Winter Blues Busters: 10 Ways to Beat the Blahs
Most of the time, the prospect of working with your horse is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. Most of the time, thinking about a lesson or training session puts a little spark in your eye and spring in your step. Most of the time.
But if we’re honest, there are always those times when we fall into the blahs and the things we used to look forward to feel like chores suddenly.
While the causes of the blahs might be everything from frigid winter weather, to an illness, personal loss or just no reason at all, it can be easy to find yourself in a mental training funk. Here are ten ways you can shake off the meh and bring the spark back into your horse life.
Okay, so this one is admittedly a fast fix. However, nothing feels better than stepping out in a fresh pair of jeans or snagging that new training bit you can’t wait to try out. If you’re dragging your heels on your way to the barn, try making a little purchase that will have you racing to get there to use it. It could be a new treat for your horse or something to wear or train with, but making even a small investment might just reignite your desire to be at the barn.
Sometimes the blahs start when life gets in the way of your bustling barn routine. Maybe it’s the flu, or work or even bad weather, but time away can make you feel like you’ve lost all your hard-won progress and set you back in the motivation department. If you’re stuck at home or work, keep your motivation going strong by searching out winning runs or training videos to inspire you. Make time to watch that showmanship video you’ve had your eye on or perhaps dig in the past to find an iconic pleasure ride that inspired you years ago.
January and February seem to be months where our social media feeds are filled with announcements about year-end wins and accomplishments from the year before. Rather than just feeling like an onlooker, take time off from the barn to brainstorm the goals you have for the year. Turn inspiration into action by trying to visualize what you want your horse-goals to look and feel like. Writing out some goals is a good start, but an even better strategy is to create a vision board to help you imagine possibilities.
Phone a Friend
The great thing about horse friends is that, whatever you’re going through, chances are they’ve been there too. Call up one of your friends and explain how you’re feeling. Invite them to join you for a ride, see if you can tag along to watch one of theirs or ask them what they’ve been working on to get yourself back on track.
This piece of advice seems contrary, but sometimes it helps just to face the blahs head-on. So instead of talking yourself out of going to ride and feeling guilty about it, permit yourself to stay in, forgetting about horses for a day or two. Take time to catch up on non-horse related things you’ve been putting off or just stay home and chill. Relax into the moment instead of letting it turn into a negative vibe, and you may just be back to your usual self in no-time.
Try Something New
The blahs are usually characterized by a feeling of ‘same old, same old’ when you hit the arena. Combat this by coming up with a plan to try something new during your next session. Maybe you’ve never ridden your horse bareback before, or maybe you’ve never loped over poles, but trying something that’s new for you or your horse could be just the ingredient you need. Be sure to check with your trainer and make sure your choice is safe for both you and your horse, but don’t limit yourself either. A trail ride in the snow or outside of the arena may sound crazy at first, but it will sure beat feeling lackluster about going laps around the rail.
Music can make anything better. Perhaps you’ve got a long drive to the barn that’s got you wanting to avoid the trip, or maybe you get bored longing your horse for 20 minutes. Take a few minutes to create a custom playlist for your next ride. The more upbeat, the better, and think about crafting a playlist that inspires you in some way. Maybe you want to imagine you’re crushing those 2018 goals or it could be you are Rocky Balboa finding that eye of the tiger and pushing through. Whatever it is, being your own DJ will be a much-needed shot of adrenaline.
Throw Your Goals Out the Window (for a day or two)
Most competitors who are in some regular training program with their horse have specific goals in mind. Goals, of course, are essential and for the most part, help drive you to improve your skills. Now and then, having goals in mind can narrow your focus or become a fixation. Horse showing should be fun and should be about the journey as well as the destination, so if you’re finding the intensity of your routine isn’t fun, the right training-blues might be forgetting about your goals for a short time-span. This might mean relaxing or shortening your rides or lessons for a time or two, or it could say merely stop talking about or making plans for your next shows for a bit. Every go-getter needs a break.
Have you always wanted to ride a reiner or is there a neat stallion you’ve always wanted to check out in person? Pick something off of your “horse” bucket list that you’ve talked about or thought about doing and make it happen. It will feel good to check something off of a list, and the experience will likely give you new ideas or energy to take back to your horse.
Reconnect with Something You Used to Love
Did you grow up loving 4-H and the country fair? Were you once obsessed with halter horses? The blahs often attach themselves to us when we’ve run the natural course of moving from one area of interest to another and settling into something. Even if the reconnection is brief, find a way to get in touch with something that you used to really enjoy. If as a child, you enjoyed seeing all of the different types of competition at the country fair, maybe check out a local livestock show, rather than a traditional horse show. If you used to ride Hunters, but have been on western pleasure speed for years, let yourself wander the Internet watching cool Hunter rounds or schedule a lesson on an old-schoolmaster somewhere nearby. You don’t need to make a total leap back to an old discipline to bring back that loving feeling.
What causes the barn blahs for you and how do you beat them? Let us know.
About the Author: A native Michigander, Rachel Kooiker is a lover of horses who loves to write. She competes in all-around Amateur events with her APHA gelding, Hoos Real. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Curriculum & Instruction. She and her husband Drew operate Kooiker Show Horses, where they stand APHA World Champion Im the Secret.