January 1, 2019, a date that, for some, symbolizes a fresh start. What will you do with this year? What things will you accomplish? What goals will you meet? While each of our responses will be different depending on our circumstances, there is a list of eight simple things that I feel are invaluable for every equestrian from every walk of life.
1. Learn to Groom Properly and Spend Time Doing It
Self-care should never go out of style. If you never spend time grooming your horse, then you are doing something wrong. There is something so therapeutic about running a curry comb over your horse’s coat after a long day, plus it keeps your horse in tip-top shape. Dedicate thirty minutes of each day to grooming your horses. I try to groom mine right after morning feeding before I get ready for work. Those thirty minutes spent with my horses in the cross-ties as I bring out the illustrious shine in their coats is my favorite way to start the day. Find the best groom in your barn and learn their tips and tricks for keeping white socks white, tails tangle-free, manes perfectly pulled and coats super shiny!
2. Go to as Many Shows as You Can, Even If You Aren’t Showing
One of my favorite things to do is to follow my barn family along to shows, even if for whatever reason I am not showing that week. You can learn so much by just going along. Last year, I spent a week at the World Equestrian Center with my coach and barn family and I absorbed worlds of information while I was there. I got to go on every course walk, I got to help as they got their horses show-ring ready and I learned impeccable barn management skills (we don’t travel with grooms, we are 100% self-care and I love that). This year, try to tag along to as many shows as you can! There is so much to learn that is almost impossible to pick up when you are rushing around to get to the ring on time to show.
Go to shows just to help out and learn proper barn management practices! Photo by Meagan DeLisle
3. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Social media is both a blessing and the bubonic plague of day and age. I love it because I can connect with people all over the world! I hate it because I often find myself comparing myself to those people I idolize. It is easy to get caught up with the glitz and glamour of the online world, but you have to remind yourself that not everything you see online is 100% accurate. We are all struggling in some shape or form. Even the wealthiest of riders with the fanciest of horses are going through something that they simply are choosing to omit from their Instagram stories. The beautiful thing about riding horses is that your horse doesn’t care if you bought him for $5 or $5,000,000, they only care about the way in which you treat them. So stop putting yourself beside someone whose situation is worlds different than yours. Instead, compare yourself to who you were this time last year.
4. Eat Better, Do Better, Be Better
Seriously, we need to address the fact that we ARE athletes, so why don’t we treat ourselves like so? After years of gorging on horse show nachos and Dr. Pepper, I found myself at my heaviest last year and knew I needed to make a change. So, I changed my mindset. I was going to eat and work out like an athlete. I got a personal trainer, changed my dieting habits, started riding my bike each morning before work and joined a gym! I lost 26lbs in just four months last year by making a lifestyle change and guess what? My riding greatly improved because my stamina and energy were both in a much better place. So pack an apple and some gym shorts when you go to shows. Snack healthier, get plenty of sleep, snag thirty minutes in the hotel gym and work towards being a better, healthier you. And remember, healthy doesn’t mean being a twig. No one needs to read this and think they need to look like Heidi Klum to be healthy. If you aren’t sure what healthy is for your body, work with a doctor or nutritionist to get yourself in the best place physically and mentally for YOU.
Also… I still eat horse show nachos every now and then. You have to live little!
5. Make Time for “Me Time”
This was a big one for me in 2018 and I plan on striving to be even better at it in 2019. After literally spending every weekend on the road for four months straight, I was tired. This sport is physically, financially and mentally draining, there is no doubt about that. Set aside time for “me time” at least once a month. This time should NOT include any horse-related activity. Instead, you should spend a weekend with friends or family (or on the couch, if you prefer. Sometimes you just need to crash!). Go try new restaurants, go shopping and buy normal clothes, pick up a new book from the library and enjoy a peaceful afternoon at the park. Do something to keep yourself from burning out on the thing you love most.
6. Study the Greats
Horse shows involve a lot of “hurry up and wait,” so rather than burning your free time on social media, why not invest in your education in a new way? Pick up a book written by one of the industry’s best (I am a huge fan of anything by George Morris or Anne Kursinski) and study in between classes. You would be surprised at how much you can learn just by flipping the pages of a book. And you don’t just have to read technical books either! You can also learn a lot by reading autobiographies (I love George Morris’ Unrelenting or Tik Maynard’s In The Middle are the Horsemen) as well.
With the great George Morris. Photo by Brody Robertson
7. Help Others
You know that new girl in the barn? Or the younger kid who mucks stalls for lessons? What about the adult amateur who is getting back in the saddle after years of raising her kids? Help those people. Be kind to those people. Give them advice, be their friend, acknowledge their existence! Don’t be the barn that is clique-y and makes people feel uncomfortable. Be the person who everyone wants to be around. Spread positivity through good deeds. Is a fellow rider struggling to get her horses ready in between classes? Tack one up for her! Did a barn worker accidentally tip a wheelbarrow in the yard? Help them scoop it! Did you notice that the water troughs in the pasture are a little low? Fill them up! The world would be such a better place if we all were willing to lend a helping hand.
8. Go on More Trail Rides
Every time you saddle up shouldn’t be for a lesson. In the hustle and bustle of training, riding can start to feel more like a chore than fun. But didn’t we all get into this sport because we loved the horses and thought it was fun? In 2019, set more time aside for trail rides so you can zen out with your four-legged friend and enjoy riding again. Whether you are just hacking around your barn’s property or adventuring across the sprawling grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park, make time for fun riding.
Trail riding with friends at the Kentucky Horse Park. Photo by Meagan DeLisle
But most importantly, in 2019 do what makes YOU feel fulfilled. Don’t live your life trying to catch up to someone else. Work to be a better you and I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Here is to a great new year!
Go 2019 and Go Jumping!