but also start taking some small steps to push on. There are some coaches offering virtual sessions, either by recording or a live video call, so if you can & it's available to you, then check-in once in a while with your regular coach to make sure you're progressing correctly.

For those who are taking a break from riding right now,  you can spend time doing exactly the same, but just without riding. finding exercises, tips and suggestions so when you do get back onboard, you have a plan of action to help you get back into it. Don't forget there are also many exercises that you can do over poles on the lunge, or even starting desensitisation around some more spooky items. Long reining also looks to be proving popular & it's not something I have ever done but one to consider when you're not in the saddle for a sustained period.

There are some fantastic training videos coming from some great riders on Facebook and YouTube - I've recently started to follow the videos that Hayley Watson-Greaves on Facebook for some really easy to try exercises. I also regularly check-in with my 101 exercise books, as well as How to Dressage's Big Book of Dressage Exercises. I'm also spending a few minutes occasionally looking at the dressage tests we'd like to aim for, taking note of the movements required and starting to look for ways to work towards them.

6. Support each other

There's no doubt about it that this Covid-19 lockdown could start to get lonely, especially if you live on your own, but also because let's face it, all of us horsey folk like to talk A LOT about horses. Don't forget, while you might be adjusting well, others may not, and they may not want to admit that to someone who is seemingly "cool" about the situation. 

So just keep in touch...our yard has a What's App group, and whether it's for the latest funny meme, video or gif, or more practical things around people needing to adjust their timing, everyone can get involved. We've even been treated to homemade cake left for us all when we arrive! 

If your coach is willing & you are riding, send them the footage of your sessions. Remember to cut it short to enable them time to watch it and to spend time giving you feedback as they too will be taking a pinch during this, so make sure you support them if they are open to coaching in this way.

Don't forget the smaller businesses too. We all love an online shopping spree, and usually, it can be easier to do to a large national brand and order everything you need in one go, but don't forget the smaller ones out there. Smaller businesses are going to find it tough with cash flow and are more likely to be the ones under strain during Covid-19, so while you've the extra time on your hands, shop around and look for the local equestrian businesses that you can support. Often it can be a bit daunting to send your payment with no real way to know whether they are still operating and worry as to how long your order will take to arrive. My advice is to simply drop them a message through their social media channels & talk to them (make sure you pick the social profile they are most active on, not the one you're are most active on!) I guarantee they will be hugely grateful for your support!

Of course, head over and check our the collections Laura has at Boudica Equestrian - she's recently added the luxury Finer Equestrian items to her ranges, the chic Honest Riders clothing collections, and is the first UK retailer of Sterling Essentials leather care products.

So there we have it, 6 equestrian related things to do to keep you occupied while Covid-19 keeps us all under lockdown. 

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