Time Management for Equestrians

Squeezing in the Ride–– Discovering how to manage your time and accomplish your riding goals

by Bernadette Palmeri


For so many of us, horseback riding is not our first priority, but rather a sacred part of our day that is too often neglected. As much as we may want to jump out of bed in the morning and go on that trail ride or take that lesson, we have other responsibilities that consume most of our time and energy. That being said, that special time of day when we get to steal an hour or so with one of nature’s kindest animals is crucial to keeping each of us happy, and for some of us, safe from insanity!

Time management is central to planning your riding goals and acknowledging your and your horses’ hard work. The more responsibilities that pile up, the more overwhelming managing your time may seem. Here are some useful ways to figure out how best to squeeze in a chance to ride each day.

ScheduleYour Long-Term Goals and Riding Time
The first thing to do is set up a long-term schedule looking to the future and your personal riding goals. Perhaps you want to be able to ride five days a week instead of just two. Or maybe you are interested in hunter pacing, competing in a horse trial, or leasing your first horse. Where would you like your riding to be in two months? Six months? One year? Depending on how demanding you make your riding and competing schedule, you can now begin to backtrack and look at your plan on a smaller scale.

Assess Your Normal Schedule
Once you have your long-term goals mapped out, look back at a normal, routine week and write down what your exact schedule has normally been. 

  • What time do you usually wake up each morning?
  • When do you normally get to work or school?
  • Do you go directly home after work or school? Do you have to stay late after school for sports or clubs?
  • When do you usually ride each day?
  • Are your rides more productive in the morning or evening?
  • How many days did you end up running out of time and thus were unable to ride?
  • When does your horse perform his best? If he stands in a stall during the day, is he better before or after he is turned out? Does he become upset if he is ridden during meal times? 

Be as detailed as possible and be lenient in how much time you allot for each activity. While writing out your schedule, look for blocks of time that can be designated for riding. Although it may seem trivial, don’t forget to include the parts of the day that I like to call “doing nothing”. This may be the thirty minutes you like to read before bed, or the time in the morning where you watch the news and enjoy your coffee.

Set Realistic Expectations
While managing your time, you want to set yourself up for success, so the most important thing to creating your conditioning/riding schedule is to be realistic. Planning to do an hour of dressage or a two hour endurance ride after a full day of work, grocery shopping, homework, cleaning the house, and a trip to the gym, is probably asking too much of yourself. Instead of setting outlandish expectations, be realistic about how you feel about riding at the end of the day or waking up an hour earlier to get to the barn. A useful trick is to keep a bag in your car or at the barn with a pair of riding pants and a shirt, just in case you get out of work early and can squeeze in a ride.

Pre-Plan Effective Excersies and Routines
Lastly, think of some exercises or routines that are the most effective for you and your horse. Perhaps a set of trot poles or a walking trail ride are most beneficial to your schedule and goals. If you are lacking inspiration, I find that trying something new and working on that for a week is a great way to stay dedicated and keep things fresh. Using books like 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse and Rider by Linda Allen or 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider by Jec Aristotle Ballou are two of my favorites that are full of great routines that become increasingly challenging as you work your way through the exercises.

Whatever your goals and flexibility, working to manage your time to the best of your abilities will give you the chance to be successful in all your riding endeavors.


About the Author: Bernadette Palmeri is a recent graduate of Connecticut College and currently enjoys Eventing with her horses throughout the Northeast.