4 Reasons Morning Rides (& Drives) Are the Best

If I can accomplish this much BEFORE a cup of coffee, there’s no telling what I can achieve by the end of the summer.

Photo by Kristen Kovatch

There are a few obvious perks when you work for Nation Media — including the job itself. While manning the helm at Horse Nation occasionally feels a bit like a train with no brakes overrun by rabbits, my role here combined with the people I work with truly makes this a dream job. And, of course, that work-from-home lifestyle keeps my horse life flexible — and without a horse life, I wouldn’t have much to write about, would I?

So that’s a long, fancy way of saying that yes, I do realize that not every grown-up job allows us the freedom and flexibility as equestrians to fit in a good morning ride. That said, I know plenty of people who have the gumption to roll out of bed hours before the sun comes up to get in their riding time before heading off to a job in which they have to be presentable and showered. As I sit here still aware that I can smell horse sweat on my arms and jeans, my hat is off to those people.

But yes — I’ve entered my summer pattern of living, in which I do my best to get up early, get to the barn as the sun is coming up, and get to work with my horses. Here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed already.

1. You’ll beat the heat.

This is a big one. While there’s plenty to be said for acclimatization, the truth is that horses can and do overheat in extreme conditions, especially when it’s both hot and humid. If you’re looking for information to help you gauge when it’s too hot to ride, here’s a helpful article from the HN archives.

We’re in the same heat wave that’s gripping a good chunk of the East Coast this week, although what we consider “hot” up here in western New York might be laughable by more southerly standards — upper 80s and low 90s, with humidity ranging from 50-85%. (You can laugh if you want to, but when people and horses are used to upper 70s, this is a huge and heavy change.)

So to keep both my horses and myself healthy and safe, I’ve been rolling up to the barn around 6:30 AM to hitch or saddle up. The sun actually rises around 5:45 this time of year, and first light is 5:15ish, so 6:30 is pretty conservative — if I were truly dedicated, I could be showing up at the barn at 5 AM and bringing my horse in to saddle up in the dark and hit the pasture just as we can both start to see, and it’ll be a comfy 60ish degrees the whole time.

If you’ve got a riding space with lights, you can artificially extend riding time either after the sun sets or way before it comes up, and the morning is really your oyster.

2. You’re both fresh.

“Fresh” is good for both me and my horse Jobber, who tends to turn into a big horsey puddle of unmoveable sludge when he gets too warm. I can channel a little equine freshness into more lovable qualities such as “forward” much easier than I can continually be pushing a lazy horse up ahead of my leg. I’m fresh as well, mentally and physically.

Sometimes on a long summer day if I’ve gotten sucked too deep into the computer screen, I’m more likely to be lazy and cut my ride short or not even ride at all if I’m feeling too brain-dead to want to tackle a training challenge with my green horse. That mental freshness I have first thing in the morning is key for me to get the most out of my ride.

3. Starting your day with exercise can give you a boost.

Some readers might already be using the morning hours to hit the gym or go for their run, and once again, my hat is off to you early risers. If you haven’t already adopted a morning exercise schedule, or you’re not currently on a regular workout program, moving your ride to the morning can give you a boost of energy to get you through the day, plus that good virtuous feeling of achievement before your actual work day begins. And, of course, starting your day out with pony snuggles can put you in a great spot mentally to tackle the rest of your day.

4. It’s just. plain. gorgeous.Even if my horse and I are butting heads or we’re struggling with an exercise, it’s so easy as the sun is rising to stop, take a breath and look around me to put things in perspective and clear my head: the first rays of light are creeping across the pasture, setting the dew-soaked grass to sparkling; the cattle are moving slowly across the valley; our resident red-tailed hawks are often circling and crying to the sun; various small birds are singing in the hedge; on some mornings, mist rises up from the lake and drainage valleys and makes the whole neighborhood as lovely as a painting. Capping off all of this natural beauty are the two pricked ears of my horse, and even if the ride itself isn’t going as well as I might like, there’s no better way to start the day.Are you a morning rider? Share your favorite things about morning rides in the comments section — and go riding!

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