Surviving the Winter and Coming out Stronger

Lilia Beal is a 15-year-old junior from Area I. This past season she took her slightly crazy 13.3-hand Connemara Turlough out in his first season at Novice sanctioned events. Her goal for 2016 is to complete three Training level events. She has always grown up around horses, thanks to her dad, and is a third generation event rider, Connemara enthusiast and genuine horse lover; she is also inspired by her dearest friend, Jill Middaugh. Lilia is based at her family’s barn, Capstone Farm, in Madbury, New Hampshire. Here are her personal tips for surviving the winter in New England.

Lilia, Turlough and faithful horse show dog Pete. Photo by Rain Anderson. Lilia, Turlough and faithful horse show dog Pete. Photo by Rain Anderson.

In riding it is so easy to have a goal but no real plan to make it there. Some of us have trainers to push us; some of us rely on good friends. More often we have to look deep inside ourselves to find that motivation. For those of us stuck up north through the sub-zero polar vortex of winter, finding the daily motivation to ride, and ride productively, is an uphill battle. There are days I just want to pat my pony through his ultra high-neck fairy dust heavyweight blanket and call it a day.

This is why setting not only a goal but having a plan to get there is so important. Setting a goal that is realistically achievable each week, leading up to your ultimate goal, makes it that much closer to your grasp. Write down a plan; set up a winter conditioning schedule. Do your research; find exercises that will benefit your horse specifically. Use these exercises to build on; force yourself to make a schedule and stick to it. When you meet a weekly goal (i.e. Week 3: consistent and quiet transitions into and out of the canter) give yourself a pat on the back! Don’t forget to celebrate the steps in the right direction.

Turlough staying warm in the New Hampshire winter. Photo by Nicole McNally/It’s A Horse Life Photography.

Turlough staying warm in the New Hampshire winter. Photo by Nicole McNally/It’s A Horse Life Photography.

I try to find quotes to inspire my riding, to encourage myself to kick on. I try to balance my riding between not dwelling on how long the journey is going to be, but how far I have already come. This is so important, especially when you feel you have an impossible task before you.

Take a moment to look back and be proud of the impossible tasks you have already accomplished. But don’t let yourself get dragged down into the past. Your accomplishments are there, but never rest on your laurels. Think about where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.

Remember that the horrible rides, the ones where you can’t feel your toes, are the ones that will set you apart when you go down the centerline this spring. The hours you put in right now are what will make all the difference come springtime. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It takes as much energy to hope as it does to plan.” So my comrades, turn those hopes into goals, and write down a plan. I can’t wait to see where you end up.

Kick on and stay warm.

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