Thoughts for Riding Instructors During COVID-19
This is a tough time for riding instructors, especially those for whom teaching is their major source of income. Trying to figure out what to do and what to believe can be difficult. The American Horse Council has a good resource page for horsemen. This Wall Street Journal article is a state by state guide to the restrictions.
Take Care of You
Whether you are practicing social distancing or sheltering in place, it’s important to take care of yourself. Start by strengthening your immune system.
- Eat well
- horse people are good at eating on the run. Even with limited grocery supplies you can slow down and plan your meals
- get plenty of rest
- ditch the electronics when the sun goes down.
- read a book.
- take advantage and go to bed early
- drink water
- squeeze a lemon-half into tap water. It tastes great and citrus is good for your immune system.
- absorb sunshine
- use sunscreen but soak up the vitamin D
- breathe fresh air.
- spring brings with it the best smells. Get a few lungfuls of good country air.
Go the extra mile for your immune system by limiting stress.
- Control how much time you give to the endless cycle of COVD-19 information. Certainly pay attention to recommendations and restrictions, but give yourself a break from the constant influx of news by taking a trail ride or going for a hike with a horse. Don’t fall victim to siege mentality. Give yourself a break.
- Enjoy the horses
- go for a run or hike
- have down time. Sit in the pasture and enjoy your life.
The Trouble with Spring Turnout
The Midwest has had an abundance of rain, so today I’m grooming, working on ground work and turnout with my horses. Ground work and good manners are super important with horses anxious to get to paddocks while their handler slides through the mud.
We already have lots of new fresh grass, which means keeping the horses off the larger pastures and having sacrifice lots for turnout. I can tell by the way they stare over the gates, the horses are certain they’re being ripped off.
It’s unfortunate that right now, when many of us are trying to manage horses with limited help, turnout is labor intensive, but horses are at risk of overeating when the new grass comes in. Even when the ground dries, I’ll limit pasture time to a couple of hours to avoid founder, especially for my ponies and easy keepers who have a lifetime of learning to eat as fast as they can.
Look to the Future Teaching Riding.
Keep the Connection Going
Find positive ways to connect with your students. Consider doing a Facebook live for students. Or have students join a Facebook chat and give handouts. With a little planning you can cover a lot of ground school subjects.
Check out Zoom, a video conferencing program. I belong to a group that has Zoom programs once a month and they’re great. Everyone can participate in a Zoom through audio and video. Here are a few ideas:
- Ask the Instructor
- let students ask questions about competing or careers or how you became an instructor.
- Give students a topic to research.
- Let them make short presentations on Zoom.
- Give creative awards once lessons are back in session.
- Make a game, or if you’re Pony Club savvy, practice Quiz
- Prepare questions ahead of time and make simple categories.
- Then let students take turns choosing a category and answering a question.
- Discuss favorite horse movies, books, or online (horse) games.
- assemble a bridle
- have students take turns giving you assembly instructions. You will do exactly as they tell you. They’ll practice bridle parts, order of assembly, and they will have practice speaking online in front of the group. An added advantage is they may laugh at how hard it is to explain to someone who is clueless.
- identify the horses
- take photos of the horses they know, only instead of a head or full body shot, photograph each horse’s left hind leg. See how aware they are of the horse they ride.
- name their favorite horse
- who do they like to ride best and why?
- let them tell you their strengths and weaknesses in riding
- You might be surprised over what they think these are
- discuss riding goals
- have them tell the group their immediate goal and their long term goals.
Keep Things in Perspective
It’s possible that as a riding instructor I like to control things. Unfortunately, we don’t get that choice with COVID-19 but we can keep it from controlling us. In spite of how awful the disease is and the huge hit our economies are taking, find something good about this time, even if it is just a temporary slow down in the rat race. Or better, a deeper connection with students. Choose your battles and fight what you can beat. Keep in touch with your wonderful students and horses, and believe we will get through this. Blessings.
Thanks for reading,
Barbara Ellin Fox