The light at the end of the tunnel for equestrians is finally here, with Covid 19 restrictions set to be eased and eventually lifted altogether… well that is what it seems, it could be great news…or is it.. according to my messages and workload some horse riders are experiencing some tremendous challenges, challenges which are unprecedented in the modern era. These challenges will force people to re-evaluate their riding and training. The potential effects for horse riders, of various ages and level of training could be far reaching and not all good. How is 2021 looking for you and your horses as we head into a period of ‘new normal’ or whatever it will prove to be for horse riders, owners and trainers. Lets take a closer look at how some of these challenges, or opportunities may shape up.
Some horses have not been in full regular consistent work now since Autumn of 2019 and this
Now, at first this might sound like an obvious and easy one, however when you consider an awful lot of horses that are ridden in competitions at most levels have not been competing since summer of 2019 it takes on a deeper potential meaning. I am finding a lot of people are contacting me for advice due to the fact that their lightly backed five year old of Summer 2019 is now a strapping fully developed riding seven year old who has basically been living the easy life for not far short of two years. I am hearing of many basic handling difficulties too, it is not all about riding. Some horses have not been loaded into a vehicle for a long time, they might decide they dop not want to do it any more.
As we all know horses can be very different at different ages, they change physically and mentally and for someone with their first young horse, as of Summer 2019 they have not progressed through the developmental stages of riding their horse as it matures. A lot of people are experiencing behavioural difficulties as presumably their horses have learnt to live a physically less demanding life. Now it might not seem like a long time in human terms of a lifetime but horses have shorter lifespans and if we pick a random figure and say horses live until they are 20 years of age we are talking about a break of 10% of their lifetime if they have been off for two years. Many changes take can take place and it would be wise for folks to anticipate the challenges that may well materialise.
What are some of the ways we can tackle these issues before they occur or get bigger.
I have seen so many people over such a long time incorrectly diagnose their riding or handling difficulties as being linked to non riding issues. So if anyone has problems when all the other things, like teeth, back and general health have been attended to but problems occur or continue it only points to one thing in my opinion. That is the training of the horses and the skillset of the riders and handlers… there is nowhere to hide. If I was asked to make a list of what riders should do in the face of the new normal I would say patience, consistency and the correct advice will be the way to go. Focus on training correctly and progressively, paying attention to your own riding skillset. Do not expect your horse to be the same horse you took to places in 2019, if you are having issues, think them through and never take it for granted things are going to be the same, they might well be, but equally they might not be. Again as I said earlier depending on your horses’ age the effects could be greater or less, what I would say is 10 year old horses that were 8 in 2019 are popping up with real regularity in my dealing with horse owners. I have written and spoken before about my firmly held conviction that 10 years of age is generally the equine equivalent of the human age of forty. Gravity and time catches up with us all, two and four legs alike, so structure your training to take these things into account.
The people who will manage best are the ones who trained consistently and correctly before the Covid 19 pandemic.
If you are one of those people who trained properly before the pandemic you will be ahead of the game, obviously if you carried on too this will also apply. To the people who didn’t they are the ones having issues, some of which will get worse. Remember, patience, knowledge and professional support are the keys to success. Every other box is ticked with all the checks having been done.
Let us finish on a positive note
I am well known for my optimistic outlook and I could have never got through my life with horses without that so if anybody wants to think of one possibly major bonus some horse owners might get out of all of this it is this. A lot of horses have had a lot of time to recover from any hidden problems that might well have exploded without the break we have all had to put up with, which could have been hidden, just below the surface. so just think of how many hard worked legs, suspensory ligaments, sensitive mounts, sore bruised backs and so on and son on are now fully recovered. A point also to remember going forward into 2021… when surely things can only get better.
Stay safe all