The Riding School: A bright side to the dark side of the year

Like many horsepeople, The Riding Instructor is mourning the loss of precious post-work riding and teaching time thanks to Daylight Savings. How to manage?

From The Riding Instructor:

Hello, loyal readers.

I know, I missed a week.  There’s all kinds of reasons, but the main one is that I’m in mourning.  No, old Lightning didn’t finally shuffle off this mortal coil and no one perished in a tragic hoof-picking accident.  What I’m mourning is…the loss of the light.

Yes, my least favorite day of the year: the end of Daylight Saving time.  I know lots of people love it – they get an hour’s extra sleep, it’s not pitch dark in the morning as they leave for work – but I hate it.  I’d be happy if it didn’t get light until 9 a.m. if it stayed light until 6 p.m.  Because it means the end of what I love to do: riding outside.

For myself, it means that riding is either a weekend-only activity or that it involves considerable schlepping (not to mention a $15 ring fee) to get to the closest indoor.  No matter how hard I try (Need help on a paper, kid?  College essay due tomorrow? Too bad, I’ve got horses to ride!), I can’t get myself home from my day job before – at the earliest – 4:15…by the time I change, groom and tack up (and, of course, the horse is always plastered in mud), I have exactly three minutes of daylight left.  I have friends who ride in the dark, but I’ve never quite trusted myself or my pony to execute this maneuver safely.

And as an instructor of after-school lessons, it means no more outdoor ring…you know, the one that’s big enough to jump a course in?  It means we’re stuck in the indoor for the next four to five months.

So every year it makes me sad.  But then I try to focus on what we can do, instead of what we can’t.  Lessons become about new skills (Time to learn leg yield! Flying lead changes!  Jump a gymnastic without stirrups; without reins; without stirrups OR reins!) or approaching old skills in new ways (we had a spirited game of mounted musical chairs the other day; my little fishie toys are coming out of summer retirement; vaulting makes its way back into the lesson curriculum).  With my own horses, I incorporate some quality grooming time; all the tack gets stripped and cleaned and organized; the summer’s cobwebs and dust bunnies are forcibly removed from the barn aisle and tack room.  I exit the winter months refreshed and ready for spring’s competitions and challenges.

So while the lack of outdoor time gives me a bit of seasonal affective disorder, it also gives me a chance to rest up, get on top of things, and make sure my students are just as excited about the winter work that improves their skills as they are about summer’s shows and trail rides.

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