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For the goal-driven rider, the prospect of taking a day off can seem like a more daunting prospect than even the toughest training day. How to (gasp!) not work when it feels like there’s always so much work to be done?

For horses and humans alike, overtraining can be counterproductive to progress, resulting in sore muscles and stressed brains. Rest days are critical for restoration of the body and mind; in fact, you might be surprised to find both athletes coming out stronger on the other side.

For this month’s training tip, paradoxically, here are some tips on NOT training:

  • Redirect your energy. A rest day doesn’t have to be unproductive. Channel your work ethic into an out-of-the-saddle activity like calendar planning, tack cleaning, or trailer organization. Or, if your domestic life needs some attention, wash dishes or dust while catching up on your favorite equestrian podcast.

  • Focus on your own wellness. We’re great at paying attention to our horses. But paying attention to ourselves? Sometimes not so much. Check in via a yoga class or meditation session. Hone in on any “blocks, whether physical or mental. If you need help working through them, consult a professional such as a massage therapist or sports psychologist.

  • Enjoy a spa day with or without your horse. Let’s face it: horse people can get a little … grubby. When was the last time you treated yourself to a mani-pedi or facial? If your horse needs a little TLC, too, set him sparkling with a bath or tackle that mane you’ve been meaning to tame.

  • Leave the arena behind. Take a deep breath and hit the trail, where you can both allow your bodies to relax and your minds to wander. Close your eyes for a few seconds and “forest bathe,” an exercise that magnifies the sounds and sensations around you. Re-anchor yourself to the intimate magic that drew you to horses in the first place.

  • Remember that there’s more to life. Horses are so all-consuming that it’s easy to lose touch with the outside world. Use your day off to reconnect with the non-horsey people and activities that you love. It will make you more present both in and out of the saddle.

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