Riding Through My Winter Funk

This is a pretty personal post so please be gentle. I’ve been feeling a winter riding funk lately. Perhaps it’s the post-holiday let down, although, I was looking forward to a little quiet after the chaos. The cold and rain is not helping. Is it bad that I wish for snow instead of this bleak grey?


Winter at Sunnyside Equestrian Center Lincroft, New Jersey
Winter at Sunnyside Equestrian Center Lincroft, New Jersey


It started when I hurt my back about a month ago. I don’t even know how I hurt myself. I could barely walk or sit comfortably much less go riding, although I still did of course (with a lot of groaning). Glad I did because it felt much better after some light walk/trot. Unfortunately I had to ask my trainer to spot me so I could dismount safely from Delight (a 16.3 OTTB)! I did NOT trust myself not to make things worse. Even healthy, it’s a long way down for me when I’m only 5 feet tall.

Luckily, I make a sore muscle rub for my animal clients that happens to work wonders on people too. In addition, my husband showed me some of his exercise tools  (foam roller and ball) that helped me perform sports massage on myself. The combination did the trick but I was very slow to ride without shooting nerve pains.


Aromatherapy is a boon when I have sore muscles.
Aromatherapy is a boon when I have sore muscles.


I go through periods as a rider where I plateau or even backslide. It usually is sparked by something minor (like hurting my back mysteriously) and I get in my head and feel like I’m not very good. It’s not that I don’t want to ride, but that I’m feeling less confident in my abilities. My trainer is the one who pushes me through the rut and is so patient with me. She alternates between holding my hand and pushing me forward. It helps that the horse I ride is amazing and I’m in love with his personality. Delight is young (5 years) but he’s consistent, level headed, and makes me laugh.  The problem is definitely me and my lack of confidence.


Some people choose to take a step back and take time away from what is causing their anxiety. I did that many years ago and always regretted it. For more on that read my first blog post, My Middle-Aged Equestrian Reinvention. The problem with taking a step back is you never face what is making you nervous. And that would mean I wouldn’t ride and that is NOT an option.

So what is my plan to get out of this rut?

1). Own up to what is causing my anxiety. I need to be okay with making mistakes and bounce back. Talk to my trainer, Robin Brennan, and tell her what is in my head. She is not only my trainer but my friend and often, therapist. And her response was perfect, “Get over it.” Because she’s right. Go into each lesson and ride with a blank slate. Don’t set myself up for failure. Live in the moment. She’s the first person to tell me my lack of confidence is the only thing holding me back.

2). I need to ride MORE. Sadly family, work, and finances are often obstacles to that. Winter and its prevalent germs mean that I get a call from the school nurse at minimum once a week.  I don’t have my own horse (YET), but my goal is to double the time I’m in the saddle over the next few weeks or months. How I’m going to do that I’ve yet to determine.

3). Finally I’m going to focus on the positive.  I need to concentrate on how quickly I am able to get Delight off his forehand and on his correct lead, or how good it feels to take a breath and look at the amazing view into the valley. I usually feel better after I ride, and I need to hold on to that feeling.




Horsey kisses make everything better. 
Horsey kisses make everything better.


No matter what, life between the ears of a horse always makes things better.
No matter what, life between the ears of a horse always makes things better.


I am  thankful that I get to spend my free time on horseback and do something I love, even if I have some hard days. It’s a cliche but it’s true: there really never is a bad day on the back of a horse. I hope that some of you can benefit from my diatribe, or at least relate it to something you are going through. Me? I have no doubt I am on my way out of this rut.  But winter and rain? I’m over it.


Have you ever had a riding funk? If so, comment below with your methods of getting through it.


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4 thoughts on “Riding Through My Winter Funk

  1. Great post. I found your blog via google, but it was just what I needed today. I am in a full-blown funk this winter with an endless string of bad rides, strange "mistakes" that led to falls and bizarre illnesses and injuries. Coming off of an awesome season last year with 100% plans to move up, I now find myself dangerously close to the spring season starting and zero confidence in my ability. Like you said, one option is to "step back" but I know that is not the answer. I have read and studied every sports phycology book on the planet, and upped my riding to almost daily adding in every "trick" to improve…yet I find myself in constant "how did that happen" lessons. I have decided it is a funk or a phase that we just have to get through…it might take lot of sweat and tears (and maybe a little blood)…but I just have to gut through the funk and get back tot the good.

    1. Brandi, I’m so glad this post hit home with you. Sorry to hear you are experiencing the same thing but I have no doubt you will regain the confidence you need. I was very nervous to post it to be honest, but in doing so it really freed me and my rides have been so much better since. I hope that it helps to know that you aren’t alone. I wish you the best of luck and I’d love to hear an update from you on your show season!

  2. I love riding horses, it is the best feeling in the world.

    1. Totally agree! Usually riding makes me feel less anxious and more confident. Sadly, every once in awhile I have a crisis of confidence. Can’t be 100% all the time, right? I hope you get back in the saddle soon.

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