I haven’t ridden in approximately 2 months (or is it 3? I’m really not even sure at this point) due to a neck injury and my concussion still healing. I’ve been bored, depressed, upset, anxious, and everything in between. In fact, I had a dream last night that when I returned to riding, I had completely forgotten how to ride!
Not being able to ride, after riding 2 – 3 and sometimes more times a week has taken a toll on me, and I am dying to get back in the saddle. The question is, when you physically can’t ride.. what can you do to quench that horse thirst?
I’ve put together a small list of things that you can try, depending on your injury. They might not replace riding, but at least you’ll get some horse time in.
Spend time with your horse. This can be anything from grooming, to lunging, to bathing, to anything in between – on the ground. Spending time with your horse on the ground will actually help you greatly once you get back in the saddle. You’ll bond with your horse, and you’ll get to know your horse’s quirks even more.
Read horse-related books. Some of my favorites include, Hunter Seat Equitation and Unrelenting by George Morris. There are also a ton of other horse books out there. Just search “horse” or “equine” books on Amazon.
Go to the barn and watching lessons or training rides done by your trainer. This is a great way to learn, even if you are unable to get in the saddle yourself and learn what your trainer has to teach you. Watching professionals ride and school is always a good idea, and watching lessons may give you some insight into some of your own bad habits or show you a new way of doing things you may not have thought of.
Watch videos of riders you look up to, or even yourself. When you’re sidelined from riding, you may feel as though you are losing your riding skills. While this is true, in part, your muscles may weaken – watching videos of yourself riding will help remind you of the progress you were making when you were riding, and it can give you hope that you will get back to that place. Watching videos of your favorite riders is another way of learning. There are tons of riders out there that have a lot to teach, even if you aren’t riding directly with them.
Offer to do barn work for your barn or another barn. Of course, this is only if you can, and another thing to remember is that if you are an Amateur, be careful what work you are doing and whether you are receiving remuneration for it as this could launch you into the professional world when you can’t even ride. Doing barn work, anywhere, is another good way to bond with horses and get that horse fix you’re looking for, even though you can’t be in the saddle.
Attend shows your barn is attending and help out where you can. This is another good way of getting your horsey fix. Watching your barn’s other riders go around is, again, another good way of learning. You’ll be on the sidelines listening to your trainer’s commentary, and you can take notes for when you get back into the show ring (if you show). You’ll also probably find inspiration in the success of your fellow riders. Finally, helping out where and when you can will help you feel useful and also improve your bond with the horses at your barn as well as your barn management skills – something always good to have as we should be horseman, not just riders.
The most important thing to remember is that injuries take time to heal. Don’t push yourself, and only do what you are able to do. You don’t want to prolong your time out of the saddle because you exacerbated your injury, no matter how badly you want to be riding right now. Horses will always be there; your health won’t be.