We are taught to always put our horses first, and for good reason. At all times we have to ensure they get the best possible care. So when we come home from a show, late at night, our priority is that they are looked after, fed, and happy in their clean stalls. We do all this before WE get to eat, shower, and hopefully sleep. We spend every spare dime on their special needs, from supplements to fluffy toys – but we must not forget ourselves! Yes, we will always look after our furry teammates, but it’s time we invest a little more in ourselves too. Here are five ways to invest in your most important asset: YOU!
Let’s start with the most important and perhaps most difficult thing. Between having to feed, muck out, ride and groom, there is not much time left to relax. However sleep and rest are critical for recovery and therefore long-term health and results. As an athlete, don’t treat rest and sleep as a luxury, but instead as a necessity. Great ways to relax and unwind before bed are:
- Take a bath with Epsom salt.
- Meditate with a scented candle.
- Listen to music (I personally love the “Pure Chill” playlist on Apple music).
2. Make a plan
Once you’ve had enough rest and sleep, you will have the mental clarity you need to think strategically. You want to choose consciously what to invest your time on. When I was running my stable, I always made sure my tack was clean, as were my horses, and I always dragged my arena at the end of the day. Unfortunately, I often failed to think and invest time in improving myself and my horses. Ask yourself, ‘how often do I take the time to make a plan for the week ahead? And how often do I set new goals and create a clear path for how I will get there?’ A few ways to stay in control of your own personal growth:
- Read the book “7 habits of highly effective people”, by Stephen R. Covey.
- Plan each day in advance so you can think strategically.
- Ask fellow riders or trainers how to further improve yourself and your horses.
“If you are not having fun doing what you do, then what’s the point?”
3. Exercise & stretch
Though riding is exercise, if you are only riding, your body does not get trained in different ways. When riding you activate specific muscles again and again. Sitting short on the horse especially (for the show jumpers and jockeys out there) can result in short muscles that can injure easily. So make sure to exercise regularly and train different parts of your body (and mind). For example:
- Strength training for core strength and better stability on the horse.
- Cardio to stay fit (and light).
- Yoga to stretch and lengthen your muscles to avoid injuries, and to train your mental focus.
4. Eat to nourish
At a horse show the other day my friends were joking about how they invest in their horses’ B12 supplement and as a result only have enough money left to live on pizza. Though it’s important that our horses get what they need to rock in the arena, you also need the nutritional power to ride at your best. You are what you eat, so make sure you pick wholefoods over fast foods. No healthy options available at the show? Prep like a pro and bring your own healthy meals to be sure you get what you need to have enough energy all day. Your body will thank you in the long term too!
5. Have fun
Looking back at my own riding career, I have to admit I was pretty stressed as a result of doing everything myself and not taking time for myself. I took everything so seriously and “having fun” was very low on my list of priorities. So my results suffered, together with my motivation. I burned out and I stopped riding. Moral of the story is: If you are not having fun doing what you do, then what’s the point? So go to that concert, meet your friends and enjoy playing a different sport from time to time – just for fun!