We drag ourselves to the barn first thing in the morning. We run there in between appointments. We arrive in the evening when the outdoor arena lights come on. We juggle weekend errands with time at the barn. We dash in to quickly groom. Hand walk. Hold for the farrier and the vet. Change leg bandages and medicate. Clip bodies and braid manes. Meet with the grain representative. Clean tack. And finally, we try to fit in our ride time. Work, appointments, weather, kids, health, and family interrupts, demands, and hijacks our horse time.
If you feel like you are always rushing, frustrated, or stressed about riding time, try this exercise. The first step is a simple assessment. Make a chart with the following headings: Activities, Importance, Time Engaged. In the Activities column make a list of activities that you do and the activities that you want to do every day, week, and/or month. Assign each one a rating of importance; for example, 4 stars is most important and 1 star is least important. If you already know the time you spend on each activity fill that column in as well: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Frequently, Sometimes, or Never. If you don’t know, keep a record for a week. You can keep it simple (a tally when you did the activity) or detailed (record the amount of time).
Now – look at your chart. I found out that I LOVE to read, but I hardly ever read anymore. Clearly, one of my most valued activities was one I spent the least amount of time doing. Next step, figure out how to make a change. I joined a Book Club. This helped me with the final stage, which is to implement the changes. Joining the Book Club helped me because I was assigned a book to read, I had a due date, and the reward at the end was a fun evening drinking wine and eating snacks with a group of women who didn’t take “book club” too seriously, which was perfectly fine with me.
There are always going to be events that hijack your riding time. During these times, find ways to maximize bits of time with your horse. Make your horse a yummy mash for a treat. Sit in the sunshine and meditate for 15 minutes while your horse grazes. On a rainy day have a quiet grooming session and do those stretches that are good for both you and your horse. Bring your tack home and give it a good cleaning. Play a game with your horse or try teaching your horse some tricks. Drive by the barn for a quick horse kiss and photo selfies!
When you just don’t have time in your scheduleto spend with your horse, don’t berate yourself, accept the blip and move on to the next day, week, or month.
May you carve out time for you and your horse as much as possible this year!