Road weary parents tired and bleary-eyed may hear an oft repeated question drifting up from the back seat..."Are we there yet?" I feel like that right about now asking Mother Earth, Creator, or just the open sky..."Are we there yet, Spring?"
This winter has been hard, to say the least, for any horse rider trying to maintain fitness or keep their passion alive while being buried underneath layers of snow week after week. The wheels keeps turning and now the days will be longer and we just may finally get a chance to get out again! So, what now? Time to look ahead and start thinking about what we want to do with our riding. It's time to set some goals! Wait, backup, this is asking a lot, I know but slow it down and start thinking about the major factors that play into successful riding. Have you ever shed those Covid pounds? Nah, me neither. Need to get that budget together and start putting some schooling money aside? Same! So here are some areas to help you plan your spring into a successful summer season.
Budget. Those shoes don't pay for themselves and neither does new tack, memberships, entry fees, etc. Our recent barn planning meeting made me a bit dizzy with all the possibilities of what is out there, but I try to keep in mind that what I really want to focus on is schooling and a few shows in my area. I can pick a few a month and start a fund that is reasonable and won't hit my credit card.
Rider fitness. This is a tough one, because we're all so busy and it is easy to let this one fall off the priority list. I like to remember that I will never ask my horse to do more than I am willing to do myself. If that means getting on that treadmill (dreadmill) to get my cardio in so I'm not huffing and puffing after every canter then that's what I'll do. Start slow, and work your way up to cardiac fitness and also add weights and stretches to keep you supple and strong.
Time. Do you put in all the time and effort for others and forget about you? Of course you do! We all have times where work deadlines or family commitments have to come first, but calendar in some time to train. Talk to your trainer and see what you can do, if not every week then just an extra lesson or two each month. You don't need to go from zero to hero overnight, just add an hour or two when you can.
Trainer. Does your trainer support your goals? Do they focus on showing a lot, or are they a bit more focused on having you 110% ready before your public debut? A trainer's blessing or discouraging words can make our break our confidence. One attaboy from my trainer can give me a high that doesn't come from folding laundry. I need a trainer that is in line with what I want to do and then some, pushing me to work just a little harder to grow as a rider.
Stuff. Do you have what you need to make it out there? I mean boots, helmet, safety vest (yikes!) and most importantly the color saddle pad you want for cross country? Does that girth look a little stretched out and your reins a bit worn? Safety check your tack and replace what looks worn out, weathered, or broken. Go to secondhand shops in the area or online to get deals on items or save up for that big purchase (safety vest, helloo!) It is worth your head not getting smashed to spend the money to update when needed. Jumping your 1000+ lb she-beast over little sticks can result in some serious situations. Don't skimp!
Lastly, is it fun! Don't do what makes you stressed, miserable, or anxious. Riding our besties over hill and dale and little colored sticks should make you feel alive! Don't let an unreasonable goal set you up for too much too soon. Take a moment to assess what YOU want out of your riding. A sunset stroll from the barn? A few pretty ribbons? Exposure to eventing as a no stress volunteer? The answer is yes, do whatever it is that makes your heart happy.