By Rob Jacobs
Routine may or may not be something that is a part of your experience as a young equestrian. The equestrian sport takes an enormous amount of focus. I expect a certain level of focus from my horses depending on their training level. I try to give my horses the same level of focus from me when I work with them. Over the last 20 years, I’ve developed a routine that keeps me organized and consistent, and I encourage you to employ one as well.
Developing a routine that works requires some trial and error. I recommend starting with your grooming and tacking routine. For example, I teach my students to get themselves fully dressed and ready to ride, minus gloves, then set out their equipment before they start grooming. For grooming tips, visit the learning center at ushja.org to watch a video I created on a helpful grooming routine. Your trainer will work with you on the habits within your routine that need to be replaced. Grooming your horse is just an example of an introductory routine. If you have grooming and tacking assistance, another example of an introductory routine would be cleaning your boots.
As you may know, most things within the equestrian sport are purposed to keep you safe with your horses. Horses thrive on routine. Horses want to have confidence they will have success in what they’re being asked to do. Consistent routines build your horses’ confidence in you and what they’re doing. This likely leads to trust and consistency, which takes time to build.
Riding is social sport and I believe this is something that should be encouraged. As a kid, I was very shy and reserved. Horses gave me something in common with others. When kids feel different, it’s nice to have a common interest with others around their age range. Although I encourage the social aspects of the sport, I also support a well-developed routine that riders can focus on. In my opinion, though all sports require focus, this sport should require a higher level of focus because we interact with a large animal that has instincts of their own. Achieving a balanced experience within the sport requires consistent work. Without getting off topic, it’s important to understand the importance boundaries play.
As a young equestrian, you’re working on establishing healthy boundaries so that you can receive as many of the benefits from this sport as possible. In an attempt to stick to a routine that proves to work for you and your horse, you may have to limit distracting and/or excessive time with certain barn friends. Focusing on your routine to ensure nothing is missed is very important. There have been times I’ve allowed myself to become distracted and have missed steps within a specific routine. I mention this as it’s important to be aware of in order to proactively work against this happening. We are human; becoming distracted will happen. The key is to identify potential distracting moments as they’re happening or about to happen and proactively navigate those situations.
Although routines are vital to producing consistent success, there will be periods when it’s healthy to take a break from a routine. Taking short breaks from routine helps prevent burnout (refer to my February 2022 column). An example of taking a break from a routine would be riding your young horse five to six days a week working on improving your horse’s flatwork and rideability. There will be periods when you should take a break from this routine and perhaps give your horse a week off to just enjoy turnout and grooming sessions. This mental and physical break for you and your horse is healthy and should hopefully keep you and your horse interested in the work you’re doing together. I hope you take some time to reflect on your routines and think about what you are able to gain from improving them. Stay well and keep working hard…it always pays off!
Keep your eye on the end goal and allow your routine to work in your favor.
Photo by Kris Moore