It’s no secret that returning to something you love as an adult will feel different. And if it’s something that’s as physically demanding as horseback riding, you may have to go easy on yourself in the beginning. I’ve been back to riding for a year now, and to be honest, it’s taken me about that long to get reconditioned to being back in the saddle, if you know what I mean.
After more than a decade away from the sport, I started riding again last year when I had extra time. Then, I began riding more consistently each week, which helped strengthen the muscles needed for the sport. But these last couple of weeks, I’ve been riding two horses daily while their owner is away, and there are a few things I’ve learned from the experience.
- Set a schedule: Horses need to get worked regularly, but they also need downtime. And so do you. While I knew the horses would need one or two days off a week, I also realized my own body would need that time to recoup, too. Take into account any lessons and the weather (we’re currently having a heat wave) and plan days off accordingly.
- Be consistent: For me to ride two horses and be back in time to manage my client work, I’ve had to leave my house around 7 am each day. That helps me account for the hour commute to the barn each way, and it also allows me to beat some of the summer heat. Going early means that I don’t feel rushed, and I can spend plenty of time with each horse after I ride.
- Realize you’re not a kid anymore: I underestimated how exhausting riding two horses a day would be in my mid-30s. Back in my competitive equestrian days, I rode multiple horses a day in all kinds of weather and don’t recall feeling nearly as tired as I do now. Remember there are options to riding like lounging, hand walking, or hopping on bareback.
- Live in the moment: Riding every day and having to schedule my time differently taught me to be more present. Knowing I was going to be at the barn daily allowed me to wake up earlier (which gave me more energy throughout the day), helped strengthen my connection with the horses, and brought me closer to some of my fellow barn mates.
- Have fun: Even though the last couple of weeks have been tiring in a whole different way than I’m used to, I have enjoyed my barn time so much. Starting my day with the horses put me in such a good headspace and set the tone for the rest of the day.
While my time caring for these two horses full-time is winding down, I’m so grateful for the experience, which has reminded me of what it’s like when you have your own horse and the bond you’re able to develop when you ride daily.