For many of us in lockdown the enthusiasm to ride may have decreased and the lack of motivation grows as we watch the daily “Gladys updates”. Although the restrictions may have eased for some - providing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel - there are some of us “regular riders” who have struggled to simply put on a sports bra - let alone breeches and riding boots!
There are some people who have horses as their livelihood, who basically have no choice but to get up in the morning, check the horses, do feeds, rugging and subsequently the natural tendency for those people is to throw a saddle on and get riding. Easy right?
But what if riding horses isn’t your livelihood?
What if you love riding, but can’t find the get up and go to throw a saddle on?
What if you have to travel to your horse, and most days you just can’t be stuffed to get in the car, because someone else is looking after your horse for you?
What if you have easy access to horses, but you simply don’t have the inclination to get out to ride?
You know you’ll feel better for it, but with everything that is going on, whether it is big or small, it’s just easier to do the basics - like eating and sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes just doing the basics is all that is needed, but what do we do when we know we want to ride, but for one reason or another, we just aren’t doing it?
If you were to ask a successful rider what their top tip for being motivated to ride would be, it would probably be the Nike slogan – Just Do It! Easier said than done for some.
We look at these top riders and applaud their successes, but we also know that a huge amount of hard work, determination, patience, sacrifices, pain and passion has been the basis for their results, and those “basics” have been years and years of formulated habits, that have become as natural to them as breathing!
So how do we “mere mortals”, change from whoa to go? How do we motivate ourselves to ride when all we want to do is stay inside and make up an excuse about the weather, or work commitments, or procrastinate until it’s too late and we think we’ll do it tomorrow? Then tomorrow comes, it’s like Groundhog Day and we don’t get to ride again. Repeat cycle.
First thing is to accept that we are making excuses and work out how to break the cycle of not riding. So how do we break the cycle you ask?
1. Set A Goal
There are certainly a few riders out there who are motivated by competing, but with lockdown restrictions, it’s hard to get moving when there are no competitions on the horizon.
For those who aren’t riding or aren’t riding regularly enough (certainly compared to what we used to), the goal can be as simple as “I need to put a saddle on my horse today and lunge it”, to a bit more training focused, such as I need to work on my transitions, improve my lateral work, or increase overall fitness (for yourself and your horse).
Setting a goal is the first step to breaking the cycle of riding inactivity.
Also, be honest with yourself. Sometimes everything can seem overwhelming, but if you break it down into “bite sized” pieces, our goals can be more easily achieved, and hopefully less stress is associated with taking action.
2. Be Accountable
Write it down – put it on a post-it-note and stick it on your mirror to remind yourself in the morning. Set a reminder in your calendar. Tell someone about your goal. Just because we are in lockdown, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t reach out to people to help motivate one another.
When you write down or verbalise your goal, it generates a change in the way you think - you then become focused on your future and how you want to achieve it. If you make the commitment to “put a saddle on and lunge your horse” (insert your relative goal here), it’s fundamentally up to you to stick to that goal, but with the help of “positive triggers”, you can start to change your habits.
Remember though, that just because you didn’t do it one day, doesn’t mean you can’t refocus and do it instead on the next day. It’s easy to get down on yourself and lose motivation overall, but don’t be hard on yourself if you have a setback.
Look at your positive triggers and plan to take the first step again the next day.
3. Develop a Routine
Once you’ve set a goal, the key is changing the everyday routine of not riding to become the everyday routine of riding. For some, being able to ride every day is not necessarily attainable - nor required to start with. But changing your habit of not riding at all, to riding 2-3 times as week is a much more attainable goal, and much easier to maintain.
Once you start, then it is up to you to ensure that you don’t allow other distractions to detract from your goal. A repeated goal will become habit. When things become a habit, you can then set other goals and the next thing you know, you’re doing these things automatically – thus the cycle is broken!
Sounds easy, but probably the biggest challenge for anybody when they’re feeling unmotivated, is admitting that they need to change. One of the first steps is to make a decision to put actions in place.
While our 3 tips are presented to give you an approach to getting motivated, always remember how good it feels when you’re riding and the reason why we ride is to enjoy the journey, it helps us stay positive, as well as being conscious of the fact that a 500lb beast is willing to cooperate with us under most circumstances!
There are not many other sports in the world like equestrian that can provide this type of wholesome and encompassing experience.
At the end of the day, as horse people we all know how good we feel after riding – you might get those two collected strides of canter, or the perfect take off before a jump, or just a lovely, relaxed ride out - but it is these small moments that can bring us a smile, and overall sense of positivity to our demeanor.
In these COVID times, we need to perpetuate as many positive moments for our own physical and mental well-being and fundamentally, “horse time” is the answer. You know that feeling when you put your arms around your horses’ neck and breath in… it’s a good feeling isn’t it. So just do it.
For those who are motivated by competitions, we have no doubt that all organisers are literally ‘chomping at the bit’ to be able to provide COVID safe environments for us to compete again. So, if you are putting in the groundwork now with your training, you’ll be better prepared for when competitions do start.
All that is needed now is to stop the excuses. Have a chat with yourself about what’s more important – riding our beautiful beasts or checking socials?
Do I want to “Netflix and chill” or do I want to saddle up and ride?
Do I want to eat the block of chocolate, or do I want to move my body first (so I can enjoy the chocolate afterwards)?
Do I want to feel slothy from lounging about, or do I want to feel absolutely invigorated after a good gallop?
Get out, get moving, and do it for yourself and your horse!