You May Be Home But You Are Not Alone ~
Harnessing The Healing Power of Horse Power
By CH Staff
Many horse owners find themselves in quarantine at home during this Covid-19 pandemic. These are challenging times indeed. Additional levels of stress in daily life caused by uncertainty and fear for the future, and health concerns for yourself and your loved ones all add up to restless nights. Inevitably this heightened worry for the financial and emotional wellbeing of our selves and our communities will take its toll on everyone.
For the horse owner that keeps their beloved equines in their backyard on a small property or on a farm, their presence can be a godsend to relieve stress for the whole family. Not only does their presence invite welcome outdoor activity with a purpose, their companionship can calm the spirit and bring solace to their human counterparts. If you are lucky enough to be home, but not alone, you can harness the healing power of horsepower for you and other family members, even if they don’t usually participate much in horsey life.
While horse lovers all welcome more time with their horses, the Spanish authorities in particular have mandated that horses not be ridden, but only worked from the ground, as a precaution against injury to the rider necessitating the need for medical attention. The decision to ride and train is at this point in time, in the USA anyway, a personal one. Whatever you choose to do, here are a few ideas for making the most of your horses at home.
Spring Cleaning ~ Ready. Shed. Go.
Exercise of any sort is a great way to reduce stress. As horse owners we know the bond created during grooming time is a boon for horse and human alike and grooming is gentle exercise that is extremely rewarding.
If your kids are home and your horse(s) is suitable invite them in for a supervised grooming session. You might be able to get hubby to help with ‘car washing’ the horse and what kid doesn’t like playing with water. Picnics on the lawn can follow, and outside fun activities like ‘picking up rocks/stones’ for a penny each, or for another prize can keep kids busy and provide a helpful activity at the same time. There are always plenty of chores on the farm that can be fun to do if you get creative.
Scrub out the water troughs and buckets, clean tack, wash out the grooming brushes, tidy up the tack room and think about repainting or staining the barn, power washing the stalls and cleaning windows and make general repairs to fencing etc.. You could even think about building a new paddock or run-in shed if delivery of supplies is available.
Don’t forget to take photos and post the fun you are having online, to keep in touch with friends and family.
As shows and clinic events continue to be cancelled the availability of training online becomes ever more useful. Mark your progress with short videos and photos as you go along so that you can fully appreciate how far your training is coming along and get input from online resources for problems that might arise. As with any training, consult a professional rather than seek social media input if you need help. Social media help can be great, but it can also steer you off course and may encourage negative input (usually from those that are less knowledgeable as any professional knows that is not the way to teach).
Resources can include those available for free, YouTube has many professional videos on tap and DVDs and books that have been collecting dust in your library may be tapped for information that perhaps is more relevant to you now than it was when you purchased them.
The USEF and its branch organizations offer many videos online, and equestrian magazines are increasingly digital (such as this wonderful Catskill Horse magazine that is also FREE to read), and their archives can also assist with all sorts of training questions.
My husband and I are dressage clinicians. It has been sad to have to postpone travel plans abroad and at home to conduct clinics. Instead we are keeping in ‘training touch’ with our clients via video. It’s not ideal by any means but it does provide some semblance of guidance for those who train horses (and riders) for a living and want to stay on track. Although it is only a question of time before riders will not be allowed to visit boarding barns and their horses. Barn owners are going to be extremely busy.
Stay In Touch With Meetings Online
Worried you can’t attend your local Horse Club or Horse Council Meeting? Many organizations are offering these meetings online and input from members and audience can be done in real time depending on how the broadcast system is set up by the organizers.
Missing your friends at the barn? Chat with them in a weekly meeting online and exchange notes on how things are going with horse and home. Consider hosting an online group through Facebook Live or other medium. We all love talking about our horses and there is no reason you can’t do that now even if you can’t see friends at a show or local clinic.
All horses can benefit from additional groundwork. Long lining, free longing, work on a longe line, natural horsemanship and all work with the horse from the ground can develop more trust between horse and human and be beneficial in keeping the horse fit. There are many super resources on the market. Here’s a few recommendations:
Mark Russell’s Lessons in Lightness is fabulous for teaching a horse to accept the bit and how to take directional aids. Perfect for retraining horses and for young horses too.
Linda Tellington-Jones Training and Retraining Horses The Tellington Way is fantastic for training the horse in all sorts of ways – stepping through and over poles and obstacles and being body aware, developing better focus and attention, acceptance and trust of the rider.
Jec Aristotle Ballou’s 55 Corrective Exercises for Horses is a great resource to help solve postural problems, improve patterns of movement and can help prevent injuries.
You Can Still Make Plans
The additional downtime at home can be the perfect opportunity to follow up on plans you have thought about in the past, such as adding a run-in shed or new barn to the property. An outdoor living structure such as a gazebo or pavilion by the outdoor ring to shelter from the sun can add lots of value to time spent outside.
As shopping can be done online and guidance provided by phone from the manufacturing companies staff throughout the process, it can be fun designing and customizing your new barn from your armchair. While delivery may be delayed due to travel restrictions some areas may consider a horse housing structure and agricultural need and delivery may not be impeded by regulations. Larger companies may have buildings available on the lot you may not even need to wait. Financing is often available too so don’t forget to ask.
Around the farm you may have many projects that you have planned to do for ages but somehow moved down the list as daily needs required your attention. Now is the perfect time to get on top of them. Clean out worn hedges and prune overgrown bushes, cut down dead trees, get an early start in firewood, rake out the edges of the riding ring to level, weed out garden beds, plant some vegetables. Start a new project such as woodworking or arts and crafts or learn to bake.
It’s also a great time to get organized. Print out those photos you wanted to frame, clean out your closets, file those show results and throw out old paperwork and go through the emergency cupboard and discard out of date medications. Weed out old tack and clean it so it is ready to sell online later for some extra cash.
Learn To Just Be
A great deal of pleasure can be found in just living in the moment. Allow yourself time to just sit and relax. Gazing out at your horses happily munching in the sunshine is very therapeutic and can be quite entertaining.
Take up meditation to relieve stress or start a low-impact style of exercise that focuses on breathing techniques and provides fitness but also develops spiritual awareness such as Tai-Chi, Baguazhang or Chi-Gong based programs.
In conclusion make the best of this gift of time at home with loved ones, both humans and horses. Don’t forget to check in by phone with elderly neighbors, friends and family, especially those that live alone. This is a great time to rejuvenate our selves and reconnect with each other, even if the latter has to be done from a distance.