Oh la la! Traveling during the month of December? This close to Christmas, colleges finishing their terms, children hopped up on sugarplums, amateurs abounding in the airport… what. was. I. thinking?
I have been saying since Thanksgiving that this month is a wash. So many things pull our attention away from the work that we intend to do with our horses, that it seems futile to fight against the inevitable interruption to our routine. Best laid plans are simply that and we end up with fresh horses and feelings of being left behind the work we wanted to accomplish.
When I resided in snow-country, there were months until our horses needed to be fit and sound for a competition, but now, living in the southern climes where winter never comes, now is our training time. A top-notch clinician is visiting this weekend and our next schooling of cross-country falls on the first weekend in January. Fasten your breast-collars people.
So what is the strategy for the holiday season when short days, cold mornings and countless social obligations disrupt the proper progression of our training? Well, my advice is to give in.
Now, to be clear, I am not saying give up. I am saying that this is the reality of our lives. Training our horses and ourselves does not exist in a vacuum. We have children, jobs, homes, other horses, visiting relatives, trips, aging parents… the list goes on. At this time of year, when daylight betrays us, we must be kind to the limitations placed upon us and our horses. To fight it adds stress and pressure that earns us injuries and heartache.
My advice (though I know that the best advice is not given) is to just relax into the ebb and flow of the holidays. Get to your riding as much as you can without serious inconvenience. The rides may be shorter, there may be more lunging, trail rides might serves as the only ride to accommodate cousin so-and-so… that is okay. Your horse will recover from any niggling soreness or injury and so will you. And you will both arrive on the other side of the holidays a bit heavier, a bit sounder, but ready and fresh to your work.
Be aware of the fresh horse who has had extra days off and the human who has not had their mind on riding for a few days. You both have to ease back in and expect less. Fine. No problem. The training you did before the turkey arrived has not disappeared, it’s just buried. Be gentle in shaking off the dust or rust or trust. Things will all come back. In the horse, this looks like bucking, kicking and squealing when you lunge or round-pen them. It’s okay, loads of transitions will help your cause and calm your horse. Same to you when you get on. Go slow, be methodical.
When you get to January without the guilt of training the way you THINK you should train, you’ll feel better, lighter and ready. That is something that I want for Christmas, so why not give it to ourselves?