Everyone has an opinion about the optimal horseback riding schedule.
What’s best for your horse? How many days per week are ideal? How long should you ride your horse?
If you ask 10 equestrians those questions, you’ll get at least 12 answers.
Time to face facts: there is no one size fits all riding schedule.
But I can share what I do and tell you why it works for me and my horses.
My Horseback Riding Schedule
I’m an adult amateur with a full-time job, and while I’m lucky that it’s quite flexible, I still have to put in 9-5 hours. I also have two horses: Niko, my younger competition horse, and Moiya, an older semi-retired horse.
Monday + Wednesday
I wake up around 7am to get dressed, feed the dogs and fix breakfast. I work from home, so I don’t have a commute (it’s amazing!), and that means I can log-on to my computer by 7:30am. On Wednesdays I have a standing conference call at that time, but otherwise I knock out some work before heading to the gym at 8:45am for my strength training workout. I’m back home by 10:30am, where I eat a snack, shower and then log back on to work.
I usually take a quick lunch break around 1pm to eat and walk the dogs, and then back to work until 5 or 6pm.
After work, I commute about 20 minutes to the barn. On Mondays, I usually ride Niko (my competition horse) and we work on the flat for about 20-30 minutes. Typically I work on relaxation, my position and transitions. Sometimes I’ll do work with ground poles if I have to set them up. Wednesdays are lesson days — usually I ride in a semi-private (2) or group (3-5) lesson that lasts an hour. Typically, these include jumping. We don’t usually do full courses, mostly singles and some related distances of 4-6 jumps.
I’m usually back home around 8 or 9pm to eat dinner, feed the dogs again and spend some time with my husband. I like to Netflix and chill a lot of evenings before bed to wind down from the day.
Tuesday + Thursday
I have a similar morning routine, but I don’t workout at the gym on these days so I’m able to get in some extra time with my husband in the morning and get some more work done (or hit the snooze button for an extra 15-30 minutes of sleep). I usually take a few 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day to do housework, like laundry or dishes. I still take my lunch break around 1pm (plus walk the dogs) and then back to work until 5 or 6pm.
These days are usually when I ride Moiya (my semi-retired horse) — we enjoy leisurely flat work or sometimes a short trail ride. Typically I ride Moiya for about 15-20 minutes, focusing on bending, stretching down and some lateral movements. Mostly, Moiya just enjoys some time to stretch her legs and get attention (she loves to be loved on!). Sometimes if I’m riding with friends on these days, I sit in the middle and watch a bit too.
Again, I’m usually home by 8 or 9pm for dinner and quality time with my husband.
I’m up again by 7 or 7:30am to get in my morning routine and a few hours of work before I hit the gym at 10am. I’m home again by 11:30am to shower and eat lunch before logging in some hours at work. I like to take a break around 3pm to walk the dogs, depending on the weather. Other than that, I’m pretty much solidly at my computer until 7pm or later.
I try to take Friday’s off from the barn, which allows me to spend some time with friends and catching up on housework.
Saturday + Sunday
Like most equestrians, I spend a lot of time at the barn on the weekends. I like to sleep in on Saturday, eat a delicious brunch around 9am and then do some chores around the house or catch up on work (usually writing blog posts, managing my Etsy store, etc.) until a light lunch around 12pm and then I head to the barn. On Saturdays I have a lesson, so I ride Niko again and typically do some jumping exercises. I like to take some time to really give Niko a thorough grooming and deep-clean my tack so I’m often at the barn until 3 or 4pm.
Sometimes my husband and I like to take the dogs to a park for a change of scenery on their walks, so we usually do that on Saturdays.
On Sunday, I attend church at 9am and we grab lunch on the way home (sometimes we eat out, sometimes not). I’m usually at the barn again by 12pm to ride Moiya. I also groom one or two horses for my trainer this day. I’m home by 4pm so that we can drive 30 minutes south to my in-laws for dinner and then we’re home around 7pm or so.
Taking Advantage of Flexibility
During the fall and winter, my full-time job tends to be a little bit slower and less demanding. A few times a month, I’ll usually take advantage of that and go to the barn mid-day (during a long lunch break). It helps me so much mentally to be able to ride when the sun it out and it’s the warmest part of the day! This usually means I end up working later into the evening, but it’s so worth it to me. Being able to take advantage of flexibility to create the best horseback riding schedule for me has been key to my happiness and success in recent years.
