The equestrian lifestyle is tough. It may seem glamorous from the outside – playing with ponies in the outdoors on the regular. Yet the reality is more like this…
And don’t even start on the emotional rollercoaster… As riders, we’re prone to overcommitting ourselves. We’re awesome at setting challenges and pushing to be better. But the flip side to that is a lack of down time. Resulting in overwhelm and burnout, if we let it get that far.
The problem is that riding horses, caring for horses, competing horses and all the jobs that come with it is all-consuming. It will take up every waking moment, cost every excess dollar and use every ounce of energy you have, if you let it.
Don’t get me wrong, riding horses is amazing and it’s the love of my life. It motivates me to push myself every single day, in every area of life. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
So, in order to create the equestrian lifestyle you dream of and most importantly, enjoy it! We need to be masterful at taking care of ourselves.
Sustain it, don’t drain it!
Recently, in our awesome Facebook group for equestrians, we explored 18 simple, time efficient, cost effective things to help equestrians sustain energy and go the distance.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #1
To get us going, let’s talk about getting all the stuff that’s in your head, down on paper.
Because mental fatigue sucks. 👎🧠
The picture is an example of today’s gym journal.
I came to journaling pretty late in life. 📖
As a kid I thought journaling was kinda dumb. And I had no idea what I would write about.
It wasn’t until I was about 25 and I was given an awesome mindfulness journal as a gift from my very special sister in law, that I even considered it again.
I started off by keeping it simple. Writing down 3 things every now and again that I was grateful for.
Why? Because having a gratitude practice like this literally changes your brain. Change your thoughts to focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. Simples.
So after doing that for a while, I naturally progressed to writing bits and pieces about my day or a certain situation that was frustrating me. Over time I realised that writing things down gives me a huge sense of relief and clarity.It stops rumination and allows me to move on, let go.
Sometimes I don’t feel like writing and that’s ok too. I draw, or colour in or just read what I’ve written down in the past.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it.
And that’s why it’s awesome and liberating and an essential self care tool.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #2
MOVE YOUR BODY
Keep it simple. When it comes to self care, moving your body in any way, shape or form is a win. 💪🏆 Whether it’s 5 minutes or 50 minutes, it doesn’t matter.
High intensity training, equestrian Pilates, yoga, horse riding, running, gym training, group training, a walk around the paddock, up the stairs or even just a walk around the house!
Moving your body is a stepping stone to better things. Better thinking, better feelings, better words & actions!
The key though, is to celebrate it.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #3
Laughter really is the best medicine 🤭
Let’s be honest, I’m definitely not known for being a comedian. In fact, a few years ago a mentor labelled me a sufferer of ‘terminal seriousness’! She was saying it with my best interests in mind of course.
The point is that sometimes in this fast-paced, achievement-driven world, it’s too easy to get stuck on autopilot and miss out on the FUN!
So, the third self care tip is to laugh. Simple, easy, and it feels dang good. Give it a go 😜 and spread it around a little.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #4
Simple & Underrated H2O💧
Water is often disregarded as unimportant. Even though most of us will openly admit, ‘yeah, I should probably drink more water.’
Especially when we’re out with the horses, constantly moving, it’s not often we take a break to have a sip of water.
Then, later in the afternoon we’re struck with insatiable hunger and/or a splitting headache. We get irritated easily, snapping at the people around us and become heavily tired all of a sudden.
How often is dehydration mislabelled as ‘having a big day’ or ‘I’m just really tired’?
It is possible to drink ‘too much’ water. However, for most living the equestrian lifestyle it’s unlikely. Although I’m not an advocate for drinking sugar, having an electrolyte drink handy at a horse show isn’t a bad idea.
Tips for staying hydrated:
- Keep a drink bottle with you, everywhere you go! (I’ve even seen saddle cloths with drink bottle clips attached. Great idea for lessons in the Summer)
- Before you eat, drink water
- To help you get into the habit of drinking regularly, use one of the many apps available to remind you.
It really is THAT important for brain & body function. 🤯🤯🤯
Finally, I love the new double wall drink bottles! Particularly when I go outside to ride because the water stays cold for 12 hours. Room temp water just doesn’t do it for me…
Equestrian life can be isolating.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #5
You may be surrounded by people, yet still feel alone.
Remove as many barriers as you can to being able to talk about the sh*z that goes on in your life. The ups, downs and everything in between.
Make it a habit.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #6
Food is fuel, not therapy. 😛
I love food! 😍🍏🍎🍐🍊🍋🍌🍉🍇🥝🥥🍍🥭🍊🍐🍎🍏🍓🍅🍆🥑🥦🥬🥒🌶🌽🥕🧀🥚🍳🥓 #foodislife 😜
However, it’s no lie that some foods are better for you than others. Just as important as ‘what’ you eat, is WHY, HOW and WHEN you eat.
How is this related to self care?
Well, everything you consume is digested, entering your blood stream and affecting hormones and neurotransmitters sent and received by the brain.
Your brain is your control centre. All thoughts, feelings and actions originate there.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #7
We humans really need personal touch to stay in balance.
- Who do you hug?
- How do you hug?
- When do you hug?
Know when it’s appropriate, with whom it’s appropriate and just the way you like it… And you’re on your way to using hugs as a powerful cup-filler.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #8
- A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything – Irish Proverb
- When nothing goes right, go to sleep
- Sleep is the best meditation – Dalai Lama
It goes without saying, sleep is bliss. 😴Not only does it feel good, it has a major impact on how well we function from day to day.
