November Lockdown & How To Cope

Starting November back in Lockdown and you can almost feel the collective sigh of despair, anguish and frustration that blew across the UK when the news came through. We managed it once, (some better than others), and I for one felt very much uplifted by the glorious, long summer sunshine and the opportunity to still be able to visit the majority of my clients once those first travel restrictions were lifted. It seemed even more important to help get people back on their horses and riding with confidence as for some, being with their horses is their only release and escape from an otherwise stressful life.

Now, second time around, I'm feeling more 'sigh, here-we-go-again' with a resigned acceptance and a need to take the good old British 'pull-yourself-together-and-get-on-with-it' attitude that's seen us through far worse times. There are always things to be grateful for and this is a perfect time for us all to stop and reflect on these, and pull them to the front of our mind when things get tough.

One of the main differences I noticed with the first lockdown was how the thoughts and emotions of my clients affected their horses. Those who were in the essential services and had to really step up rather than hide away were finding problems with their horses that didn't exist previously. Their horses would spook more, be more difficult to catch, and generally be more on edge or a little grumpy. Definitely, the horses were picking up on the change of emotions in their humans, and reacting accordingly. We carry so much stress and anxiety without realising, it is only when the weight of it knocks us off our feet that we realise how much it's holding us back in all areas of our life.

Horses, as we all know, are incredibly sensitive to our emotions, thoughts and body language. If you're anxious, irritated, or in any way negative at all they'll likely want to stay away. And who can blame them? If you had two co-workers, one who was irritable and miserable, and the other who was calm and caring, who would you want to spend time with? If you had to work with the stressed one, chances are you'd pick up on that too and end up feeling their stress, and in the process creating your own.

So before you go and visit your horse, just stop and take a moment to check in with yourself. How's your day been? Stressful? Boring? Busy? Lonely? Let your mind and body connect and just scan through from your head down to your toes. Is there any part of you that hurts? Stiff back? Aching elbow? Headache? All of these emotional and physical issues you'll be taking with you and sharing with your horse, whether you mean to or not.

It's all too easy to forget sometimes that horses are sentient beings with their own emotions and feelings, and they too can have 'off' days. Take some time to find out how your horse's day has been. Have they been bored, or lonely, or had a falling out with a field mate? Are they cold, hungry, wet, desperate to come in or go out? If you notice a behaviour or mood change, chances are something has happened to trigger that and although you might never find out what it was, you can acknowledge something is wrong and then do your best to help.

Once you know pretty much where you're both at physically and emotionally, do what you can to remove the negative and take the pressure off. If you have time just sit and 'be' with your horse. Do some deep breathing (you may well find your breathing 'matches' if you do this over time), listen to the sounds around you, notice the smells (yes, I know you'll say horse poo but us horse lovers are mostly ok with that smell!). If your horse is a bit 'off' then acknowledge this and accept that you may need to change your plans. Don't do any intensive schooling or anything that you know will put him outside of his comfort zone. When cortisol levels rise, they can take up to 48 hours to return to normal so if your horse is spooky when you're handling him from the ground, it's never a good idea to take him out on a hack. The cortisol levels will continue to rise and you'll both become more and more fearful which will put you off the next time you go out.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to constantly ride and train and school for absolutely no reason at all. Owning horses is meant to be pleasurable, spending time with your horse should be relaxing. By removing all unnecessary deadlines and deleting 'I need to' and 'I must' from your vocabulary, you'll instantly feel so much better. Your only achievement should be forming and maintaining a close bond with your horse based on trust and love, and this should never be dead-lined.

If you're struggling in any way at all, please book in for a telephone call and I will be happy to give you any help and advice for keeping you and your horse relaxed and stress-free throughout the lockdown.


Tel: 07850 465493