Summer vs Winter Horseback Riding Schedule
I compete and attend horse shows May through September, which means my horseback riding schedule in the summer is much more demanding. In order to maintain Niko’s fitness and mine, I spend more time in the saddle. To do this, I typically increase my ride time on Niko to 30-40 minutes per session, and I add an extra day or two per week (usually Fridays and/or Sundays). This means I ride 30-40 minutes 2-3 times per week and 60+ minutes 1-2 times per week.
I know a lot of riders spend a lot more time in the saddle. I’ve found for myself and my horses that shorter, more focused sessions work the best. I want to finish every ride having accomplished something positive and I generally avoid picking fights. Occasionally my rides do last longer if I’m having trouble accomplishing a goal, but that happens maybe once a month. Usually if something goes wrong and continues to go wrong, I’ve found it’s not going to get fixed that day. It’s best to try again later, with a different attitude and different game plan.
I’ve never found that my horses needed additional fitness either. This horseback riding schedule gets them fit enough to do what I want to do, and Niko’s fitness ramps up throughout the summer so that while in May he might be a little bit more tired after the horse show, by June he feels like he could ago another day!
Horse Show Riding Schedule
Of course when we attend horse shows, my horseback riding schedule completely changes and revolves around that. On those weeks I usually ride Moiya on Monday or Tuesday (taking the other day off to get in extra work) and then I ride Niko in a Wednesday lesson, followed by a very short 10-15 minute hack on Thursday. Friday we haul to the show where I lunge and school over the jumps, with Saturday and Sunday being horse show days. I take the following Monday to recover (and nurse my serious horse show hangover).
March is here and that means horse show season can’t be that far away!
You’re probably rolling your eyes at me as you look out the window and see some sort of ridiculously cold temperature and/or rain, snow, sleet mix falling from the sky.
It’s like that here in Central Ohio too. But this equestrian is determined to stay optimistic. Spring is coming and that means we’ll be in the show ring soon!
To pass the time between now and (what’s realistically probably early May), I’m getting everything I can ready for horse show season.
5 Steps to Prepare for Horse Show Season
#1 Routine Veterinary Care
I start every spring with a text to my vet to schedule a routine visit – my horses get spring shots and I always ask for my vet’s recommendation. Typically, my vet gives the Prestige 5-Way Equine + West Nile Virus Vaccine, which includes Equine Encephalomyelitis Viruses (Eastern and Western), Equine Herpesviruses (Rhino EHV-1 and EHV-4), Equine Influenza Viruses and West Nile Virus. This year I’m also adding a Botulism booster because my boarding barn plans to put large round bales out in the fields this summer.
To finish up the vet visit, I get a new Coggins test and this year Niko is getting a microchip so that he’s able to show at USEF-sanctioned horse shows.
My second text goes to the equine dentist – I like to use a specialist who comes for a large group of horses at the boarding barn every six months.
The next step is renewing all my memberships: USEF, USHJA and any local associations I decide to join. I also read up on new rule changes, to make sure I’m compliant (like getting a microchip this year).
I also review and get copies of all necessary paperwork for shows. Usually that includes a copy of a negative Coggins test, and a vaccination form completed by my vet. I keep all of this in Niko’s custom 3-ring binder so that it’s easy to find whenever I need it.
While you’re cleaning, make sure everything is in good repair and that you’re not missing any critical pieces of equipment. Bonus points if you can only find one of two reins for your show bridle.
#4 Check Your Attire
Next, it’s time to take care of you! Bust out your show coat, breeches and shirts. TRY THEM ON. If they’re a little snug, make a note to hit the gym and try to watch your diet so you can lose that little bit of winter chub you put on (no judgement – I do this EVERY. YEAR.)
If your clothes somehow shrunk while in hibernation, get to shopping!
Or maybe they’re just out of style, so you want new ones. Or perhaps you’ve got it in your brain that you want a fancy shadbelly because you’re hoping to show in Hunter Derbies this year. Either way, #treatyoself!
#5 Plan Your Schedule
Okay, now it’s on the GOOD STUFF. It’s time to plan your horse show season! I like to scour my local association’s website and horse show circuit social media pages to find all the options. I write them all down with dates and then cross off any I can’t go to.
