Let’s face it. Between vet bills, pulled shoes, and packed schedules, it’s easy to fall into a slump as an equestrian. But luckily, it’s just as easy to re-establish your love for the sport, and for the horse. Here’s How to Get out of a Slump as an Equestrian!
Spring of 2021, I looked at the x-rays exhibiting that my horse, Theo, had arthritis in his hocks. Though the vet didn’t raise any concerns, it seemed like the end to our riding career – and I was beyond devastated. All in all, that’s when my riding slump began.
It wasn’t until two years later, the spring of 2023 (at the time of writing this) that I slowly climbed out of that now, very deep slump.
So without further ado, let’s get into how I climbed out of my rut and how you can get out of your slump as an equestrian!
Evaluate your slump
Something that I should’ve done a long time ago, and that you should do asap, is evaluate your slump. How are you supposed to navigate through a problem, if you don’t even know what the problem is?
For me, looking back, was honestly just disappointment after disappointment. I built my entire equestrian identity on social media, so from being burnt out from posting, lingering heartbreak over my first horse, and roadblock after roadblock with Theo, it was just easier to tune it all out. Almost like I was trying to protect myself.
For some, it could be a drop in their confidence, burn out from the same old routine, or maybe a bad barn environment. Whatever the cause, you need to get to the bottom of it.
If no matter how much thought you give it and you’re still coming up empty-handed, try making a list of either a) the things you no longer enjoy at the barn or b) events leading up to your slump. By starting from the root cause of the problem, you can start to close in on the things you could do to improve your time at the barn.
Ride different horses
Though I ride many horses out on the trail (as a trail guide), I wasn’t getting any time to train and hone my skills in the arena. And after a couple years of not riding, I started to lose interest in picking it back up.
It wasn’t until last fall that my boss asked me to ride a new horse, Brooklyn – a little hotheaded thoroughbred. The first ride? Fell in love with that horse. A few weeks later, I started taking lessons on her, and a couple months after that, we went to our first show together. Ever since, I’ve been riding semi-consistently and she (Brooklyn) really helped me find my love for riding again.
Perhaps you did have a confidence drop or maybe you’ve grown out of the horse you’re currently riding. Either way, it can be frustrating to never see any progress. I think I still would’ve been in a rut if Brooklyn hadn’t come into the picture.
Try asking your trainer to ride a different horse for a change, or see if you could try a friends horse. If you’re experiencing these frustrations with your own horse, see if you can be evaluated by someone with an objective standpoint to help you decide how to proceed.
No matter the situation, it’s always nice to try something new!
This one might be hard to hear, especially if you’ve been riding at the same barn for a long time. However, sometimes negative environments, trainers, or peers can have a big impact on your enthusiasm for the sport.
At the end of the day, if you’ve outgrown your trainer or the lesson horses, or if the atmosphere is degrading rather than uplifting, then you should consider looking for a change. And given you do decide to go that route, make a list (hey, I like lists) of all the things you would like to see in a new environment.
It could be nicer facilities, a better lesson program, or regular competition outings; whatever it may be, what’s right for you, is right for you.
Personally, I’ve changed barns twice after feeling like there wasn’t much left for me both times. The first barn change was for training, which was the best possible decision at the time. The second barn change being over location; I was heading off to college soon, and realized that the barn I was at wasn’t beneficial anymore.
I have never regretted either change, and I’m positive you won’t either!
Put effort into your horse
The beginning of March 2023, I had a revelation that the amount of effort I put in, was the amount of reward I would get in turn. So I took initiative.
I started by moving herds – one that was closer to the facilities. Being a full time college student, the 500 miles walk back to the barn was a no-go most days; however, Theo being in a new herd, really aided in my usual time-crunches.
Next, I set aside time for lunging and/or riding… no matter how many hours I spend on the trail that day. If I’m actually in a hurry, then I make sure to groom while he eats – rather than go do busy work. This has really helped me to feel like he’s my horse again, which is something I haven’t felt in a long while.
You might feel like you’re not being rewarded, simply because you’re not putting in any effort. It’s a hard truth, but if you have a horse waiting out there for you, then go spend time with them. This also leads to my next point…
Stop enabling yourself
Being a trail guide at my barn was my personal enabler. I would tell myself that I didn’t need to pull out my own horse, because I already spent 3 hours in the saddle that day. Man, this went on for months… untacking the last trail horse, then deciding that I had had enough for the day, so I would just swing by with a bucket of feed and then hit the road.
Listen, if you still possess any love for the sport, then you have to stop enabling yourself.
Sometimes we get into a rut. A rut that could’ve easily been patched, but we continue to let ourselves stay there, simply due to feeling sorry for ourselves. Fortunately, you still have the opportunity to overcome.
Go to the barn asap and just spend time doing the things that you enjoy. Go for a trail ride, give a horse a bath, or have a picnic in the pasture. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can put an end to this negative mindset and get out of your slump as an equestrian.
Take a step back
If none of this clicked with you or you’ve already fought the good fight… maybe it’s time to take a step back. Take however much time you need to heal from any burn out, or even re-evaluate if you still care about the sport.
I experienced burnout from YouTube. And you know what? I took a temporary break, which turned into a permanent break. At the time, it was the best decision for me – seeing how I just had too much on my plate.
This isn’t to say that if you take a step back… then that’s that. But it could be necessary to re-prioritize.
Where am I now?
After realizing that I was allowing myself to stay in a rut, and then putting in the hours, I’m in a much better place with my horse, Theo. We’ve even moved on to cantering – something that I’ve struggled with with him after a bad mental block. Not to mention trail rides!
Being in a slump, even while I was around horses everyday, was the most miserable thing I’ve ever gone through. So all in all, if you feel like nobody understands your situation, trust me, I do.
And hey, even if I never get to do the things I always wanted to do with Theo, enjoying my horse is all I could ever ask for. You should enjoy yours too ; )
At the end of the day…
There’s really no room for being in a rut in such a demanding sport. So get to it! Following these tips and tricks might just do, well, the trick.
So this was how to get out of a slump as an equestrian!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been in a slump and how you got out of it (or if you’re still climbing out)!
All the best,
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