Back in 2018, when I was recovering from my hip replacement, I wrote a guide called “Can’t Ride, Can Horse” with some suggestions for things you can do relating to horses when you can’t ride. Nearly 2 years later, we are ALL in a fairly similar situation. The BHS have said
“We advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as whether riding is necessary at this time.”
Personally, as you’ll see from my March Madness post, I decided to stop riding a few weeks ago but I have found plenty of things to do instead and have lots of ideas that I haven’t got to yet.
Most of these assume you can still see your horse/go to the yard. Under current UK rules, you are still allowed to tend to your horses -as that is essential to their welfare – unless your yard owner says otherwise or you are ill/shielding/self isolating as long as you follow social distancing rules. I am in no way encouraging anyone to travel unnecessarily. Please use your own judgement as to which of these are suitable for you.
With the health of your horse in mind, if you are not riding anymore and intend on roughing them off, you need to decrease their exercise slowly. If you are hoping to continue to exercise your horse – while the government still permits it – these ideas work too.
- Walking in hand – I am aware that this isn’t an option for everyone but if it is safe to do so, walking your horse in hand is exercise for both of you! Make sure you use a bridle rather than a headcollar if you are actually going somewhere!
- Lunging – Lunging is generally considered to be a pretty safe way of exercising your horse (as long as you wear gloves and a hat). Just be careful not to do too much as going around in circles does put strain on your horse’s joints.
- Groundwork/Liberty/Trick training – There are so many activities you can do with your horse on the ground to improve your bond and have fun!
- Stretches – If you don’t already do this with your horse, now would certainly be the time to start!
- Buddy up – With key workers working more than ever, parents having their children at home and travel being restricted it might be worth buddying up to help others with their yard jobs. At my yard we are spreading our visits through the day and sharing some of the jobs while there is no staff
- Adopt/sponsor – Some equestrian businesses have lost nearly their entire income probably for the rest of the year but still need to feed and care for their animals. Many – my yard included – have set up adoption or sponsorship schemes so if you have a few pounds to spare, this might be something you can get involved with.
- Grooming – Now is the time to help your horse to lose their winter coat and to get rid of that winter grime. I’ve tried out a lot of shedding tools but my favourite is the SleekEZ.
- Bathing – The weather has improved and now seems like a good time to be giving them a spring bath. Even though we won’t be going out to any lessons or competitions, I can’t wait to get my Carr & Day & Martin Stain Removing Shampoo out to turn Pea’s brown legs white again and set her up for a cool summer rather than a sweaty, hairy one.
- Brushes – If you’re going to get your horse clean, now would also be a great time to clean your brushes. I have some much loved Eqclusive Haas brushes and I just hand-wash them in a bucket of warm, soapy water then hand them on the washing line to dry!
- Leather – Give your tack and your boots a “birthday”. If you’re not going to be using them for a while, it makes sense to give them a thorough clean and think about how to store them without the risk of them getting mouldy. Carr & Day & Martin do a product called Ko-Cho-Line which has been produced for this very purpose.
- Rugs – If you have got the skills and equipment, now would be a great time to mend and wash your rugs but at the very least you can sort them and store any that you won’t need for a while.
- Washing – It is not just rugs that need washing. If you are not riding, you’ll be free to wash all your numnahs so that they are squeaky clean for use on the other wise.
- Trailer/Lorry – We won’t be using our horse lorries and trailers for a while so it is a good opportunity to tidy, clean and sort them out (if you are able to access them without breaking government rules). It is also worth considering the security of your vehicles as, while there are less people out and about, there seems to be a rise in thefts.
- Photos – As well as sorting out your own photos (getting some printed and backing them up) why not check out official competition photos from previous events and order yourself some. I’m sure the photographers would appreciate it in these tough times.
- Evaluate – There is little point in planning a competition schedule at the moment because we have no idea when we might be out and about again but it is a good time to look back at the last year/season and reflect on what went well and what you intend on doing differently next time around.