Eventing Nation: The importance of down time

Kate Samuels contemplates the benefits of giving your horse a stay-cation every now and again.

Top photo: A field of nose-length grass to gallop through? Yes, please.

From Kate:

Now that the weather has finally turned into disgusting, hot, humid, bug-filled summer days, I’ve been doing a lot of hacking. I probably do more hacking than most people in general, as I have access to over 2,000 acres of paths and coops and gates courtesy of some very nice neighbors and an attentive hunt club. However, for the past month, Nyls and I have rediscovered our inner kids, and we have been enjoying a relaxed mini-vacation. Nyls positively hates actual vacation, because that means the other horses are obviously getting more attention than he is, and he just won’t stand for it. So, we compromise and spend a month after every season roaming the countryside with the hackamore (more like snackamore) firmly in place.

While not everybody can access the great outdoors as easily as I can, I truly believe in the importance of down time. The benefits for both horse and rider extend to the mental and physical realms equally, and really can’t be replaced by anything else. As horse people, the idea of a “vacation” is just that: a word in quotations. Vacations are for normal people, for people with 9-5 jobs and dental insurance. However, in our world, it is all too easy to get burnt out, competing every single weekend, driving up and down and all around, and waking up earlier than the birds every morning.

Sometimes I wonder about the benefits of our ever-expanding calendar of events. Each year, the events start earlier, and they end later. This is wonderful for us as competitors, and also terrible for the temptation of over-competing our horses. I believe firmly in two¬†separate¬†seasons: spring and fall. It’s a shame when our sport becomes one of point chasing where horses are required to compete year-round, only to finish the fall season and go south to begin getting a head start on the January competitions of next year. What happened to the old habit of turning your horse out in the back forty for a month in the winter? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the “precious horse” mentality as much as anybody, but there has to be a middle ground where we give them a chance to breathe after competing for a few months.

So, where do you stand, Eventing Nation? Do you believe in self prescribed vacations for horse and rider? Or do you think that the new short format has changed the way we can compete our horses year-round?

(Please enjoy this short gif of how Nyls likes to “vacation”, click upper left corner for sound)

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