In our last article we discussed suggestions for building successful riding habits and ideas for increasing time spent training your horses.
One of the key elements in making the most of those habits and creating a foundation for ongoing success is to manage your schedule and make optimum use of your very valuable time.
The first thing to remember: A productive schedule is not an over-booked schedule. If you are frantically running from one activity to the next, you’re not going to enjoy anything. It will be difficult, if not impossible; to fully devote your attention to the task at hand, as you’ll feel rushed and distracted by the next must-do task on your over-burdened list.
Next, be aware of your peak energy times. Some of us are early birds who can happily jump out of bed by 4:30, get to the barn before 6, and make good use of that fresh, morning energy. Night owls fare far better if they can sleep in until the last minute, drive to work in a barely-caffeinated stupor and save any sort of athletic endeavors until the evening.
In relation to the peak energy times, you may want to take your horse’s preferences into consideration as well. A lot of people stand by the philosophy that their horses need to go to work whenever they’re told to go to work, and that’s a terrific thought process to follow if you have the time to fight with your horse and don’t mind work sessions that are wrought with contention. However; if you’re following the advice to build habits that foster ease, enjoyment and simplicity, your horse’s favorite work times can be a factor that is worth taking into consideration.
Don’t demand a robotic performance from yourself or your horses. Living, breathing, sentient beings with feelings and thoughts of their own are not going to give the exact same result at the exact same time under any and every circumstance.
Your schedule needs to allow for a little flexibility. If you schedule time to ride but you, or your horse, aren’t feeling it, do a little ground work instead. Learn how to play some Parelli games. Study Clinton Anderson’s lessons for lunging with respect. Go for a long walk in hand.
There are several things that you can do other than ride, still making very productive use of your scheduled time with the horses.
A little variety is good. No matter what your peak energy and focus hours may be (yours or your horse’s), it can be helpful to allow reasonable, regular variation in the schedule so that you can have some down time and not fall into a humdrum routine.
For example, if you usually train from noon until 3 on the weekends, consider taking Monday off. Tuesdays, you may wish to schedule, if possible, a long lunch and ride or train from noon until 2pm. Get up early Wednesday and work with your horse from 6:30 until 7:30 am and then head to the office. Thursdays you can schedule an evening session from 6 until 8 or even 9 pm and still arrive home early enough to get a good night’s sleep and tend to domestic duties. Friday can be a short evening session, or maybe even take the night off and rest up for those fun, productive weekend rides.
The ideas above are, of course, just a basic outline to show how you may make the most of your time without feeling as if you must make it to the barn before 7am, 6 days a week, and spend precisely 83 minutes with your horse focusing on tasks a, b and c. Your horse needs your attention and plenty of exercise, your family demands care and attention, you need to be at the office 40+ hours a week, but you still need to eat, sleep and give yourself a little time to relax and (maybe?) even do nothing.
Keeping to a reasonable, yet not overly-demanding or restrictive schedule, contributes greatly to your riding and training goals, and can also aid in the balance you need to be a happy, healthy and productive equestrian.