Trainers’ Guide to Staying Home (Or, what am I going to do with them today?)

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

BY SISSY WICKES

The end of a long winter rising from the frozen base of an outdoor ring or seen through the slivered windows of an indoor. As trainers, we look at the advent of spring shows as the escape from the doldrums of winter. Finally, we get off of the farm and back to competition to put into use the lessons we practiced all winter long. March arrives with the accompanying mud and temperature yo-yo’s, but the end is in sight. We forge ahead with plans for shows with eager anticipation.

Insert COVID 19 and boom, we aren’t going anywhere. Kids are out of school, parents are frantically seeking child care in order to work or activities to keep kids busy and away from screens.  And trainers are facing more time at home. Sigh

How do we keep spirits up and the learning train rolling? Here are few ideas for kids, juniors, and adults:

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

For Kids

Give an anatomy of the horse lesson with a painted horse. The older kids can paint before the lesson and then explain anatomy to the younger kids. (tempera paint is mild)

Stable management lessons like…

  • Take apart and reassemble a bridle
  • Clip legs
Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Juniors and Adults

  • Set a course and walk a course
  • Learn to braid 
  • Learn to clip
  • Learn to wrap
  • Clean the barn with stable manager
  • Bring the barn staff homemade food
  • Study bloodlines 
  • Walk the fence lines to look for hazards
  • Read the USEF Rulebook
  • Register and study for the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge
  • Watch rounds from your aspirational competition
Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Ideas for Lessons

For all kinds of riders, trainers can train instead of just practicing for the show ring.

  • No stirrups (pretend it is November).
  • Teach a dressage movement that has not been previously presented.
  • Use poles on a large circle arranged like a starburst. Teach how to add or subtract from the number of strides between by choosing a wide path toward the edge of the circle or a narrower path at the inside of the circle.
  • Trotting over jumps work. (great for seeing distances).
  • Ride with one hand on reins and one behind the back in order to learn to steer with eyes, balance, and leg. Switch hands and go other direction.
  • If available, jump natural obstacles. Get out of the oval!
  • Two- point entire lesson. (ignore the wails)
  • Serpentines up and down length of area using different gaits and positions. 
  • Have a horse show at home with juniors as judges.

The absence of competition is a disappointment to many who have been readying for the new show season. We are all looking forward to returning to life as we knew it. In the meantime, keep riders going with fresh ideas and fun activities. There are great online videos and lesson plans available through usef.org, equestriancoach.com, and many other resources. 

This is the time to re-embrace the joy of being at the barn, outdoors, and in the company of the animals we love. Gyms, exercise classes, physical education in school are all on hold. There is plenty of exercise available at the barn, plenty of ways to pitch in and be helpful to your barn family. Make the best of being home.

See you at the ring!


About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist, an autism advocate and Editor of The Plaid Horse. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.

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