As our thoughts go to difficult math equations and dry literature, remember that horses de-stress and relax us!
Here are a few ways to keep involved with our four-legged friends, whether you’re leaving your best friend at home while you move states, live an hour away, or live a few minutes away. This also applies to middle and high school students or college students living at home as schooling is distracting and stressful at any level, from any place.
Ride as Normal After School This is the most obvious option. If you are close to your own horse or still in middle/high school, this is probably the option for you. This also works if you are blessed with the funds and means to drive to a lease horse or lesson barn near you!
Start an Equestrian Team or Club
This is what I did last year at my school a few states away. This club had less than 10 members, but it was a fun way to meet other equestrian people and motivate each other.
Join an Equestrian Team or Club If you are serious about riding as a career or part of a career, seriously consider going to a college that already has a club or team.
Ride Your Horse/Lease Horse on the Weekends This may seem simple, but it’s a good idea. If you’re a partier, ride in the early afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to recover from the night before and to give you time to get ready to have fun again in the evening! (If you’re not, like me, go whenever you want!)
Working Student If you are organized and able to handle multi-tasking, becoming a working student may be the job for you. In exchange for cleaning stalls, turnout, or feeding, you can ride for free! This will usually give you lessons (free or discounted) and a variety of horses. (Warning: this is not an easy choice!)
Volunteer Volunteering for therapeutic stables or rescues is a rewarding way to work with horses for free. Often these positions are non-riding, or you may have to work your way up to riding. Grooming and loving on these horses is very important!
Let me know what you do with horses during school!
Saturday, June 17th, we took Beau to his second off-property schooling show. I’m not sure what his previous owners did with him, but it certainly feels as if it was his second ever, not just with us.
Here’s how the day went:
(Note: Times are estimated, show times get blurry. In addition, we found out that our bit was controversial the night before, so we showed him in a D-ring single joint snaffle, which I’d ridden him in for a ride or two a year ago, which did not end well. He loved it at the show, though, and I haven’t switched it back since!)
6:30AM: Leave home barn
7:30AM: Arrive at show property
8AM: I school Beau. This consisted of some hasty lunging in the show arena before being nicely kicked out so that riders could school under saddle. Beau definitely had plenty of energy and excitement, hopping around and half rearing and running and more.
8:30AM: I school Beau under saddle. He surprised me with his attention. We only had one small buck, and he went straight back to work. My trainer helped us by having us rate our gaits, which means using my post to go from a small, short trot to a long, strong trot. It seems to calm us and get our heads in the game. We also popped over a few verticals at 2′. We had one refusal, because I’m lame and didn’t commit, but I made sure that didn’t happen again.
9AM: I get off, Beau gets hay and water. I leave his saddle on to keep him in the “riding mindset” (which I’d end up half regretting later but hunter shows are all “hurry up and wait”).
9:30AM: My leaser arrives. Her first hunter show (above x-rails)!
11 to 12PM: I get on again. We school about a half hour before my classes. He is fantastic, soft and adjustable. I’m loving it!
1PM: My rounds! I do three 2′ hunter rounds, which are the best jumping rounds I’ve had on him ever. I don’t know what got to us, but we were on. We placed 1st in schooling, 2nd in the 2nd round, and 2nd in the third round. Our flat classes were okay, not bad but not fantastic either. It was super windy and hard to hear the announcer, plus there was a flapping tent that Beau wasn’t too happy about either. We placed 6th in under saddle (aka I have a giraffe for a horse) and 4th in equitation because I cannot freaking get my diagonals.
2PM: My leaser rides in the 2’3″ class. Beau is, again, perfectly amazing. I am now completely befuddled as to who this quiet, well-behaved horse is. She places well in all 5 of her classes, and is ecstatic to have shown so well in her first big class (her words, but I love it!). Beau is now super sweaty and tired.
3PM: My dad rides in the 2’6″ class. My concern is much higher for Beau than for my dad, as he is super tired and sweaty at this point. He still has plenty of energy though, and it doesn’t take much to get him to go. My dad has nearly flawless rounds, except leaving out some of the strides. He places in 4 of his 5 classes, and 2’6″ is definitely the most competitive division.
Enjoy my commentary, by the way!
4PM: Beau is super sweaty, huffing and puffing. Later, we realized that this is probably at least partially due to his medical condition. He has a normal secondary AV block in his heart. What this means is that when he’s not in hard work, part of his heart shuts off. It’s somewhat common in racehorses. I’d assume it’s even more common because he is a descendant of Secretariat, who is known for his huge heart. So, it’s logical that when his heart turns on, his breathing would increase.
