As of the beginning of 2019 I have been sponsoring a young rider, named Hannah Penney, based in Hampshire.
On this page there will be regular pieces written by Hannah on her riding life.
Life on Lockdown…
Welcome back to my latest blog edition, I have to say this is one blog I never in a million years, imagined I would be writing. As of Monday 23rd March, the UK has been placed on lockdown for a minimum of 3 weeks due to the current Corona Virus pandemic. Schools have been closed & my A-Level exams cancelled. All non-essential travel is prohibited & we’re all self-isolating in our homes. We’re living in completely unprecedented times. In light of all that, in this month’s blog I’ll be sharing my top 10 suggestions for keeping busy during this quarantine & filling you in on what I’ve been getting up to so far over the past couple of weeks.
Number 1 – Horses…
If you’re able to see your horses but are not riding at the moment, now is the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with them on the ground, away from the hustle & bustle of your normal competition & training routine. Of course, this can be as simple as a really good groom – a great bonding exercise, gets the blood circulation going & brings out a lovely shine to the coat. Although after a couple of naked days in the field, Bella will be having a much-needed bath as soon as it is warm enough!
Last night I finally got around to giving Bella a much needed tidy up but having finished just after 8pm with virtually no light left, I’m yet to get a proper look at the aftermath…. All I’m going to say is there’s a reason Ferne pulls Bella’s mane & tail not me lol…. Good thing we won’t be getting out & about any time soon!
Something I’ve become really interested in over the past couple of weeks is liberty work. I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on it & watching several videos. This lock down is the perfect opportunity to strengthen relationships with those around you & what better one to start with than deepening the connection you share with your horse. Whether you’re going to be tackling the 5* cross country course at Badminton or simply enjoying some happy hacking, a two-way relationship based on mutual trust & respect is essential.
Of course, I was eager to have a go – after all, this is me we’re talking about. Now, if you’re expecting some instant fairy tale connection & proof Bella & I are completely at one – well… I can assure you that was most definitely not how this went down…
I should first of all point out a couple of things.
1. I struggle to even lunge Bella successfully (as a matter of fact I’ve only bothered twice & never again – she really does not appreciate going round & around you in circles, over & over again!)
2. I have no arena or small fenced off paddock so ended up opting for the middle of a random field in front of her stable.
Given all that, it took a little while, but we eventually got the hang of the small liberty circles in walk on the line. Felt like professionals, not going to lie. Okay, so maybe changing direction proved a bit of a challenge (I kept getting myself in a right muddle with the line & my whip) but hey, we were making progress! On to the next step! Following what I had read & watched, I unclipped the line & attempted to repeat the same (supposedly very simple) exercises off the line. Well…
Attempt 1: Bella stops dead & goes for the grass
*Hannah quickly spots the gate to the garden is still open & legs it to shut it before Bella decides to help herself to the vegetable patch*
Attempt 2 & 3: Same result as attempt 1, but you know, at least she wasn’t buggering off
Attempt 4: Hey, progress! We manage about 30 seconds until Bella wanders off & heads straight for her open stable – hmmmm okay, oh well…
*collects Bella out of her stable, brings her back into the field & makes sure to shut the door this time*
Attempt 5: Bella decides she’s done with the bonding lark, sods off up the field & refuses to be caught…
So, to conclude. We are clearly naturals. I’ll let you picture the rather entertaining image that was myself tangled up in a lunge line & Bella casually galloping away into the distance, add in the fact that Bella has now officially mastered the tricks ‘kiss’ & ‘bow’ & it’s a sure thing – you will officially be catching us performing at next year’s Olympia.
There’s no doubt that for now I will be continuing to preserve – who knows maybe one day my horse might love me back!
For those far more sensible than me but still keen to keep their horses working & thinking without riding, there’s so much you can do out of the saddle. Of course, there’s lunging or long reining, but there’s also a whole host of pole work exercises you can do in hand to improve their coordination & core strength. For those who don’t remember the recent blog Lucy & I did on this – I’ll make sure to share these exercises again.
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to continue riding at present, keeping Bella ticking over & preventing her from getting too hot to handle on the ground. Something I’ve been working on over the past few weeks is creating my own exercise bank. I picked out a couple of Bella & I’s key weaknesses & asked around & searched the internet for some new exercises to try & improve them. I then used these to plan out some new schooling sessions in an attempt to keep things interesting & engaging – I had never realised quite how many different exercises you can do with just a handful of poles or jumps! Even if you’re not riding right now, this is such a useful training resource that you’ll be able to easily pull on at any time.
