Time Saving Tips for Horse Owners
Time Saving Tips for Horse Owners
By Holly Clanahan and Lesli Groves for America’s Horse
We always have something pulling us away from our horses, whether it’s a career, a family, much-loved volunteer work or any combination of things. While we can’t shuck our other responsibilities, what we can do is work on improving time-management skills so that we’re making the most of the time that we have, even if it’s groundwork exercises in our barn aisle.
Here are some suggestions to get the most productivity – and the most fun time with your horse – out of each day:
Write out your to-do list for the day (or week), and include horse time. Although you may feel guilty at first for penciling in “leisure time,” remember that your horse depends on you to meet his needs for exercise and enrichment, and it’s hugely beneficial for your own mental health.
Write down goals. Although we all want “to get better with horses,” we need specific, attainable goals, like “perfect a flying lead change” or “get my horse to lower his head to accept the bit.” We’re inspired to go to the barn more often, if we have something we’re actively working on.
Don’t fall in the social media trap. Of course, we all want to know what our friends are up to. Maybe we even want to post a few photos of our horses. But really ... whether that dress is gold and white or blue and black ... does it matter? If you must, allocate a set amount of time to scroll through Facebook or Twitter. Set a timer on your smartphone so you don’t get sucked in and waste valuable time that could be productively spent elsewhere.
Blow up your TV. If that seems extreme, then at least learn to set your DVR (or ask a 12-year-old to do it for you). Record programs you really think you need to see and observe how you never get around to watching them because you’re riding instead.
Streamline dinnertime. Doing food prep when you’re really pining to be at the barn is no one’s idea of fun. Think of ways you can improve this process, while still making healthy food for you and your family. A few thoughts: purchase pre-washed, pre-chopped salad fixings; cook a one-pot meal in the slow cooker; or put a few casseroles in the freezer on rainy or snowy days when you can’t ride anyway. AQHA has more ideas on its “Recipes for Equestrians” board on Pinterest – but remember to set that timer before getting on there!
Quit brushing so much. You know how annoyed you get when your horse immediately goes out and rolls after you wash him? Imagine how frustrating it is for him when you automatically start brushing him right after you put his halter on. He’s thinking, “Didn’t it occur to you that I rolled in the dirt because I prefer this look?” Being clean all over isn’t important to him; why is it to you? Clean the area covered by the saddle, blanket and girth, check his feet and “Tally ho.”
Ride bareback. You’ll develop more balance and save time saddling and unsaddling. But only do this on a seasoned, “bomb-proof” horse in a confined, uncluttered area if you haven’t ridden bareback a lot. You need a horse that can tolerate you bobbing around or squeezing too hard with your legs until you get the feel. If you slide off, it just proves how reliant you are upon the saddle – that you’ve been sitting, as opposed to riding. Or maybe it proves your horse is too fat.
Ask advice from someone who doesn’t have a clue what you’re doing. Invite a non-horseman to walk through your barn routine with you. We tend to fall into habits “because we’ve always done it this way,” but maybe the reason you started doing something a certain way has changed. For instance: your old car only held a bag of feed, and then you’d tie a bale of hay on top. Now that you’ve upgraded to a roomy Ford F-250, you still buy feed a little at a time. You waste a lot of time, and you’re sure not saving any money. Fresh eyes might point out this and other valuable observations.
Go low (maintenance, that is). Does your morning routine demand lots of time? Trust us ladies, a neat, slicked-back ponytail is always in style, as are neat (but not manicured) nails. Bonus: Simplifying things here can save both time and money.
Two Words: SportsCenter. The proliferation of cable channels and sports coverage has turned national pastimes into national obsessions. You already have a hobby, remember? Your horse? And your hobby could probably benefit from some exercise, too. Rather than watching professional or collegiate athletes play an entire game while your own muscles atrophy, get out and ride, and watch the highlights on ESPN or the news tomorrow morning. Likewise, if you’re a news junkie, get the CliffsNotes on that, too. A newsletter like The Daily Skimm (www.theskimm.com) can give you the day’s highlights while keeping you from getting bogged down.
Walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, do two things at once. Need to return phone calls? Get a cell-phone holster or strap it to your saddle and make calls while you’re cooling your horse down. Need to reciprocate for a friend’s kindness? Invite her on a trail ride, or give her kid a riding lesson.
Make it a family affair. Do you have a spouse or kids who aren’t as enamored with horses as you are? Find creative ways to incorporate them into your horse activities. Perhaps the hubby won’t ride with you, but the hills around the boarding barn are a great place for him to walk the dog and get a little exercise. Does your child love playing in a sandbox? Maybe there’s a safe area just outside the arena where he can dig and play with toy tractors.
Hire it done. If all you do is work – at your job, at your barn, ad infinitum – you aren’t taking very good care of yourself. And if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll quit functioning efficiently, just like a car engine. The money you spend on a professional housekeeper, lawn or laundry service, stall cleaner or babysitter is really in the best interest of your family and career. Probably even your horse.
Go to Plan B. If you really don’t have time for your horse, decide if this is a temporary or permanent situation. If it’s temporary, turn him out or loan him to someone you trust. If it’s permanent, consider finding him another caretaker. Same thing if a money crunch is compromising his care. Perhaps you can reserve the right to an occasional ride, or you can visit your friends’ horses.