Everyone is at different stages with their equines at the moment. You might be taking a break, supporting your horse’s health, preparing for shows or forming a partnership with a new horse- for me, it’s a little different. I’m currently recovering from major surgery (to form a stoma) and this lockdown is being used to slowly build my fitness back up, ready to compete and show jump again
If anyone has spent a few weeks ill, on holiday or taken a break from sports in the past, you’ll know how quickly your fitness levels seem to vanish! It is no different when you’re in hospital (especially when having surgery) and last month any sign of my strength went poof and disappeared. Simple things like holding conversations with my parents on the phone or brushing my hair became exhausting whilst my body was putting all of the energy into recovering- which felt crazy when a few weeks before I was whizzing around at horse shows in the cold weather!
In many ways, I found myself at square 1 fitness-wise- a far cry from being able to ride every day and compete. That was when it dawned upon me that I was going to have to work for it and work hard to get back where I was- which meant planning strategically how we could make ‘Mission surgery to showjumping’ not only possible but a reality.
Six weeks post-surgery and I began riding Daisy (my horse) again, starting with gentle hacks around our local village. The last of the autumn leaves were an added bonus for taking it slow, we got to enjoy how beautiful the Lincolnshire Wolds were, and see it in so many different colours! When that became relatively easy, we worked on some basic flatwork in the arena, and slowly built up to more demanding lateral work. Alongside flatwork, yoga has been a huge part of my recovery, helping to strengthen my core, maintain balance and reduce muscle wastage- it’s a great addition to rider routine, not only for recovery but for general fitness maintenance too! When all of this was going smoothly, we knew I was ready to have a jump around some fences…and even after three months of no jumping, it felt like I’d never stopped-although I definitely owe that to Daisy being a star!
Whilst rider fitness and health are important, the same goes for our horses. They can’t possibly perform well if their health and fitness aren’t closely monitored and kept going. Whilst I was in the hospital, my mum (who I hope appreciates the acknowledgement!) deserves a big thank you for keeping Daisy fit and well when I was in the hospital. It will always be easier to maintain a horse’s health than to have to start from scratch and build your way up. Luckily Daisy prefers to be in work, have attention and a job, and it fell to my mum to help make it possible that she was kept in work and looked after…also saving me having to worry about how my horse was and if she’s okay.
Returning to riding was made a lot easier because of this, Daisy was tuned up, fit and happy- which is exactly how you need a horse when you’re making the transition as a rider back into riding. To maintain my horse’s health and help keep Daisy happy, she enjoys a day in the field each day until late autumn (just before the mud comes!) For the winter she has a leg stretch every day (either with time on the horse walker or a roll in the winter paddocks) before being ridden in the afternoon. I think it’s great for a horse’s mentality too- no one wants to be locked in a stable for 24hours a day- even if it is cosy!
This, alongside supporting Daisy through her feed and Global Herbs supplements has been an invaluable step. We’ve used Movefree since first buying Daisy three years ago (aged 14), she’s now 17years old and the support for joint mobility and aiding normal flexibility Movefree supplies, still gives significant benefits for her- especially in situations like these when we need it most for her to feel her best!
These two first steps set everything up for joining both me and Daisy together again, making sure my fitness was at a level where I was capable of riding properly and keeping Daisy ticking over and happy which allowed us to get back jumping (albeit at home due to lockdown 2.0) much sooner thanks to planning the steps strategically.
It feels impossible when you’re at the beginning, and easy to excuse yourself from the hard work, effort and determination that our sport takes. You’re not alone though, work with the team around you (for me this is my mum and our livery yard) because if we’ve done it before, we can do it again. It is 100% possible, as my motto says, to #FindAWayNotAnExcuse!
Set your goals, plan the steps you need to take towards your goal and get started!