March is traditionally the month when people start dusting off the cobwebs and prepare to jump full swing into their riding or horsemanship goals. Snow is melting. Days are slowly getting longer, and the desire to get out and ride starts a steady drumbeat in your heart. But how do you prepare for riding season after a long winter out of the saddle?
Prepare for Riding Season Physically
You already know the benefits of stretching and warming up before a big game or a hard workout. It’s just as important to warm up and stretch before a ride, especially if you really have not ridden in a few months. It’s also critical for your horse to warm up physically too. Consider taking several short rides with lots of breaks so that you can get your saddle seat back and recondition your horse after months of standing at the round bale. That will give you both a chance to adjust physically to the demands or riding before you head out on a three-hour ride.
Prepare for Riding Season Mentally and Emotional Preparation
You not only need to get physically ready to start riding your horses, but you also need to prepare mentally and emotionally. Do tasks that evoke positive memories. For example, the simple task of cleaning your tack can help you recall good rides and special moments. The smell of the leather can then become an anchor for a positive memory. In difficult moments, positive memories can carry you through. And the smell of leather can help you recall a better time.
Rekindle Your Love of Horses: Focus on Fear-free Memories
- ♥ Review positive memories from your Riding Fear Free journal. Go back and highlight the parts that bring you strength and encouragement.
- ♥ Watch an inspirational movie.
- ♥ Observe a horse event that brings you joy.
- ♥ Look back at your own pictures from previous rides.
- ♥ Choose activities that will remind you of positive and inspiring times.
Make a Plan
As much as you want to pull on your boots and just ride, it’s important to have a lesson plan for returning to the saddle in the spring. You never know what issues might arise when you pull the horse out of the round bale and put on the saddle. A good plan is especially important as you process and let go of your fears. The more mental and emotional steps you add to your lesson plan, the more you can recognize, process, and let go of.
You may know how to do each step of the process: catch, halter, and lead your horse; tack up and ride; and finally put them away. All these steps seem like second nature. But sometimes, especially in the spring, something could happen to spike your emotions, and suddenly, your routine is disrupted.
The Riding Fear Free Journey Tracker has two sample lesson plans and templates to help you prepare lesson plans to get you to your goals. You can also use this journal to record and think through your emotions as you work through your fears.
Lesson Plans Create Win-win Situations
If the unexpected happens, you might feel unsure of what to do next. If you have taken the time to write down the steps of the process, you already have a list of tools and techniques you can use to handle the fear spike and move on.
If everything goes perfectly and nothing unexpected happens, you are still more mentally and emotionally prepared because you have thought through your goal and the steps it takes to get there.
You may be able to force yourself to get out there and do it without any preparation and without a lesson plan, but will “just doing it” help you reach fear free? If you take the time to acknowledge and process your fears, you will be well on your way to living and riding fear free.