By Francesca Hicks (Horse Search Brand Ambassador)

Today I woke up and I was…..exhausted….

It’s 8:50pm on a Wednesday evening and I am scrolling through my social media while I wind

down for bed, which I imagine a lot of you are also doing. I can’t imagine I’d be far off

assuming that when you wake up tomorrow you may scroll through those same social

media platforms again while you eat your breakfast. Now, if your Facebook, Instagram and

TikTok is like mine, every second post is something horsey, whether that be someone asking a

question on a public group, someone selling their rugs or unwanted tack, someone posting

pictures of their beautiful horses, or the posts I dread the most: the winter training posts.

The posts of upcoming clinics, competitions or schooling or pole work exercises for you to

try with your horses while on your winter training programme. The posts that outline how

to get your horse fit and prepared for the season ahead, or how to improve your dressage

scores, or move up the levels in eventing or increase your clear rounds. These posts are

designed to be helpful and to motivate and help you plan your training schedule, however,

what these posts are doing for me is filling me with pressure and guilt and making me feel

EXHAUSTED. I, like most, work long hours. I leave the house at 7am in the dark and make my

way back home at 5pm, in the dark. I have a quick snack, grab the dog and head to the yard.

I have 2 horses at the moment that are ‘in work’. By ‘in work’, I mean I have my 6-year-old

event mare who is coming off her winter holiday after a strong event season and a 4-year-old

who has recently been broken in and is being produced for the season next year. I have my

Ridely App and I have set goals and made note of various competitions in the area to work

towards. But I have no motivation to achieve these goals or drag my white breeches on and

stand in a freezing cold lorry while I learn a dressage test, or walk round in the rain striding

out a show jumping course. What I want to do on my day off is sleep, do my laundry, watch TV

in my PJs and drink tea.

I am writing this now to say, THAT’S OK. You feel tired? You don’t really want to go to that

competition today? You don’t want to do that 20-minute hack for fitness in the rain? THAT’S

FINE! Don’t worry about it! Go to the yard, do your jobs you need to do to make sure your

horse is ok, give them a cuddle, give them a carrot and go home to your warm PJs and

snuggle in front of the TV. Turn your phone off and don’t worry that other people are out

with their horses and doing that competition you’d signed up to do or that pole work

exercise you saved on your phone. IT DOESN’T MATTER. Your horse is happy and healthy,

munching hay in their warm stable, or chilling out in their field with their friends, not a care

in the world. By not forcing yourself into doing something you don’t want to do or doing

something you think you should be doing and taking a break, you are giving your body and

mind the opportunity to rest and restart. This lack of motivation you feel may be a symptom

of your exhaustion or your burnout. Listen to your body, don’t let the pressure of what

other people are doing, or what people are suggesting you should be doing make you feel

guilty. We are all different, we all have different tolerances and different levels of energy

and that’s ok. Your horse has already had 2 days off? Who cares?! As long as they get the

opportunity for some field time or walker time I doubt they care much! They may be feeling

just as you are, tired and miserable with the horrible weather, the cold and the dark. By

giving them a break and spending some HAPPY good quality time with them you are

fulfilling every need they have, you are increasing your bond with each other and for me, as

an eventer, this is invaluable. Having a horse trust you and love you gives you an edge, they

will go to the ends of the earth for you, jump anything you ask of them and do it willingly because you have taken the time to get to know them and them you. Rather than dragging

them out to the arena for a mediocre ride that neither of you feel good about when you

finish. Just because you haven’t ridden doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved anything. There

are so many other things you can do. Go for an in-hand hack, it’ll make them braver, loose

school them, watch them move, find which rein they are stronger on, see whether they

naturally take long or short strides when approaching a fence, do those carrot stretches, see

which side they are tighter on. There are SO MANY useful things you can do with your time

without a saddle in sight.

Give yourself a break, don’t force yourself to ride today if you don’t want to, it’s not good for

either of you. Save and build up your energy so when you see that clinic or competition

advertised in the new year that you really, really want to go to, you have the energy, the

drive and the desire to do it and take forward your new strong bond and new skills you have

learnt from spending quality time with your horse out of the saddle. It’ll all be worth it and

you will be ready for that season ahead. Don’t panic about it, it’s not worth the stress! Your

horse isn’t quite fit enough for that first event of the season? Oh well, what the worst case

scenario? You go to the next one!! Chances are the first event will be cancelled anyway

because it’ll be too wet! There is no rush, there is no panic. This is fun, it’s a hobby we put

our everything into, all our energy, our time and our money. At the very least you need to

enjoy it. A forced ride isn’t fun. Go enjoy your horse and be grateful your horse is there for a

cuddle on a cold evening, put your hands under their rug to warm your hands up, feed them

that whole pack of carrots. Do whatever you need to do to make you HAPPY, to keep your

passion for this sport alive, it’s not always riding that can do that for you. We all started this

sport for the love of the animal, not the schooling, the pole work exercise or the

competitions. For the horse. Let’s all remember that.

You’re doing brilliantly and your horse adores you. Keep powering through. Summer will be

here before you know it!

Keep pushing forward!

Find Francesca on Instagram @francescahickseventing