Advancing Your Skills When It’s Dark Outside


A staple in my personal library for many years now, “Hunter Seat Equitation” by George H. Morris.

Last week I wrote a post about how the dedicated rider who also works a full-time job might continue to work in riding with the advent of daylight savings time. But once you’ve worked in your ride and darkness has settled in now what? How can you make the most of your down time? In this week’s post I’ll share with you some tips and tricks for doing just that.

Enroll in a short course.

The Cooperative Extension Service has long been known for bringing the research based knowledge and skills of its land grant universities to local communities. One tried and true method to do just that for horse owners is a short course.  Often offered at the state, regional, or local level topics of interest to horse owners are usually covered during once weekly meetings over a period of several weeks. Often these meetings or sessions are held at times convenient for the working adult. Speakers can include Extension Specialists, veterinarians, and other equine caregivers covering subjects ranging from horse health, breeding, and management to forages, pasture and manure management, and nutrition.

For a nominal fee, participants in short courses can increase their skills base in addition to being afforded excellent networking opportunities and access to various take home materials provided throughout the course. Even if a short course is not currently being offered in your area, your local cooperative extension service can provide you with free to low-cost reading material or access to research based newsletters covering topics of interest to you.

Take advantage of e-Learning.

Consider taking advantage of e-learning from the comfort of your home during the hours you set; after dark.  A wide variety of offerings are available for the tech savvy learner at affordable fees.  Depending on your interests, e-Workshops are offered on a variety of topics ranging from horse behavior and training to anatomy and physiology at skill levels from beginning to advanced. E-Learning offers the distinct advantage of offering you the choice of how formal you would like your continuing education to be and at the what time you wish to take advantage of it.  Educational web sites, blogs, links to educational articles and “how to” riding and training videos are all available for the interested learner.

Read a book or magazine.

If you are more of a traditional learner and feel more at ease with a book or magazine in your hand, consider these for your continuing education.  A single monthly magazine subscription to a top equine publication can cover a variety of topics all in one place at a cost that won’t break the bank. Articles can be read selectively, depending upon what you would like to learn more about, or cover to cover to increase your general knowledge base.

Books, while often more specific in nature, can be a great way to explore such topics as riding and training theories. Both books and magazines can become valuable additions to your equine themed library, carried to the barn for reference during training sessions, and read and re-read until you feel established with implementing the ideas within.

Watch a DVD.

Many of today’s top horse trainers offer “how to” DVDs that will fit most budgets. From starting a young horse, to correcting a specific problem, to training a new skill and everything in between the advantage to DVDs is that they can be watched from the comfort of your couch and reviewed as many times as necessary until you feel comfortable with the concepts.

Even if your interest is more along the lines of learning how to correctly apply a wrap or poultice, perhaps learning more about first aid, or maybe even clipping and grooming your horse for a show DVDs can be a good place to start.  Available DVDs don’t just focus on the horse. They are also available for improving your riding technique.

Form or join a club.

Perhaps you would like to expand your network of friends. Clubs also offer convenient meeting times and can be a great way to accomplish your goal. If your interest is with a specific breed of horse or an exact discipline many breed or discipline organizations offer local or regional clubs where new members are welcome to join and participate in monthly meetings. Local saddle clubs, whose membership often covers a larger cross section of these, offer the same. These organizations frequently offer monthly educational meetings where equine professionals in specialty areas ranging from veterinarians and farriers to equine massage therapists and chiropractors come to speak.

In many instances these groups also host shows from schooling to rated levels where you and your horse can gain valuable experiences and the off season is a good time to learn more. Even if you live in an area that doesn’t already offer a club considering organizing one of your own by networking, which offers its own advantages, with local horse owners to discover their interests and needs. Membership can be free or simply the cost of fees to a national breed registry or discipline organization.


Most of us complain about not having enough time to exercise but being “trapped” in your home after dark can provide just the opportunity you were looking for. Today there is a seemingly limitless supply of workouts designed with the equestrian in mind. These workouts can come from online sources to books to DVD’s and beyond. With a little work, you’ll be improving your riding and preparing for a time when you’ll have more time to spend in the saddle. Of course you’ll want to consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.

Whether you’re ready to head out to a meeting, curl up on your couch with a cup of hot chocolate and study up, or don your workout attire and work up a sweat these tips can help you continue to move forward even when it’s dark outside.

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