If you work with a trainer and/or plan to attend shows as part of a group, check with others about their plans! Horse shows are always more fun with friends.
It’s best to do this part with pizza and beer in hand, but whatever you do, do NOT calculate the full cost of your entire potential horse show list. Instead, use last year’s numbers as a guide (in case your eyes are bigger than your stomach… like mine).
Last year, we had a record amount of rainfall here in Central Ohio. So far, the new year has kept that (terrible, awful) trend going with bouts of rain/mud and snow/ice. It’s made turnout for the horses quite challenging, and riding an adventure. But I can’t control the weather, so I’m making due with what I’ve got — and things have been going much better since my last ride report (in which I fell off… more than once).
What my rides have been like lately, but at least I’m not getting squashed?
The theme of my recent rides is keeping the wheels on the bus. We’re doing a lot of flatwork, focusing on relaxation and suppleness, which have been elusive. I’m trying not to get frustrated with lack of progress on these “simple” tasks, and instead I’m thinking about all of the new skills I’m learning. I’m learning how to ride a distracted, somewhat spooky and sensitive horse — I’m learning when I need to lunge, when I need to go straight to trotting or when I can do a nice walk warm-up. In essence, I’m learning a lot about feel.
This is my dragon. He doesn’t breathe fire, but he does go REALLY REALLY FAST
This winter, I’ve learned about a whole new layer of horsemanship. It’s an abstract method, so it’s a bit difficult to put down on paper. Basically, it revolves around making the best decision(s) for you and your horse in any given moment. It sounds simple — but it goes a lot deeper than just making sure your horse’s pasture is safe or properly cooling out during cold temperatures. It’s being aware of your surroundings, being able to take in new information and adapting accordingly. While that’s not a new concept for me, the speed at which this now occurs and the number of small details it encompasses is.
You know he’s AMPED because he actually put effort into jumping a crossrail
For example, Niko used to do really well riding alone, in the quiet. I think it came from being a trainer’s horse when he first started his training — he was almost always ridden alone. So when I bought him, that was his comfort zone. Now, he’s much more used to group lessons and enjoys have more going on around him while he works. He’s actually more spooky when we ride alone and it’s quiet. So to keep the wheels on the bus, I’m taking more group lessons so that Niko has other things to focus on and keep his mind busy on productive tasks, instead of inventing things to spook at.
So while I’m not learning any super cool new things, I am learning a lot about my horse and how to be the best horsewoman I can. Not a bad way to spend the winter!
Setting up a horse budget spreadsheet can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these 5 steps to get your horse expenses organized and get rid of financial overwhelm in your equestrian life.
Time and time again, equestrians tell me the two biggest obstacles they face in this sport are time and money. As adult amateurs, we have full-time jobs, families and friends to juggle, along with our equestrian lifestyle. While I haven’t figured out how to grow a money tree (yet), I can tell you that budgeting helps the money you have stretch farther — and aligns your finances with your goals.
Creating a budget has helped me take control in my equestrian (and personal) life so that I never wonder “can I afford this lesson?” or “how will I pay that vet bill?” It has helped me reduce my anxiety in both owning and competing my horse and allowed me to set realistic and achievable expectations and goals with myself, my family and my trainer. And you can do it too! Just follow this simple steps to create your own horse budget spreadsheet.
Creating a Horse Budget Spreadsheet
The best budgets set you up for success. To create a horse budget spreadsheet that works, you need to ditch the wish list and be 100% honest about how much money you’re likely to spend in any given category. This part is tough, especially because horses are expensive — the dollars add up quick. But don’t skimp here — there will be time for making changes and adjustments later. For now, we need to see where your money is going.
The goal for your horse budget spreadsheet is two-fold: (1) track expenses so you know how much your spending (2) set realistic spending goals that allow you to reach your equestrian goals without putting too much strain on the rest of your life.
I find that the best horse budget spreadsheet combines both a budget for each category of spending, as well as a place to track horse-related expenses throughout the year. I recommend using either Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to create your budget template, and to track your spending.
Determine Your Fixed Expenses
First, grab a notepad and list all of your fixed horse expenses. This includes anything that will not change month to month (or is highly unlikely to change).
For example, basic care of your horse is going to cost a generally fixed amount. Items such as board, hay, grain and bedding would all fall into this category.
