6 Things To Think About When You’re Short On Time (But Still Want To Work Your Horse)

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6 things to think about when you are short on time but still want to work with your horse.

1. Choose one thing

If you only have a limited time to work, choose something which is possible and achievable to work with. The number of times that I have started playing with my horse, only to come in some time later and remarked to my husband “I only meant to be out there for 20 minutes” is, well, a lot.

I’m pretty sure Einstein was working with a horse when he figured out his relativity of time theory. We may not understand it fully when we read it but as soon as we hit the barn we are like, oh! Of course. Makes sense.

Anyway, I digress.

It’s a wonderful luxury to have lots of time to play with, but the reality for many (or most) of us is that we don’t. The benefit of NOT having much time is that we can be very intentional and specific about what we DO do.

Intentional and specific leads to less faffing, more clarity, and a more obvious understanding of what’s working and what isn’t.

2. Make something (or someone) a priority (in the case of more than one horse)

This is a weird one to write, especially when it relates to the “someone” part- so I’ll add the note that making someone the priority does not make the other someone’s any less important. What is DOES mean is that there is some sort of order, however temporary or permanent, to how you go about things. Kind of along the lines of doing one thing well, rather than lots of many things more half-baked.

Anyway, let’s keep going. I have five horses in total; I’ll list them for you here:

Merc, who I refer to as my Patchy Pony. Ada, who is my Irish Draught yearling. Saffy, my five-year-old Irish Sport Horse. And Nadia and Dee, who are both warmbloods.

Two of those aren’t in work; Dee, owing to soundness, and Ada, who is just a babe and free to roam as such (I do little bursts of ‘lessons’ with her every so often to establish the life skills!).

For me, looking at this on paper, it’s easy to find it overwhelming, but in my mind it’s very clear. Merc always gets worked first. He is my priority. Both for my work and for my sanity, I need one horse in full work and Merc is my main man and beloved sidekick who I have chosen for the job.

The others I have a well-defined idea of where I’m up to and what I’d love to be working with next but to look at them as a group can sometimes feel overwhelming; prioritising one creates momentum and a start point that my mind can easily latch onto, and from there, I make my way further down the line.

3. Don’t waste time wishing that you had more time.

Chances are time with your horses is your love and your passion, but it doesn’t pay the bills, or directly affect anyone’s wellbeing (and least from your perspective, but I can argue this point all day!) aside from you. Because of that, it’s easy to both put things ahead of time with your horses and / or wait for pockets of time to ‘open up’ / ‘that thing’ to change when you will ‘definitely have more time’. Please don’t do that.

The thing about spending time on the things that you love is that we are trained out of taking it. And sometimes actually berate ourselves when we do. With that in mind, taking time to do something you love means you have approach it with the same degree of dedication that you would squeezing through a gap in a window to retrieve the keys to the tack room you left on the other side. This happened to me recently, and believe me, the commitment it took was unquestionable and intense.

THAT’S the kind of dedication we’re looking for when it comes to making time for what you love, even if you have to snatch it in the dark.

4. Do something in service of your horsing and / or riding

This is actually a principle I work to as part of my writing practice, but it’s directly transferable to here. On the days (weeks) where it might be impossible to do all that much with your horse, think about what you can do ‘in service of’ of them instead.

It could be watching a training series, reading that book that’s sitting in the pile you haven’t quite got to. Moving your body in a way that increases your awareness.

‘Acting in service of’ is one of the most useful mindsets I’ve taken on. It helps me keep creative and think outside the box when the ideal feels far away or things get stuck.

5. Know when to quit (and when to abandon your plans for other things)

Knowing when to quit is perhaps the most important part. If you have a limited window, you don’t want to start a discussion it’s not possible to finish. We want to end with things more harmonious, more clear, with the feeling that more things will be possible tomorrow.

Along the same lines, going in with a clear intention and plan does not necessarily mean that plan is possible; your horse will always ultimately decide that. Like knowing when to quit, knowing when the time ISN’T right to begin a new conversation is equally important. It’s ok to leave thing for another day if the time isn’t quite right now to fully commit. You’re not a failure- you’re just being discerning.

6. Be creative

Sometimes, we can develop a very narrow window of what ‘learning’ looks like. It doesn’t have to mean saddling up and there’s a lot that you can get done standing still. Take the time to pay attention to the details (for example how comfortable they feel about the bridle; doing some bodywork; just, well, hanging out) is always, always worth your time.

What do you focus on when time (or light) is short, and you have limited time to be with your horse?

❤️ Jane

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