Beat the clock
Juggling careers and chores with seeing friends and family can leave little time to spend with your horse. We ask the experts how to tackle this race against the clock and make the most of your day
Our panel of experts advise on how to increase the time you spend with your horse
Meet the experts
CLARE EVANS is a time management and productivity expert. An avid traveller, Clare recently got back from a bird-watching trip to Peru.
JAY HALIM is an international show jumper and current national Grand Prix champion. According to his Twitter page, he’s also known for his dashing good looks and disco moves.
VIKKI HAYTON is a British dressage trainer, judge and rider. When she’s not riding, Vikki rescues hedgehogs.
The phrase ‘there never seem to be enough hours in the day’ has probably crossed your mind more than once this week. In fact, when we asked your horse readers what holds them back most in their riding, they answered with a resounding ‘lack of time’.
You might spend all afternoon at the office daydreaming about a productive jumping session or a relaxing evening hack, only to find at the end of the day there’s just enough time to give your horse a quick groom and a carrot (if he’s lucky).
Here at Your Horse, we know how the pressures of daily life impact on the time you get to spend with your horse. Whether you work long hours, are a full-time parent or study hard at school and university, finding the time to ride can seem challenging without having a team of grooms to help.
We asked readers what most affects your time to ride and took these dilemmas to the experts.
“I work full time”
Working full time is a common reason why many horse owners struggle to find time to spend with their horse. Follow these tips from time management expert Claire to help you make the most of your time in the saddle.
Make a plan
Lungeing for 20 minutes can be the equivalent of 45 minutes of schooling
“Plan in advance how much time you want or need to spend with your horse,” says Clare. “Maybe you don’t have two hours a day, but how about an hour? Block out this time at the beginning of each week or month so that it’s in your diary and you can plan other meetings and work around it.”
Show jumping star Jay Halim agrees. “At the weekend, make a checklist and plan what you need for the week. At my yard, we have weekly washing regimes for equipment and a check list for making sure anything we need for the week is ready.”
Once you have a schedule together, decide which days you’d like to work your horse.
“I’d advise alternating between having two days on and one day off, or having four days on and one day off,” says Vikki Hayton, a British dressage trainer and judge.
“If you’re short of time to ride, try lungeing. It’s a really good form of exercise for your horse – one 20-minute session can be the equivalent of 45 minutes of schooling.
“I wouldn’t lunge for any longer than 20 minutes, but plan to do this once a week. What’s more – you can fit it in before or after work. Put on overalls over your work clothes and you can be dressed and ready to go.
“Being well-organised is key. You’ll find that the busiest people often schedule their lives down to the minute.”
Why not give it a try and download our special Your Horse planner from www.yourhorse.co.uk/planner
“I finish work late”
Try getting up earlier to do jobs like mucking out so you have more time later in the day
Do you really need to spend an extra half an hour at the end of the day fixing up that spreadsheet, or can it wait until tomorrow? Fix yourself a deadline at work and stick to it.
“Set a definite end time to your day, rather than just deciding to work late until you’ve finished,” says time expert Clare. “Are there any tasks you can stop to free up time? If you manage your time effectively and prioritise your tasks, you’ll have more time to spend with your horse.”
Maybe you can’t get away from the office on time every day, but there are ways to reduce the time you spend on jobs at the yard.
“When you have a bit more time, for example at the weekend, make up batches of food,” says dressage pro Vikki. “I find this very helpful and means I’m not wasting time during the week. I also do all of my hay nets at the same time.
“For things like mucking out, I do this first thing in the morning and I get up at 5.30am every day. Why not try getting up earlier and setting your alarm two mornings a week and see how much extra time you have?”
“I struggle to fit in seeing friends and family”
Involve your kids and get them enjoying the outdoors
Just because you have a horse, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to kiss goodbye to your social life. Follow these tips to find out how.
Involve your friends and family
Why not kill two birds with one stone – bring your family along to the yard and have them help out with your horse.
“Getting your family involved is a great way to spend time with them as well as your horse,” says Clare.
This could be anything from getting the kids to help with the grooming or mucking out (a great way to get them outside and away from that computer!), to having someone there to help you get your horse tacked up, while you’re driving back from work.