Another example might include maintenance of your horse. S/he will require routine farrier care and veterinary care (such as vaccinations and teeth floating). Some equestrians also keep their horses on supplements, which usually don’t change much month to month.
You also need to include yearly expenses that you know will occur, such as insurance or association dues.
Determine Your Variable Expenses
Next, you’ll want to compile a list of expenses that can fluctuate each month. Sometimes, these line items might fall under some of the same categories as your fixed expenses.
For example, while you have a good idea of what routine veterinary care your horse will need, accidental veterinary care can be $0 one month and hundreds of dollars the next.
Other fluctuating expenses can include education such as training and lessons. If you attend (or plan to attend) horse shows, chances are those expenses won’t be every month.
And of course, equipment costs generally vary from month to month — and this should include everything from tack to stable supplies to riding attire.
Once you have your categories set, it’s time to start tracking your spending habits. In my horse budget spreadsheet, I list all of my fixed and variable expenses in the first column, followed by columns for each month and finally a yearly total.
I also broke out my line item expenses into categories. For example, my first category is “Basic Care” and this includes Board, Hay and Additional Services. I board my horse so shavings and grain are included in my board cost. However, occasionally I purchase additional hay, so I left that as a separate line item. Similarly, sometimes I ask barn staff to do something extra for me (like turn my horse out on an off day or hold for the vet).
Then for each category, I have a monthly and yearly total. This helps give me a broader view of my spending habits and where I can (or can’t) make changes.
Sometimes it’s useful to track your spending before you set a target budget amount for each line item, category or yearly total. If you have no idea how much you’re spending, it’s impossible to set a realistic goal!
Evaluate Your Spending and Set a Budget
Once you see how much you’re currently spending, it’s time to ask yourself if this is sustainable. Do you have enough income to support this spending every month? Every year? Or will you need to dip into savings, sacrifice big in others areas of your life or take on debt?
This part of the process is different for everyone: we all have different financial obligations outside of horses. Some people don’t mind never eating out at restaurants and are perfectly happy to sacrifice that to take extra lessons or buy new tack. Other people aren’t willing to do that.
Compare your ACTUAL SPENDING to your ACTUAL INCOME.
When I did this, I learned I had to make some changes in my equestrian life. I was spending a lot of money and I needed to spend less — but where could I do that? I decided buying less tack, attire and equipment was the best place to cut back. I started being more intentional in my purchases and buying used where I could.
Compare Expenses to Your Budget
Finally, now that you know what you’re spending and have evaluated where you want to spend more money or less money, it’s time to make a budget.
These are your financial goals.
Some people like to set monthly goals, some yearly. You should try different tactics and determine what works best for you.
I set monthly goals by category. For example, I allowed myself $50/month for new tack and attire. If I didn’t spend anything one month, it rolled over to the next. If I overspent in May, I tried not to buy anything in June. I tracked my expenses each and every month so that I wasn’t behind by the end of the year.
How my Horse Budget Spreadsheet Helped Me
By holding myself more accountable each month with my horse budget spreadsheet, I didn’t have that feeling of dread at the end of the year when I realized I’d spent too much. I knew which horse shows I’d be able to attend, and I wasn’t scrambling at the last minute trying decide if I could go or not.
I decided to make my education a priority, so every time I went to buy a new pair of breeches, I’d ask myself “Do I NEED these? Or would this money be better spent on a lesson?” Sometimes I’d buy the breeches, but I knew what I was sacrificing to do so.
Because I aligned my finances with my riding goals, I was able to accomplish so much more each year. And because I was informed about what things cost and how much I was spending, I didn’t have anxiety about a bigger than normal vet bill — because I’d planned for that.
You know how as people get older, they joke about having “senior moments” where they forget something important, totally space on a relative’s name, go on a wild tangent during a conversation, etc.? Well, I don’t have those quite yet, but I do have amateur moments. You know, those moments around horses when you just do something stupid for some inexplicable reason. These always turn out terribly, and my amateur moments last week were no exception. In fact, I had two days straight of amateur moments that led to my first TWO falls off of Niko.
