Beating the Winter Blues: Moving Forward, Week 4

Are you an ammy-adult eventer who struggles with motivation during the winter months? Madison Givens feels your pain. She is embarking upon her own winter fitness and accountability journey, and taking EN along for the ride. Check back weekly for updates, encouragement, camaraderie and tips to help you come out swinging this spring!

Photo by Derith Vogt.

Hello Everyone! Welcome back to Week 4!

As you can see, Finn and I survived the record-setting low temperatures, and while the weather is still not perfect, the temperatures in Iowa are bearable enough to take away any excuse not to ride. So with this week, I am going to try and catch you guys up on all that Finn and I have been (slowly and sporadically) working on these last few weeks and hopefully offer some ideas to help you jump into February! (Not literally though, it’s like all flatwork.)

Weather was a little more cooperative this week. Screenshot via Accuweather.

First and foremost, is you are not following Eventing Nation’s posts on #FlatworkFebruary, fix your life and go catch up on them.

Next, I want to offer you guys an exercise that I love Love LOVE to practice with Finn. This exercise is a great way to test the correction and balance of your horse. As a plus, I have also found that it helps Finn and I work on our rhythm and tempo. And, it’s a great way to start transitioning into lateral work if you have not yet started. Over all, this is something I do in every ride. I don’t school the crap out of it, but it’s definitely a part of my warm up to see if Finn is paying attention to my aids.

The “Spiral In – Spiral Out”.

Here is a great article by Kristin Schmolze from Practical Horseman detailing the few key things to look for and work towards in the exercise. Check it out at this link. 

And if you are more of a visual learner here is a video by Randi Thompson:

For the rider, I wanted to find something that I could do at home. While I am happy to admit that I broke down and got myself I gym membership, I definitely have not made it to the physical location of said gym. Not. Even. Once. My hectic schedule needs to become less of an excuse, because come spring, my muffin top is going to swiftly turn into a ball and chain. It’s going to be less and less inviting to go and work out when the weather becomes nicer and I would rather find myself outside. Letting myself be slowly consumed by the infamous “barn time”.

With that in mind I have been trying to use and watch videos geared towards equestrians. It offers a little more motivation, at least. So here is something quick and easy to add to your list of exercises to help you build the ultimate rider body!

Lastly, I want to address the fact that we are one month into the articles, and if your winter experience has been anything like mine, you are becoming increasingly drained by the weather and lack of sunlight. And as I sit here, over-analyzing my life, I did something that no one should ever do: I WebMDed myself. Thus I came myself face to face with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Yes, that’s right, S.A.D. straight out of ‘The Office’.

But it’s hard not to have SAD when this is where you live. Photo by Sarah Arnold.

I tend to be a bit of an emotional character, anyway. I know I have mentioned this before. That my emotions affect my riding and I don’t think that this is a new discovery for both myself and the people around me. But lately, with the weather and the lack of progression in my riding, every lesson I have taken in the last month has ended with my trainers yanking me off the ledge I seem so desperate to throw myself off.

I have found myself constantly looking for things to be wrong. Is Finn uncomfortable? Are her hocks bothering her? Is her back sore? Is she warm enough? Does she have sinus problems? What can I throw money at to make myself feel better? And then I obsess over research. Reading everything I can get my hands on to try and justify my behavior. You all can understand that, right? Horses are some of the most suicidal creatures on the planet!

And here I sit, writing up this article about self improvement and not accessing a core problem.

So now that we equestrians have conquered January, it’s time for a mental health check!

I think a lot of anxiety and stress around Finn and my riding comes from a delicate sense of self-esteem. It’s not that I struggle with self-worth, it’s just that I find myself constantly striving to be better. And because of this, I have these crushing expectations and goals of where Finn and I should be. I find myself in a constant comparison trap of last year versus this year, versus where we should be in six months. I have exhausted myself before I even got to the starting line of the race.

Photo by Derith Vogt.

The reality is that I don’t need to rush into show season. I don’t need to rush to the first competition of the year. I don’t even need to rush into next week. What I need to do is re-learn to enjoy every ride. Not just the good ones, but every single one in-between. Each ride needs to be new and fresh, with no baggage from the day or from the previous ride. I need to avoid finding myself frustrated by all of the ups and downs as Finn and I learn together. Otherwise, this season will be absolutely no fun. And what is the point of doing this is I can’t enjoy it.

Below is a small list of articles that I have enjoyed over the last few weeks. They, along with great friends and great trainers, have helped me remember that all that matters is that I keep moving forward. That’s our motto for this week: “Move Forward.”

Emotions: An Article from Equine Wellness Magazine

Mantra From an Emotional Rider: by Lindsay Paulson – Dressage Today

2019 Resolutions: Chronicle of the Horse Blog Writer Alice Peirce. (A little late, but still relevant)

Self-Esteem and Insecurity in the Saddle: by Nenah Mikuska – Dressage Today

Thank you to everyone for reading along. See you next week.