By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
How many times have you looked at the clock and said “I just do not have enough time to ride.” Now add up all those days and ask yourself, how many days of riding have you lost. We all know that it can take time to groom the horse for a ride, saddle, get warmed up, get to the arena and then ride. Especially in the winter we tend to say there is just not enough daylight.
In 2012 I attended a horsemanship clinic with Jack Brainard (side note: — great clinic!!!) and he spoke to us about Francois Baucher. One concept that Jack shared that he attributed to Baucher and I have since read up on is the short ride. Some have said this can be as short as 15 minutes.
In the last few months I have had limited time…but enough that I could test this theory of the short ride. I was starting a young horse and have always done this with the idea of getting wet saddle blankets. So this time I challenged myself to develop a focused ride and spend no more than 20 minutes riding for as many days a week as I could possibly accomplish. I focused my ride for success and worked to get my goals achieved rather than make wet saddle blankets. I averaged 5 days a week with 20 minutes a ride. I am impressed with the results. I have a mare that moves forward, backwards (real nicely), side passes left and right, does stair-case leg yields, trots off and I am just asking her to lope a circle after 75 of these short rides.
How to succeed with a short riding time:
1) Have a plan. Figure out what you want to accomplish and make that the goal. It might be going forward with ease. Maybe it is working on backing. Then go out, saddle, get on, warm up the horse for a few minutes then work on that one idea. Maybe on Monday it is five steps backwards…amazingly by Friday you will have 15 steps backwards. All this can be done in as little as 20 minutes.
2) Saddle and ride. Not every day does the horse need to be perfectly groomed. I know we all like to be beautiful when riding but sometimes function is more important than the beauty. Clean the horse where the tack goes, tack up, and get on out and ride.
3) Set the time aside – make an appointment for your horse. This is important and the most difficult part. It is amazing how we can have appointment television, appointments for our hair and nails, appointments for coffee or lunch…but we “run out of time to ride”. Set your calendar and make an appointment each day to ride.
4) Do not be a wimp. Lately we have had some really cold weather in the US. I do not advocate riding in extreme or harsh weather but all to many times I see wind, cold, fog, dampness, too much sun, not enough sun be the excuse to not ride. A bit of a nose cold, a toe that hurts, a finger that feels funny — another great set of excuses for not riding. Really think about your riding goals and make them happen — do not be a wimp … be a strong leader for your horse. (Note–I lived in Nebraska and my friends there ride in bad weather — they are tough and so whenever I think about the weather not being right — well I borrow a bit of inspiration from them and get in the saddle and ride)
Of course I advocate being safe. Never ride if you feel that you are not well enough or that you are going to hurry and might get yourself or the horse hurt. What I do ask you to consider — make your horse riding important and part of your life. If you put in the time you will build a better horse and have a better relationship with your horse.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).