There are times in life when we have to take a break from our beloved horses. These reasons could be due to a failure in our own health, the loss of our favored mount or an injury to self or mount (both physical or emotional). During these rough times we are absent from the saddle our body instantly starts to loose our riding strength and if your confidence as been shaken the emotional or psychological weakness can start to grow and take hold. Making it harder and harder to get back into the saddle.
A dear family member of mine suffered the loss of her favored mount a few years ago and hasn't felt the same in the saddle since. She has purchased and sold a couple of new horses trying to fill the void but hasn't had regular riding since his loss. Then last October while borrowing a friend's horse for a trail ride she was bucked off and now her confidence has taken a blow as well. This past spring she found her new mount. He is beautiful and sweet and trained to death. They really are perfect for each other. She needs a mount she can trust but one that knows more than her so she is challenged and rises to that challenge. However, the emotional trauma has been holding her back. Since it has been years since she has ridden regularly her body isn't as able or strong either.
Many think and say to her that she should just "Suck it up and get back on.Take charge and do what you used to do..." At first glance I had the same reaction.
Well that is easier said than done. After taking a step back and really looking at the situation as a whole and not just one facet of it I realized something. It is time to approach riding again from the start. Not from where we left off. Time to retrain the brain and body as if she has never ridden before. Repair the emotional trauma and heal from the loss that she has never really dealt with. One can not fully invest in a new partnership with a horse when everything the new horse does is compared to what the former used to do. They are different animals with different quirks and different personalities.
So we have come up with a game plan. The only way to condition one's body for riding is by riding. You use your muscles in such a different way than you do by weight lifting or bike riding or any other traditional conditioning. As a rider one has to condition for longer rides by starting with shorter ones.
1) Ride Every Other Night. No excuses! (You are gonna be sore if you are out of shape, You are gonna be tired if you are out of shape.... these are not excuses these are reasons to keep going. Strengthening Your body with strengthen your confidence and partnership with your horse.)
2) Take direct responsibility of your horse. Feedings, Grooming, saddling, trailering.....etc... These are partnership builders for you and your horse. You know how your horse responds to different stimuli. What he likes and doesn't like. How you need to approach different situations that he doesn't like but you need him to do. He will learn his boundaries and expectations. You will learn his threshold. You will become the leader and he will walk thru fire for you because you have for him.
3) Watch your horse from a distance. This gives you insight into his personality. How he reacts to different activities in his herd and solo will be the same reactions with you. So you are educating yourself on your horses personality so you know how best to communicate your intentions and needs of him.
4) Rekindle your passion..... Establish a new and wonderful relationship with him. He is not a replacement for the old. He is the start of a new chapter. A wonderful Chapter. It isn't better or worse than the old chapter..... It is just different and if you give yourself to it completely and don't hold back because you are scared of how the story will end you will be rewarded with such greatness and healing.
The road will not be easy. There will be many ups and downs. But in the end you will be better for the effort and rewarded with so much joy.
Don't let the set backs in your horsey life define your future in the horse world! Restart, completely from the beginning. Give yourself up to this new chapter and enjoy your passion again.
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