Maybe you have a friend that’s interested in horses. Why not plan to meet them up the yard, and catch up over a cup of tea while they learn how to groom your horse. You could even give them their first riding lesson. What better way to spend time with your two best friends?
“My family and horses don’t mix!”
Show jumper Jay Halim catches up with friends when warming up and cooling down
If, like show jumper Jay Halim, you chuckled in disbelief at the thought of any of your friends turning up to the yard ready to muck in, here’s a quirky solution for you.
“I don’t involve my friends or family,” laughs Jay, “But I do find it useful to ride with a phone wire (hands-free).
“It sounds funny, but it’s useful because I can catch up with friends and have a chat to them on the phone in the 10 minutes that I’m warming up or cooling down. As long as you can concentrate on what your horse is doing, it’s a good way to catch up with friends while exercising your horse.”
Away from your horse, there’s plenty that you can do to optimise your time.
“What tasks are there that only you can do?” asks time expert Clare. “What needs to change to give you more time to spend with your horse? Write down your daily tasks and think ‘can only I do that?’.”
You might be surprised to see how much you’re doing at home that other people could help out with.
Sharing the cooking with your boyfriend or taking it in turns with other parents to take the kids to their swimming lessons are all great ways to save time and give you a few extra minutes with your horse.
“At the end of the day, you need to remember that you’re with your horse for your own enjoyment,” says Jay Halim. “If you’ve had a bad day at work, or the kids have annoyed you, take the time with your horse to relax and take a step away from all of that. That’s why you have him!”
Where NOT to cut corners
Always allow enough time for a warm up and cool down
While being efficient at the yard can help optimise your time, you should never compromise the safety or health of your horse. Remember to take your time on the following:
- Check your horse over for any lumps and bumps or injury
- Always allow sufficient time to warm up and cool down properly (if you’re really short of time, this could form the basis of your whole ride)
- Leave boots on until your horse is completely cool – this ensures the skin cools down gradually and protects the muscles in his legs
- Your horse’s water should be prepared on the day or the evening before
- Try to relax – remember your horse will pick up on any stress from you
Make the most of your warm up and cool down
Finishing with a free walk is an effective way to cool down your horse and lower his heart rate
Vikki Hayton says: “Warming up is vital, so use your time effectively. It’s important that schooling starts from the minute you get on. I’m busy, so I make sure that everything I do is to a good standard.
“I move quite quickly into canter as I find it a useful transition to warm the horse up and get him on the aids. It’s beneficial for rounding the horse’s back, warming up his hamstrings and using his hindquarters.
“Cooling down your horse should never be missed. Walk is a great exercise for relaxing and lowering the heart rate. I like to finish with a medium walk and a free walk.
“Horse walkers (if you have access to one) are also a great way to ensure your horse is completely cooled down. What’s even better is that you can pop your horse in one and leave him to cool down while you get on with other yard jobs.”
Your Horse team share their time-busting tips
“Once a week (usually on a Sunday) I spend 10 minutes looking through my plans for the week ahead to ensure I know where I need to be and what I’m going to be doing. This means, for example, if I knew I was going to a competition on Wednesday, I’d set aside time on Monday or Tuesday to get all my kit ready.”
Associate Editor Allison:
“For me, it’s about being super organised. I plan my horse Wish’s work for the week so I know what I’m doing each day and if any equipment is needed such as poles, I’ll set them out the night before.
“I also use audio downloads (iRide). These are timed workouts that give my schooling time focus and are a set length to help keep on time in the mornings. Wish’s everyday bridle also doesn’t have a noseband on it, so that’s one less strap to do up in the morning!
“I get changed for work at the yard and pack up my clothes the night before. It’s one less thing to worry about in the morning.”
Online editor Katherine:
“For competitions, I have a list of everything I need as my memory doesn’t work under pressure. That way I can load the lorry the night before and anything I might need in the morning (such as water and, of course, the horse!) can be ticked off the list when I’ve loaded it.”
Writer Amy Moore:
“I’m lucky because my family are really helpful. My dad will often head up to the yard and get my horse Indi in from the field and tack her up for me while I’m commuting back from work. I can hop straight in the saddle as soon as I arrive and it gives me an extra 20 minutes riding.”