As soon as my dad is off, his saddle is pulled off and I sponge him down with as much water as possible, sweat scraping as I go. I then squeeze plenty of liniment on his lower leg tendons. By the time his cooled off and eaten some grass, it’s time to go home.
We load up, and head out. I feed him and give him a dose of bute for good measure. He had a long, hard day. He gets the next day off and the day after is a quick, chill hack. My barn friend/caretaker informs me he’s slept most of the day inside (he goes out at night to avoid the heat).
Last notes: Two years ago, Beau was an underweight, undermuscled, super green horse who liked to go up and down more than forward (well, unless it was running forward). One year ago, at his first off-property, he spooked and ran and had all the wiggles. Two years ago, I never could have kept up with him. One year ago, I was nervous. This show, I was the most calm I’ve ever been. It wasn’t just that I was a better rider, it was that I knew we could do. I knew that we had become a team, a partnership. And once I realized that, there was no stopping us.
“Be My Beau” gave us fourteen ribbons. Like an old schoolmaster, he carted around three people for fifteen classes. And just like that, the student, my pride-and-joy project, became the master.
Psychologists aren’t just horsing around: they actually put their faith in the lovely creatures. Horses are the perfect type of therapy due to their ability to reflect our emotions and bring relief from addiction and stress. Not only does equine therapy help release emotions, it also helps a person create a bond with something that can become a symbol of hope.
Horses immediately trigger strong emotions in humans, and, because they are attuned to body language and stiffness, they can sense what a person is facing and help further their recovery. Scientific research has been done regarding the effectiveness of equine therapy. It shows that horses actually change human brainwave patterns. When a person is near or on the horse, their brain waves become more centered and focused from natural empathy.
Many companies such as Lift Me Up use equine therapy to help calm people and help them stay focused on the present, rather than whatever problem they are facing outside the barn. Equine therapy can also be used to help slowly gain mobility without having to go to your physical therapist. Horses have a way of empowering people to try their best and work on their strengths and weaknesses in a stress-free environment.
The practice of using horses for medical issues isn’t new; in fact, it dates back to 600BC with the Greeks! Either way, scientists have medical proof that horses help relieve stress, and it seems that there is:
“Something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
Well, they’re really invaluable. Priceless. Irreplaceable. Exceptional. Whichever way you write it, volunteers keep eventing going. It would be literally impossible to run horse trials the way they are now without volunteers. For example, you need scribes and runners for dressage, jump crew and timers, cross country jump judges and timers, and that’s just the beginning.
I was inspired to write a little blog about and for volunteers by the USEA. The US Eventing Association has recently started a new Volunteer Incentive Program, or VIP for short (Apps in the Apple Store and Google Play). It’s a way for organizers of the horse trials to keep easy tracking of volunteer sign ups. I also believe there are certain “incentives” for the volunteers as well, although the information on that is lacking. Be sure to check the VIP site for updates! One of my favorite event hosts, Stone Gate Farm, is trying the program at their spring event, the Winona Horse Trials (Hanoverton, Ohio – Area VIII).
My hope is that it makes volunteering easier and incentivizes more people sign up to volunteer. Volunteering is an important way to give back to the eventing community. Not only is it a form of community service, it’s a fun way to get to know the rest of the eventers in your area. There are usually multiple events throughout the year, as well as smaller jumper or dressage shows, so there should be at least one you can volunteer at in the year for farms near you.
Here are a few things to remember about volunteers:
They are there all day: rain, sun, freezing cold, or sweating and hot.
Remember that volunteers aren’t just there for one ride. They are often outside all day, through all sorts of weather, doing jobs to make sure riders can get the best ride possible. Especially with cross country judges, who usually sit in isolated spots, giving a smile or a wave can make their day!
They are there to help you.
Volunteers are usually riders or family members of riders. They know what it’s like to be in the place of a rider – so, anything you need (that isn’t unauthorized assistance), volunteers will usually be happy to help!
They are committed to the sport of eventing.
If there is one way to tell if a person is committed to eventing, it’s volunteering. Like what I said before, volunteers are out all day to help you. They take time out of their days to volunteer so that you can ride.
So, smile, say hello, and volunteer if you can. Make sure to thank a volunteer the next time you’re at an event – they are there for you!
I am planning on vlogging my volunteer day at Winona Horse Trials on Sunday the 14th, so keep an eye out for that on my blog or YouTube channel!