I’ve always struggled with structuring my schooling sessions. I’m quite good at setting small aims to achieve but I often lack a variety of creative ways to try & get there. This results in sessions that are unproductive, unmotivating & just not enjoyable for either of us. This combined with the fact that we only have the field to ride in at home, made it all too easy to keep my flatwork schooling strictly limited to lessons, hacking & the odd arena hire - not the kind of dedication & commitment that’s going to get the results I’d like! Therefore, I have been determined to use this time to try & make the best of a difficult situation & rekindle my love for flatwork. So far, I’ve got to say, it’s going pretty well! I don’t want either myself or Bella to get bored so we’re still hacking every other day but we’ve been trying out lots of new exercises & making promising progress. I now have a much better mindset towards it all but that’s not to say I finish every session feeling great. Our changes are something I have been struggling to nail for months. My riding is messy & I’m not being clear or consistent enough with my aids. Progress is slow & it’s easy to feel deflated & put off practicing them in fear it won’t go well. However, if there’s one thing we have plenty of right now, it’s time. So – once I finish this blog – the first thing I’m going to be doing is making sure I recap the exact aids I should be giving & visualise it in my head. I’m going to plan out tonight’s schooling session with a couple of simple exercises & I’m going to stick at it & be positive. As soon as I can feel progress or improvement, I’ll call it a day – keeping sessions short & sweet. These things take time & practice, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do! Hopefully we can come away from this with a much stronger foundation of basics to build on - might even give some online dressage a go some time soon.
Number 2 – Spring cleaning…
This is something I really don’t see myself running out of any time soon! As much as I may hate the thought of some of these jobs, there is only so long you can really put them off!
So far, I have:
- Washed my car, cleaned out all the clutter & given the inside a thorough hoover
- Tackled my embarrassingly messy bedroom – mum was thrilled to see me finally prioritise the one & only thing she was ever interested in seeing tidied!
- Strip cleaned my tack
- Washed all my brushes & reorganised my grooming kit
- Sorted through & cleaned all my studs (though I’ll confess, mum had to help me get some of the rust off)
- Emptied out the inside of the lorry, swept it all out, scrubbed every wall clean & optimistically reloaded it all ready to go eventing as soon as we are able! Just the outside left to wash now (when I can figure out how to reach!)
Next up on the to do list is:
- Clear out the feed room & remove the giant mess from the rather large rat problem we had this winter…
- Have a major tack room sort out – clear out all the things I no longer need or use & address the major spider infestation – a WAY bigger job than it seems, uhhh…
Number 3 – Broadening your horizons…
Now is the perfect time for expanding existing knowledge & learning new things. I already mentioned my interest in learning more about liberty work & have recently begun reading a book on the horse’s mind which is fascinating & so interesting to read. When I start running out of things to do, I fully intend to finally get around to revising for my Pony Club B Horse & Pony Care, a test I have wormed my way out of doing since I was 15… Whether or not you have any interest in taking any PC or BHS exams, this knowledge is such useful preparation for a whole host of situations you may find yourself in, particularly if – like me – you are the sole carer of horses on private land & have a rather accident prone horse with a tendency to enjoy slicing her legs open…
Number 4 – Keeping connected…
Although you might not be able to see all your friends & family in person right now, it’s important to keep in touch. Even if you’re the kind of person who’s happy on your own, make sure to check in with those you know. Just a quick call or text to ask them how their day has been & remind them that you’re there can make a world of difference & let them know they’re never alone.
Don’t forget to keep looking to that light at the end of this tunnel. Make plans for things you want to do together once we get through all this. A beach ride & some training outings with my friends are at the top of my list!
Number 5 – Get in shape…
I’ve put this one up there because it was high up on my intended list of things to do. However, I will openly confess that I have done absolutely nothing for it as of yet… That said, I’m going to make a solid effort to change that. I’ve always been a strong believer that there’s no point in spending hours getting your horse eventing fit if you yourself are not quite up to par. You Tube is full of equestrian tailored home workouts & Pilates sessions that you can do in your garden or front room without the need for any equipment. I’m feeling the need to start an ab challenge about now! If you’re struggling to motivate yourself, you could even face time a friend and workout together.
Although for most people, riding alone is often enough to keep on top of their cardiovascular fitness, I’ve always found running helpful for improving my stamina out cross country. I’d really recommend the NHS Couch 2 5k app for this. I found it fantastic a few years ago when I first started & it’s always really easy to fall back on when you’ve taken a break. There are also additional training sessions for after you’ve graduated that work on your choice of speed or stamina, after which I moved onto the 10k pro app which I found really useful as it was easy to take things very much at my own pace. The most important thing I found was to keep running fun, changing up the kind of runs I was doing & where I was doing them (but remember if you’re on lockdown right now, any exercise you do has to be from your own front door, you can’t drive to another location).