Before we get to the details, a little background. The weekend prior to these incidents, I had a lesson. It was outside (the first time in months), and Niko was full of it. He was the hottest I’ve ever seen him and just pretty much blowing me off whenever I asked him to slow down. So we spent some time working on re-installing our brakes. I rode well during this lesson and we worked through Niko’s resistance. While it never got perfect, it did improve. After the lesson, Trainer mentioned switching Niko’s bit back to a two-ring gag that we’d used the previous winter to remind him that yes, a half halt does mean slow down and my aids aren’t just suggestions — they’re the law.
Right before I jetted off to the Winter Equestrian Festival, I planned to ride Niko two days in a row. The first day we were inside and while he was a little bit up and looky, it wasn’t anything I felt like I couldn’t handle or was out of the norm. Niko tends to be a little bit spicy after a few weeks in the indoor arena, plus it was the evening (he’s quieter if ridden during the day) so I hopped on and put him to work to get his attention focused on me. I hadn’t been on more than 10 minutes before something spooked him and he bolted. I get left behind and pulled pretty hard — he started to rear a little bit (I suspect because he felt like he had no where else to go, more on that later) and spun slightly to the left and I hit the dirt.
The next day I was able to get out to the barn a little bit earlier in the day and planned to ride outside. It was windy, but I figured we’d ridden in the wind before and it was no big deal — plus I lunged before getting on. Niko was a little tense, but doing okay until his BFF who was riding with us spooked and bolted. Which made Niko bolt… wash, rinse, repeat from the day before.
Of course the next morning I flew to Florida and had a good, long while to ruminate on my falls and why they happened. I usually feel like my falls are a consequence of a series of unfortunate events and/or decisions. These cases are no exception. I’m still not quite sure what spooked Niko on Day 1 — I don’t think there’s much I could have done about that. I do think that because that was our first ride in the gag bit he was surprised by my pulling, which caused him to start to rear. I probably pulled harder on the left rein, causing him to start to spin. If he had just bolted straight, I might have been able to stay on… but who knows. After that I made good decisions — I did get back on, but was pretty shaken up so I opted to have my BFF get on to help. She rode him really well and they ended on a positive note.
Day 2 was much more my fault. Basically? I was an idiot and didn’t listen to any of the signs. When I lunged, Niko was spooky and hot and he never truly calmed down before I got on. It was also really windy (not just a little bit, but very gusty). I should have hung up my pride and said “today’s not going to be our day,” but instead I was so focused on making sure I got back on the horse that I forgot everything else. This time, I got back on and was able to finish the ride myself.
Since then, Niko and I have had a few productive rides (where I stayed in the saddle!), so I’m definitely feeling better about things. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much for having a few amateur moments — they happen to everyone, right? — and let bygones be bygones.
Even though I’ve been an equestrian for several decades, I’ve never been to the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. I’ve ogled photos on social media, read articles online and daydreamed about it… but I’ve never seen the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center for myself. Until now! Last week I took mini-vacation to Florida and stayed about 45 minutes north of Wellington. After a little bit of pleading with my husband, he agreed to take a day trip to the Winter Equestrian Festival!
Winter Equestrian Festival: First Impressions
We took the Florida Turnpike to get to WEF — it was about a 45 minute drive and we exited at Lake Worth Road. Driving into the town of Wellington, you can tell it’s a nice area: the grass is brilliantly green and lush, the houses are immense and you start to see pastures almost immediately. Throughout the town, there are big signs pointing you towards equestrian activities (and other things, but let’s be honest, the horses were all I noticed). We passed a number of small shopping plazas with restaurants and stores, including The Tackeria, Wellington’s premier equestrian consignment shop.
Exiting at Lake Worth Road allowed us to drive right past all of the big equestrian venues in Wellington: the International Polo Club, Wellington Equestrian Club and more. This area, right at the entrance to the International Polo Club (which is the first big equestrian venue you come upon) has a very prestigious “you have arrived” type of feel — the road is flanked by a HUGE open grassy area with flags from around the world lining the drive. It’s very impressive!
Once you hit this area of Wellington, the equestrian center, there are dirt paths all along the roads for horses to walk from their farms to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center itself. I hesitate to even call them dirt paths because they are meticulously groomed and well-cared for. We saw a few horses walking down them and it was pretty cool to see these horses and riders, usually in full horse show attire, just walking along a main road. Definitely not something I see back home!
