BY JANE EHRHART
Horse shows feel far away, and it doesn’t look like they will return anytime soon. During what would have been WEF 11, the music stopped for us. During what would have been WEF 12, we had to figure out our next move while the world was reeling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I consider myself lucky to be based in Wellington, FL. I didn’t have to wrestle with the decision of when to retreat north, and we carried on with new plans evolving daily. With all the noise in the world right now, that consistency is an advantage in disguise for me and my clients.
During the past week, one of my clients expressed that the stress of coronavirus and its worldly impact was starting to get to her. My advice to her was to use the one hour a day she spends riding to forget about everything, and embrace the opportunity for good. Simply put, the world is stressful but time at the barn can remain a retreat.
It’s important to not be naïve or discount the true crisis that exists, but positivity needs to reign supreme at the barn. The only way to do that is to keep going.
“Keep going” will likely be different for everyone. Some barns might have to close to clients, and some might ask to stagger clients arrivals and ride times. Whatever it means for you and your trainer, it has to be done.
We have to remember that the horses are blissfully unaware that COVID-19 exists. For them, we have to keep going. At River Hill, our approach is to keep them fit without wasting jumps. We will be at home with our riders practicing for a long time, so creativity is key. This can be a time to prefect problem areas, improve a horse’s technique, or bring a horse back from rest or injury.
Here’s what this looks like for River Hill Farm horses right now:
- Tuesday – Light hack to gently put the horses through their paces. (walk, trot, canter, counter canter, forward and back)
- Wednesday – A normal flat ride incorporating polls and cavaletti exercises.
- Thursday – This week, we are going through bounces to work on straightness and position.
- Friday – Trail ride! For those who “bounced” on Thursday, this is when we spy on the neighbors. The horses that didn’t “bounce” on Thursday go through the bounces or cavaletti exercises while focused on rideability.
- Saturday – Equitation Challenge Day! We had a fun time doing equitation-type courses that were tailored for every horse and rider combination. (hand gallop, trot jumps, rollbacks, broken lines, bending lines, gymnastics, etc.)
- Sunday – Light hack and trail ride.
We aren’t jumping big, we are just trying to keep the riders and horses dialed in and interested without “drilling” them unnecessarily.
Horse trainers aren’t the only ones who rely on horse shows to make a living. Office staff, ingate staff, braiders, course designer, and judges are all taking big hits. It’s important that we acknowledge the people who make up our industry. They are entirely without incomes when there are no shows. That’s eye opening.
It has been encouraging to see our world come together through things like the Show Jumping Relief Fund, Equestrian Aid Foundation, and individual efforts to lend a hand. There is unity happening. We must remember that this business is set up for a lot people. Horses are our business, but horse shows are the business of so many.
My advice is to “keep going”… no matter what that means for you.
Find River Rill Farm on Facebook and Instagram, or visit riverhillfarmfl.com for a look into Jane’s boutique training business, as well as behind-the-scenes updates from her horses and riders.
Jane Ehrhart runs River Hill Farm, a private training facility based in Wellington, FL. River Hill Farm is a place where riders can be successful in competitive, fun environment. This is the first edition of her blog at theplaidhorse.com, where she will explore an insider’s view of the show jumping world.