Virtual Horse Time
You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming. -Pablo Neruda
Along with many, if not all sports, equestrian sports have been cancelled and come to an abrupt halt. Institutions that have been consistent and unwavering, put on hold or cancelled. This includes the FEI World Cup Finals, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo (delayed until 2021), the Kentucky Derby (delayed until September), and of course national and local shows and events for an indefinite amount of time. Without planning months ahead, many of these events may just not happen this year.
Trail riders pine for spring, summer and fall trail rides at parks around our beautiful state. Equestrian competitors plan and train all winter to work on their training and competition goals during the short competition season, some to be able to qualify for national and international competitions. Horse trainers, instructors, boarding facility owners all have a new “temporary” reality. However you have been affected in your daily life by changes in school, work, finances and health, our sport and hobby outlets are a key part of our overall wellbeing.
We all have different realities right now spending time with our horses. Those that have horses at home may be able to get more time in with their horses than they typically do. If your horse is boarded and your barn is shut down to boarders, the restrictions cannot be lifted soon enough. Some barns have put in place online schedules to keep no more than a few people on the property at a time, following strict physical distancing and cleaning procedures for shared fixtures and equipment.
Thankfully, no matter what, spring is still coming! Here are some ideas to keep yourselves and/or your horses healthy and happy during this time.
Horseless? If you are not able to see your horse right now, review last year, what do you want to accomplish this year (just getting to see your horse!)? How can you take steps toward accomplishing those goals? Use this time as a reset, a complete change from routine and a time to reevaluate from the bottom up. TheVirtualEquestrian.com has an extensive list of courses you can take with a wide variety of disciplines and areas of interest, including therapeutic riding. Keep yourself fit so you are ready when you can start riding again. Go to YouTube and learn how to teach your horse a new skill like bowing, Spanish walk or laying down. Check the #HomeWithHorses movement started by US Equestrian (USEF) with videos and content to keep you learning and inspired.
Horse at home or able to schedule horse time at your boarding facility? This may be the most ideal situation right now. Ride in your neighborhood, on your property or take a short trailer ride to a local park. According to Jeffco Open Space, peak times to avoid are 9:30am-2pm.
Research the discipline organizations you are a member of to see what online resources they offer. Some trainers have had virtual training platforms in place for years. In one type, you pay the trainer to evaluate a video of your ride after you have shared it with them. There are also personal auto-follow cameras, like PIXIO, where trainers can give you real instruction almost like they were there with you. Many have a training certification programs you can work to progress through the levels by working on certain skills and then you submit a video of you and your horse doing those skills for approval to pass the level.
Check out a few of these to get you started:
There are also some newer website platforms getting going where you can submit a video of you doing a specific Dressage test, Jumping course, Western Riding or Reining Pattern, etc., and get a certified judges feedback or even enter a “class” to compete with other riders doing the same thing. The one that includes the most disciplines I have seen so far is HorseShowChallenge.com. There is also a Facebook group called “The Quarantine Classic” that is providing a show type platform. These sites don’t just keep us riding, competing and working on our goals, they are able to provide income for judges, show organizers and even show announcers.
The hope of spring is here and not even COVID-19 can stop it! Hold on to the connection with your horse and nature. Reform your goals and time with your horse into new and motivating objectives. Keep moving forward! Heather McWilliams © 2020