The clocks just fell back, as they do for most of us every fall, bringing darkness at an hour earlier than we are ready to fathom. For equestrians with day jobs, this means riding after work can get tricky, especially if the farm is not equipped with an indoor arena or outdoor lighting. The bright side (literally) is that daylight emerges earlier than it used to, so there is more time in the mornings to devote to riding. If your schedule allows, consider waking up early to ride your horse before work, so you can start your day in an enjoyable way and not have to worry about riding in the dark or foregoing your trip to the barn when you are needed late at work. If that’s a new concept for you, here are some tips to help make morning rides a routine.
1. Go to bed early. This may seem obvious, but it’s easier to get up and get rolling when you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep. If you make it a habit to go to bed earlier on the nights before you ride, waking up at a new time will get easier. Turn off your screens earlier in the evening before your head hits the pillow, as the blue light they emit is proven to keep you awake, and maybe pick up a book so your eyes and mind can relax and help you fall asleep sooner.
2. Give yourself something to look forward to when your alarm goes off. Maybe it’s your favorite breakfast to eat on the way there or a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop. While seeing and riding your horse may be enough to coax you out of bed, it’s nice to have an extra little boost to get you excited about the morning’s activities.
3. Dress in warm clothes because it may be chilly. Usually the coolest temperatures hit right before daybreak, so if you wake up before the sun has fully risen, you might still be subjected to some pretty freezing temperatures before the sun warms things up. This is especially important if you have to fetch your horse from the pasture or do a significant amount of work on the ground before getting in the saddle. Once you’re riding, your blood will start circulating and your body temperature will rise, so you may need to shed some layers, but you’ll be glad you had them for the beginning.
4. Map out the best route to avoid traffic. Though traffic is lighter now than it may have been this time last year, early morning commuters can often cause traffic jams, so use apps like Google Maps and Waze to identify the quickest routes to and from the barn each day. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic or come across a surprise slow down due to an accident when you know the rest of your day is waiting for you at home.
5. Be efficient so you can get on with your day. We all know riding is time consuming and it’s easy to spend longer at the barn than we intend. There is always more to do and things can come up unexpectedly to delay your departure. Try to stick to a plan and don’t spend any unnecessary time between tasks. If you don’t clean your tack every day, save that for days you aren’t on a time crunch. Don’t lose track of time talking to your trainer or friends. Save the long chats and tedious organizational projects for the weekend. Anything you can do to stay focused and not stray from your timeline is crucial for efficiency.