There are certain times of the year when circumstances mean you can find yourself with either more or less time with your horse. December, August, and April are just a few that pop into my mind. Some riders find they have more time, and other riders have significantly less! It just depends on your unique circumstances and situation.
What is key to remember is that whatever side of the time conundrum you find yourself on, making the time with your horse count is important. Especially if you hope to continue to move forward in your training together. Can you really afford to lose a month of training – and set your momentum back to zero?
So, to help you get this all figured out and continue to grow and develop your skills as a rider, here are a few ideas on how you can make the most of your time with your horse. However much time that happens to be for you.
15 Minutes or Less
Oh yes, there is so much you can do in 15 minutes (or 5 minutes) with your horse. The key is to think about the time difference. My ‘go to’ training method when time is short is to focus on the groundwork. It requires absolutely minimal equipment – so no ‘getting ready’,
The key to making the most of time, especially when it is short, is to have a clear goal for what you want to achieve in that time.
Things such as a square halt, a turn on the forehand that remains in rhythm, working over some basic ground poles for coordination and suppleness, or rein back are just a few things that can be worked on and accomplished in a short period of time.
When you only have a few minutes, ask yourself the question “What can I ask my horse to do, while I’m on the ground beside him, that will move our training forward?”
15 to 30 Minutes
Now, for many riders, this may still seem like a bit of an impossible feat; we all know how fast 30 minutes can go by, right?! However, again, if you can become REALLY intentional with what you are doing, you can achieve so much in that time with your horse.
Now, a lot of what you do with your 30 minutes will depend on how your yard is set up… If you have to walk 10 minutes just to catch your horse from the field, well, that has to be factored in. If your horse is already in the stable or stall and waiting for you, you have a lot more options.
I find that the most effective way to train my horse in 15 to 30 minutes is through lunging. However, this is only effective if I have a clear focus for the session…
So, again, having a plan is key to making the most of this time with your horse. Think about it, if you can combine 10 minutes of groundwork (as your warm-up) with 15 minutes of lunging… You have just had a fantastic training session with your horse – and you still have 5 minutes for hugs and kisses ;)
30 Minutes to an Hour
Okay, so once we get to the point where we have a little more time, we can begin thinking about riding. Yes, you can ride if you have 30 minutes, however, I find that it usually ends up feeling rushed and stressed. Not a great feeling when we want to model being present for our horses! So, I prefer to wait until I have a little more time before I will actually tack up and ride.
Depending on the length of time I have, I will choose something relevant to focus on. Remember, you also have to allow for both your warming up and your cooling off.
This means that if I want to work on maybe canter or jumping, I will do these on the days when I do have a full hour. On the days when I have 40 minutes, I might rather work on lateral work, bending and suppleness, or contact. Things that I can do quite a bit of the work in walk and trot, which then means that the cool down and ‘aftercare’ won’t take as long.
Over an Hour…!
Finally, those special days when I have all the time in the world – well, sort of! These are the days I plan bathing, massage, walking together, a long luxurious groom… As well as riding and maybe some groundwork or lunging as well.
Alternatively, I find that these longer sessions are great for getting out of the arena and ‘exploring’ with my horse. There is no hurry, meaning that we can spend time ‘greeting’ any of the scary things we come across along the way. Unrushed and feeling calm.
I think all riders have a running list of ‘things I would love to do with my horse but need more time for’. The only way you will actually get to do any of these things is, again, planning in advance!
Planning Time with Your Horse
As I have been preaching for years, the only way that you will really begin to see improvements in your riding and your relationship with your horse is by becoming intentional. As I said at the beginning, we all have times and periods when our usual routine or schedule doesn’t apply.
In order to continue to move forward with your horse, make sure you are planning for these times, so that you can continue to develop with your horse.