KEEPING YOURSELF IN THE SADDLE WHILE KEEPING HORSES AT HOME

My horse, Bear, and I enjoying a nice canter during a lesson on a warm February day out West. Even though I also kept Bear at home while living in Colorado, we regularly trailered off the property for instruction.

Every time I get on a horse, I have to refrain myself from squealing with delight! The experience of borrowing the horse’s power, speed and athleticism is exhilarating. Feeling their warmth, their movement and their individuality when mounted is a singular experience. Like most equestrians, I definitely have my own personal preferences on breed of horse, size of horse, and the type of saddle I most enjoy riding. But I have dabbled in several disciplines and when you get right down to it, the thrill is largely the same. Doesn’t matter if the horse is my own horse, my friend’s horse, lesson horse, rescue horse, horse from a trail string, humble pony, fancy Friesian or a mule! Sitting on ANY equine is a privilege.

Backyard horse-keeping is not all about riding though. In fact for me, it is mostly about not riding. I spend much, much more time caring for my horses and being on the ground with them than I do on their backs. Good thing that I very much enjoy that aspect of horse-keeping too! I love watching my horses from the house or hanging out with them in the pasture while they graze or while they take a snooze. Listening to them eat. Watching them take a roll. Grooming. Doing groundwork exercises with them. There are lots of ways to enrich our lives with horses (and us theirs) other than riding.

With work and family commitments as well as the daily task that come with farm keeping, it can be a challenge to find time and energy to ride. Without an indoor/covered arena or the ability to trailer your horse to one, the weather can play havoc with your riding plans during the time you do actually have free to ride. It can definitely be a struggle to stay in the saddle for the do-it-yourselfer.

Another impediment to riding can be isolation from other equestrians (or even non-equestrians for company) when you want to ride. Riding is risky and riding alone is more so. If that fact impedes your confidence, it can lead to tension in your riding. Tension in your riding can create problems in your horse who is becoming anxious because he feels your tension. Your horse doesn’t know why you are nervous and will need help in moving through that tension back to a state of relaxation. But if you are too anxious to notice your horse’s distress or are too tense to help your horse relax, the cycle of shared anxiety between you and your horse grows worse. At that point, your horse may start displaying behavioral issues. Even without a precipitating event like an fall or other accident, you have the perfect recipe for the avoidance of riding.

If you are considering backyard horse-keeping and find it hard to ride solo, think about how you can either avoid riding alone in the first place and/or increase your skills/focus when you do decide to ride alone. Having horses at home AND staying in the saddle are equally important to me. I constantly have to be creative in finding ways to ride even without support. It is not easy, but it is well worth the effort. My next post will be entitled “Ideas For Staying In The Saddle If You Struggle with Riding Alone”. Stay tuned!

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