Number 6 – Reminisce…
Because why not! Right now is the perfect time to support our event photographers by purchasing those throwback photos you couldn’t quite afford at the time. Most companies are offering up to 40 or 50% off digital files making it the perfect opportunity to indulge those eventing blues & relive those special moments. If you’re feeling creative, you could put together a scrapbook or album on your phone or your favourite photos or gather your favourite videos to make some special edits – you could even set up a You Tube channel!
Number 7 – Write…
There is so much going on in the world at present, writing down what you’re thinking can be a really therapeutic release. If you’re struggling to keep motivated, this could be writing down your short-term goals or longer-term dreams to remind yourself what you are aiming towards. It’s also the ideal time to reflect & remind yourself how far you have come. Write down the achievements you are most proud of so far or special moments that have been the most memorable. Now’s the chance to get creative! You could write some short stories/anecdotes or even start a blog.
Number 8 – Take up a new hobby or get back into an old one…
With so much time on our hands, there’s no excuse not to take a leap right now & try something new, or maybe get back into something you once enjoyed but haven’t had time for in a while. Of course, lockdown is not the time to be taking up rock climbing or sailing but there’s still a great deal you can do from your home. I’m hoping to get back into running & cooking a bit more over quarantine but I’m also thinking of trying something totally new! Perhaps attempting to teach myself guitar (our family has always been musical so we have a whole host of instruments lying around) or learning to suture (I got given a kit for Christmas a while back) but at present I already seem to have plenty to keep me busy!
Number 9 – Get organised…
This can involve a whole host of things from having a major tidy up & clear out to breaking in that new planner & filling out the calendar for the year (as much as is physically possible in this current uncertainty).
I’ve been slowly going through the 1000+ unread emails in my inbox as well trying to delete blurry or repeated photos from the 16,000+ in my phone’s camera roll to free up more of my memory.
My getting organised also unfortunately has to involve finishing my biology syllabus & making sure I keep up to date on what both school & universities are currently expecting from me.
In an effort to keep the eventing blues at bay I’ve also been making a packing check list for the lorry for when we’re eventually able to get back out - this has also been the ideal chance to check that things such as my first aid kits are all up to date.
If you’re a primary carer for your horses, now is a good time to create a plan for your horses’ care – in line with the BHS advice – should anyone have to cover for you. This may include their daily routine, what rugs they wear when, what they are fed & any other pieces of important information such as the number for your farrier, vet & any other emergency contact details. It’s not a bad idea to put a copy of these details somewhere in your lorry too.
On a completely different note. I’m planning to give meal prepping a go this week in an attempt to get a bit more organised. With so much time for cooking at present, freezing portions for a later date seems a great way to cut costs & help me to eat more healthy homemade meals without the usual hassle when I’m tired from a long day at the yard or a show. I’m thinking a big lasagne may be the first thing I try.
Number 10 – Taking time for you…
Whilst I certainly can’t speak for everyone, I know that I easily get swept up by everyday life. It wasn’t all that long ago I was juggling 5 days a week at school, working both days at the weekends & trying to slot the horses in on top. It was easy to run around like a headless chicken without ever really taking a breath – I know I can’t be the only one! But right now, we have time to take that breath. I’ve given you a load of suggestions for things to keep busy & the boredom at bay but taking time for yourself is just as valid! You don’t need to be productive all the time! Have that lie in, try some meditation or yoga, check out that new podcast, reread that favourite book, take that long relaxing bath or make the most of that Netflix or Prime subscription. I promise if you ever need suggestions on what to watch, I’m your girl (may or may not have had a slightly worrying addiction throughout year 9-12). Make time for the things that calm you & make you happy – if that’s doing nothing at all, that’s perfectly okay too.
In times like these it’s easy to focus on all the negatives & all the uncertainty. There is so much we don’t know & so much to be afraid of. My Facebook feed is full of adults lashing out at one another. There is judgement & criticism everywhere. But for all that hate there is just as much love. Sure, we might not notice it as easily, but it’s there. Keep being there for each other, keep picking each other up. My heart goes out to all those affected by what is happening in the world right now. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the sacrifices of every key worker fighting for our health & ensuring we have food on our plates. A lost event season is utterly trivial in comparison.
See this lockdown period as an opportunity to press pause on our fast-paced everyday lives. See this time apart as a chance to make relationships stronger, to reconnect with others & most importantly with yourself by finding what matters most to you.
With more time on my hands at present, I am hoping these blogs may become a bit more frequent.
For now, until next time, stay safe & stay healthy. Sending so much love to everyone.
Facebook: Hannah P Equestrian