Go for the tailcoat

The galloping housewife is totally bummed that it seems like we won’t be having the season we planned. She is particularly reeling from the news that schools may be closed for 16 weeks. SIXTEEN WEEKS?!?! Fortunately, this galloping housewife’s kids are fairly self-sufficient, but still, she will probably have to interact with them at some stage. It’s not OK. She hasn’t really had time to fully absorb this information yet so will leave the suggestions as to how to survive this period without committing prolicide for another blog; right now she is looking at solutions as to how to fill that gap left by the lack of competitions on the horizon. Often horse shows are our goals, our measures, our motivation, our recreation and our socialisation.

 Obviously those with that wee gymkhana in Tokyo on the horizon, a canter over the grounds in the shadows of Badminton House, or a start in the bright lights of Las Vegas will have a completely different challenge to overcome, but here we’re talking to the every rider, the galloping housewife, the amateur with goals. At the outset when these challenges arise, it can feel overwhelming. Your New Year’s resolution was to ride in the Bronze final at Nationals or to qualify for grassroots, or to bag a Discovery win and if that’s not an option anymore, why keep going. To be perfectly frank, not keeping going is also a possibility. You don’t need to ride with a goal in mind. You don’t need to be training for anything specific. You don’t need to be getting better. You don’t even need to ride. Your horse doesn’t care – he doesn’t have ambitions of his own and would be more than happy to have six months or a year in the field eating and hanging out with his mates. Or just being ridden for fun. School a little when you feel like it, jump some jumps when you feel like it or hack around the block when you feel like it.

 Alternatively, you can create your own motivation for improvement. It’s always best when it comes from inside anyway. You might be surprised by just how fast and how much you can progress when you don’t have an upcoming event to worry about. You have more money and more time. You can risk upsetting the apple cart and have things get a bit messy which often happens when learning a new movement. You can go back to basics and fix that turn or transition or the rushing off after a fence. You can take the time and desensitise your horse to water or trays or signs or flags or whatever the hell horse eating inanimate object it is that always means the 4 fault score.

The galloping housewife’s most rapid transformation was one winter back in New Zealand. In those days winters were a true wasteland with maybe one unaffiliated show a month between Regionals (or Nationals if you were lucky enough to qualify) and the spring qualifiers. At regionals she sat admiring a fellow competitors new tailcoat. When she asked the competitor where she had purchased it, the competitor scoffed and said ‘I’d worry about learning to ride before you worry about where to get a tailcoat from…’ Guess who came out the next season and kicked said competitors arse in the Prix St Georges? The galloping housewife went home and spent the winter getting as much training as she could, and made all the adjustments necessary to support herself and her horse in the transition from average Advanced Medium to good enough Prix St Georges.

Treat this time off as an opportunity. Experiment with your management. Take the time to make sure that you and your horse are in the best physical and mental shape of your lives.

Maybe bootcamp some training, or spend a month completely out of the arena. Whatever you do, have fun. And remember just how privileged you are. To ride, and to be part of this community. You are even privileged to be inconvenienced. Some people won’t have that luxury.

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