Winter Equestrian Festival: The Showgrounds
The spectator entrance to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (located at 3400 Equestrian Drive) was a little bit smaller and more unassuming than I thought it might be (probably because of all the years I’ve spent of building the place up in my mind). We parked right near the entrance and while I had absolutely no idea where I was going, I saw some rings with horses right away and pretty much died of excitement right then and there.
We spent some time just walking around, getting a feel for the place… which is absolutely immense. You almost don’t quite realize just how large PBIEC is because everything is close together, but when you stop and look around and realize you can barely count the number of rings because there are so many, it hits you. I’ve never seen a place with so much going on! You barely have to walk 20 steps before you hit yet another ring (no matter where you are). Not only are there a ton of show rings, there are a million warm-up rings. Knowing which ring is which would take me at least a month.
Throughout the facility there’s low, blackboard fencing which reminded me immediately of home and where I show at Brave Horse. The footing is the same too — that fancy GGT, specially-engineered footing with strips of fabric in it that feels like a cloud. The really cool thing about the facility are all of the pathways: they have wide, dirt paths for horses (and golf carts, but those aren’t allowed on the busier, main pathways) and then paved walkways for people. It seemed excessive at first, but it really helped with the flow of traffic during peak show hours.
Winter Equestrian Festival: Food and Shopping
One of the biggest differences I noticed compared to other rated horse shows was the sheer volume of food vendors and shopping. The Winter Equestrian Festival isn’t just a horse show — it’s an experience. It’s clearly designed for spectators, with tons of food and drink options and tons of shopping. And it’s not just food or shopping… it’s high-end food and shopping. The food is a little bit pricey (to be expected) but there’s also lots of healthy options and not just your typical food truck, greasy food. Pretty much near every ring, there’s a food vendor or two. Plus around the main, FEI grandstand, there are legit, sit-down restaurants.
The shopping is intense. There are booths everywhere, but they congregate in two main places: around the big, FEI grandstand and “The Oasis” which is rows and rows of shops. If you need or want something specific, or want to customize anything, WEF is the place to find it. Custom Hadfields bridle? Custom Essex Show Shirt? Custom bit? You can literally walk 10 steps and get all of those things easily. You won’t find any bargain hunting or good deals, but it was amazing to see all of the high-end brands in person and realize that if I had a vision in my mind, it could become reality here.
Winter Equestrian Festival: The Horses
I prepared myself to be awestruck by the quality of horses. I was prepared to feel like “oh my god, I’d never be able to show here because I’d totally embarrass myself.” The horses were nice. I watched a tiny bit of the jumpers and a decent number of children’s hunters and amateur owner hunters. The horses all had lovely gaits and were exceptionally well turned out. The riders rode well, but of course some horses had off days and some riders made mistakes. If you want to pit yourself against the best in the country, the Winter Equestrian Festival is the place to do it. But, I was surprised to feel like Niko and I wouldn’t look sorely out of place. Would we place? Probably not. I’d put myself and Niko in the bottom 1/3 or maybe bottom 1/2 of horses and riders there, in terms of my abilities and Niko’s quality. All things considered, I was actually pleasantly surprised by that thought!
The one really cool thing about the horses at WEF is the star factor. I walked less than a foot away from Remarkable, Scott Stewart’s winning mount from the 2014 Pre-Green Championships. I saw Tori Colvin’s stabling area. I pretty much fangirled the entire time I walked around. All of these amazing riders I read about were right in front of me!
If you’ve never been to WEF, go. The weather is beautiful, the grounds are fabulous and just spending a day (in the dead of winter) watching beautiful horses and riders go around is good for the equestrian’s soul. Be prepared to fangirl and spend too much money on food. Enjoy the shopping and buy at least one thing to remember your trip by. Walk around all the rings, because there are some truly cool spots to watch rounds and warm-ups. But most of all, just go!
I’ve written down goals ever since I first began this blog back in 2013. I’ve done different variations of reviewing those goals — sometimes quarterly, sometimes once at the end of the year. But this year, after completely changing my mindset, I’ve decided to not make any riding goals.
Many equestrians (especially equestrian bloggers) are very goal-oriented. Most ambitious adult amateurs enjoy having things to work toward throughout the year. And I get that — I really do. I used to feel that way myself.
So, why am I not making riding goals this year?
Because I don’t have anything I need to accomplish. And I don’t want my equestrian life to revolve around checking boxes on a list.
