We’ve all been there.

For one reason or another, things overwhelm us, and the barn is a mere distant memory. You forget the feel of the reins in your hands. You hardly remember the exact color and softness of your horse’s coat. You can’t even tell the difference anymore between a surcingle and a martingale. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that it has been a while since I have been able to ride and I am desperate to get some time back in the saddle.

Most of what I do at school in terms of my horseback riding is simply get through the weeks until I can ride again. It has never been easy, but I have figured out a few ways to make the time a little faster, with a little less heartache. Distractions can be a great tool if you know you will be riding a certain date from now- obviously you don’t want them to interfere with your riding, but distracting yourself can help you avoid the dreaded cycle of simply sitting in your room staring at pictures of you on the horses, and convincing yourself that because your wrists were bent at that terrible angle to get your lead change, you are a terrible rider and have no business on a horse. EVER. I mean, I wouldn’t have any personal experience with that or anything…

Yes, distracting yourself can be good. Get some other work done that you’ve been putting off to go to the barn. After having a good ride and performing well in the ring, probably the next best feeling is completing all of the odd jobs and chores that have been hanging over head like an ominous storm cloud. Once the house is clean, the family is fed, the bills are paid, and any and all work or school projects have been sufficiently completed for the night, it is finally time to relax and do what you enjoy doing. This will make your absence from the barn slightly sweeter, especially if you use your extra time to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill.

Another way to ease the pain between barn visits is to remind yourself of your love for your animal and, if you compete, reiterate that you are a talented horsewoman (or man!) and that a few days or weeks off will not set you back too far. Maybe you have the shoe off of your favorite horse- put it somewhere where you will see it! Or if you competed a few weeks back and the show photographer took an excellent photo of you and your horse looking like the champions that you are, frame that memory and hang it up on your wall. My room has a section of wall entirely devoted to my prettiest ribbons, and a wonderful picture of me and Dante from a victory lap late last year. I walk past my accomplishments every day, and not only does it help keep up my spirits about my riding, it also serves to boost my mood and make me more capable to tackle whatever challenge I may face that day.

So always be sure to encourage yourself. And even if years go by and you come across a photo of yourself on a favorite pony from that old barn by your hometown and wish you could go get some horse time in, it is never too late. There’s not time like the present to pick up the habit again and allow the healing of the soul to commence. For horses allow us to be ourselves, to be strong and healthy individuals, to share a bond with such a powerful animal, and to fly without wings.

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