- Between 7-9 hours every night is sufficient for most people. Work out what your number is and stick to it like super glue.
- Quality is just as, if not more important than quantity.
- To improve your sleep quality:
- Create a pre-bedtime routine (eg. brush teeth, stretch, journal/read, then lights out). Your routine can be 20 mins long or 2 hours long for some.
- Be consistent with your sleep-wake times
- Limit blue light from screens/technology 2hrs prior to going to bed
Many of these strategies are easier said than done… Particularly when we are overcommitted and have several competing demands to fit in to our busy lives!
The question is, when does sleep become a priority? How do you know when you’re lacking sleep? For me:
- Irritated easily
- Eating because I want to… rather than need to. Overeating.
- Sore eyes
- Forgetting small things, like where I left my phone (not normal for me! 😝)
- Opening social media apps mindlessly
- Getting stuck in front of TV or any screen
- Lacking motivation
Consider what’s on your list of tiredness warning signs. Are there some things from my list on yours too?
Equestrian Self Care Tool #9
Engage your sense of smell
Your sense of smell is so powerful because it’s the only sense that has a direct route to your awareness.
Have you ever walked into a room and noticed the smell? Our sense of smell isn’t filtered through the many areas of our brain first, as the other senses are! And we can use this to our advantage!
Essential oils are a great way to create a comfortable, safe, productive environment anywhere, anytime.
Whether it be lavender to help you relax and get to sleep or peppermint to wake you up, there are significant benefits of engaging your sense of smell. And it works for our horses too!
Change your perspective at any given time by engaging your sense of smell.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #10
It’s a regular occurrence in our household that my partner is horrified by my odour (after being out with horses 🐴). He never hesitates in telling me, “you need to have a shower!” 😝
I try not to take offence… And instead turn it into something that makes me feel better.
How often is it that we stop and take a bath?
As a kid it happened regularly! But as adults, not so much… It’s good for your mind and your muscles.
Plus, it does good things for your body odour too! 😆🌹🌹🌹
Equestrian Self Care Tool #11
Name it to tame it.
It is possible to change your response to stress.
Step 1: Awareness
Emotion labelling is a simple yet powerful practice enabling you to separate yourself from the emotions you experience.
This is particularly relevant for riders because our horses are significantly impacted by our stress and emotional states.
Using self care strategies to raise our awareness of these emotions gives us the ability to change it. And ultimately dictate the kind of ride that we really want.
The Stop, Breathe, Think App is an effective way to introduce this strategy into your routine. And it’s free!
Equestrian Self Care Tool #12
There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book… 📚 Sometimes 15 minutes is all it takes to calm your mind and relax your body.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #13
Becoming intentional about the way you breath (pace, depth, sensations) enables you to focus and slow down, rather than getting swept up and carried away by stress.
I recorded a video in the Equestrian Fitness & Lifestyle group that explores a breathing technique called box breathing. 📦 I use this myself, with horses and with clients on a regular basis.
In fact, I include this in my routine when I go out to catch horses as I find it helps me connect with them quickly.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #14
In every era of human history and in every society around the globe, music has allowed people to express their feelings and communicate with others.Harvard Health
Not only a means of self expression, music also has the ability to alter our breathing, heartbeat and lower anxiety.
It takes us down memory lane, gets us groovin’ and has the power to alter our thoughts and feelings!
When dealing with stress, music is an essential self care tool. 👌🎧🎼
Equestrian Self Care Tool #15
Most of us know and love massage because of the way it makes you feel. Amazing, right?! 🙌 Just writing about it now makes me want one!
There are many benefits of massage, aside from relaxation. Including but not limited to:
- Reduced muscle tension
- Increased joint mobility
- Improved recovery of soft tissue injuries
- Reduction of stress hormones
- Improved sleep
The effects apply for our horses in the same way that they do for us.
Equestrian Self Care Tool #16
When life gets busy your mind can play tricks on you.
Negative, doubt-driven, overwhelming thoughts may fill your mind and take over your body.
But you don’t have to believe them.
You are not your thoughts.
You are not your emotions.
Most importantly, you have the power to create your reality and using affirmations can play a big role in doing so. Pick a time that fits best into your schedule. 5 minutes is all you need.
Affirmations are like exercises for your mind.
Positive mental repetitions that can rewire our thinking. When you believe in them and repeat them often, then you begin to change the way you think and act.
With tools like this, anything is possible. 🙌🦄✨
Equestrian Self Care Tool #17
Only a recent activity I’ve picked up. Prompted by watching many of my younger occupational therapy (OT) clients become completely engaged and calm when colouring.
At first I tried with pencils. And found it extremely frustrating! But when colouring with texter pens it became satisfying and I felt focused. That’s my sensory preferences at work right there!
The mindful colouring craze has been and gone now… But the benefits remain.
It’s simple. You can pick it up anytime with no strings attached.
And even though I’m well past childhood now, colouring horses is still my favourite! 🦄💜
Equestrian Self Care Tool #18
Spend time with your horse, without pressure & expectation.
When riding becomes more like work than leisure, it’s time to take a step back.
Part of the equestrian lifestyle involves setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Yet to sustain ourselves and our horses throughout the process, taking time out to be friends and have fun is just as important to maintain balance.
In summary, there are countless ways to take re-fill your cup on a regular basis. For those of us living the equestrian lifestyle, it’s essential to establish self care in our everyday routine.
Above all, the goal here is to reduce stress, prevent burnout and enjoy the time we have with our horses.
Here’s 18 ways to do just that.