I’m very goal-oriented — I get tunnel vision when I have tasks to complete. I’m great at focusing on small, specific details and getting shit done quickly and efficiently. But when I fail to meet deadlines, I feel like I’ve failed. If I’m approaching a deadline and my to do list seems insurmountable, I get stressed out.
So when something goes wrong — a training hole needs to be addressed, an injury requires rehab, etc. — and my goals don’t get accomplished for reasons I can’t control, I feel like I’ve failed. I know it’s stupid, because the truth is so much happens in life (especially life with horses) that’s out of our control… but the fact remains it’s hard for me to see a long to do list of important stuff that didn’t get done.
That’s one big reason I’m not making any riding goals in 2019.
Another reason I’m not making riding goals
The other reason is more… existential. I’m on this journey with Niko, and it’s not a picture or one moment in time. It’s a video of ups and downs, twists and turns. And I want to be on this journey, and I want to enjoy it, wherever it leads me.
The truth is, I love riding because of the connection I create with my horse. I love taking riding lessons because I love to learn and improve. That amazing, overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude happens to me when I complete a course of jumps or when Niko snuffles my hair. I love learning how to ride a jump course or perform a leg yield or balance my horse using only my upper body.
For me, it doesn’t really matter what I do or when I do it. It matters that I’m learning and growing my relationship with my horse. So this year, I won’t be setting any goals or writing any goal reviews. Instead, I’ll be spending that time in the saddle, enjoying the view and learning anything and everything I can.
Somehow it’s the end of the year already. It seems that years move both incredibly slowly and incredibly quickly — on one hand I remember last December so vividly, but it also feels like a lifetime ago. Maybe it’s because so much has happened, yet it all feels like it was meant to be… like I’m at the exact place I should be. If that makes any sense at all (which it probably doesn’t because I haven’t finished my coffee yet).
January + February
I’d just purchased a new (very young, very green) horse and I was spending a lot of time learning how to ride him in January. It was a big adjustment for both Niko and I… one I didn’t handle super well at first. But I remained positive and learned a ton about the basics of baby horses.
We spent a lot of time just getting to know each other. I worked on following Niko’s movement and trusting him more, which was my big takeaway from our clinic with Armand Lacayo. And the more I rode, the more our connection improved — we were learning to communicate!
Technically, I wrote about our first horse show in June, but it happened the last weekend of May. It was all about seeing how Niko handled a new situation and he CRUSHED my expectations. We even walked into the show ring and completed a warm-up course (trotting 2′ fences, BUT STILL), which I remember not even thinking was a possibility when we hauled up to the show a few days before.
On the riding front, Niko and I continued to slowly and thoughtfully improve our partnership. We jumped more jumps, worked on transitions and adjustments on the flat and learned to trust each other. At the end of the month we went to another show, and competed in an entire 2’3″ hunter division — Niko was amazing, I rode pretty well and we earned our first blue ribbon and our first tricolor, getting Reserve Champion! I was ecstatic and honestly, to this day, it still sounds like a dream!
Why yes, it DOES get cuter!
Mid-summer is always busy at the barn, and we attended two shows. The first was New Vocations Charity Show, which is one of my favorite shows each year. I have a lot of history with this show, and it didn’t disappoint. Niko and I moved up to 2’6″ and it was GREAT. Niko really stepped up and helped me out, despite my nerves. We ended up only showing one day, but finished with Champion in our 2’6″ Hunter division!!
Just two weeks later we were back at Brave Horse, and while we didn’t continue our winning trend, we did show at the 2’6″ height and on the second day I finally grew some lady balls and did the correct striding (aka going “fast”). We didn’t place, but I learned SO MUCH and it was a great, confidence-building experience for both Niko and I.
Our final show of the season was a lot more learning, but the BEST part was on Saturday we had a huge cheering section: my parents, in-laws, barn manager, Niko’s vet and clinician Armand Lacayo (who we’d ridden with over the winter) we ALL there and watched me lay down the BEST over fences round I’ve ever ridden in my entire life. It was amazing and left me so overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people and the little horse that made it all possible <3
September + October
After show season was over, Niko and I took a much needed break. We spent about a month getting fat and lazy, only riding once or twice a week. And I filled the blog with a fun little Behind the Stall Door interview post.