What to Do When You Don't Feel Like Riding


Even the most motivated people in the world have days where they just don’t feel like dragging themselves down to the barn and getting into the saddle. 

If you’re struggling to get your motivation back, what should you do? Is it ok to skip riding, or should you do it anyway? The answer is that it really depends – on your health, your situation, your goals, and the reason why you don’t feel like riding. 

How to Drum Up Some Motivation 

Like most athletes, dips in motivation are normal. But in reality, even the most dedicated riders tend to rely on discipline rather than motivation. After all, you’re not motivated to brush your teeth every night – but you still do it! 

If you’re struggling more and more with motivation but know that things are usually better when you’re in the saddle, you can try a few tricks to get yourself on the back of a horse. 

1. Commit to 10 minutes

If you get on your horse and commit to walking for ten minutes, you’ll usually end up doing more. If you don’t, then you can call it quits and go home knowing your horse got a little leg stretch and some scratches, and you gave it a fair chance. 90% of the time though, that won’t happen!

2. Make it a habit

Sticking to a set time and routine can help you get out of the door and down to the barn before you have the chance to talk yourself out of it. For many people, this means getting up early and putting on their breeches first thing. For you, it could mean going straight to the barn after the office without stopping for groceries or going home first.

3. Plan a show or a lesson

Sometimes, you can get stuck in a rut and feel like you aren’t progressing. Having goals and ambitions often motivates you to do more. It’s much harder to skip a ride when you know you have to practice for a show or when you’ve just learnt a cool new exercise from your trainer than when you haven’t got any particular plans.

4. Ride with a friend

Much like going for a run or hitting the gym, a little bit of accountability can go a long way towards keeping you disciplined. If you know you’ll let down a friend or trainer by not turning up to ride, you’re much more likely to head down to the barn.

5. Add a treat

Of course, getting to ride is a treat in and of itself! But if you need a bit of extra encouragement to go and ride, maybe you could add an incentive. Perhaps you could stop for that one coffee you really love on the way home after your ride? Or read a chapter of your favorite book under a tree at the barn? 

Non-riding exercises

If you mostly want to ensure your horse gets some exercise, remember you don’t have to stick to a set plan. Your original idea might have been a schooling session, but if you’ve had a long day and don’t think you’ll enjoy 45 minutes of lateral work, why not try a trail instead? 

Other good ways to get your horse worked without having to school for an hour include longeing or long reining, taking your horse for an in-hand walk, or doing some fun poles. 

Although it’s still technically riding, you can even decide to spend 20 minutes just doing walk exercises if you’re too exhausted to consider a full ride! Or hop on bareback to take away the extra task of tacking up and untacking. 

When You Should Skip Riding

If you’re sick, going through a really stressful time, or are having a ‘once in a blue moon’ day where you really don’t feel like riding, it’s ok to skip it. Though all those motivational sayings about showing up are true, it’s also important to take care of your physical and mental health. Occasionally, pushing through things will only set you back when it all catches up with you in a few days or weeks. If a rest day is what you need, take it!

Just remember: your horse won’t suffer from an extra day off. And we often need to give ourselves a break both physically and mentally. Taking a break now and then is ok, and you’ll probably be right back at it and ready to ride in a couple of days’ time. 

Other Solutions

You might encounter a situation where you know riding is going to be tough (either physically or mentally) for a bit and don’t need or want the added pressure of having to ride 4-6 times a week. 

In instances like this, it can often help to have a backup plan. After all, most horse owners are familiar with the guilt that comes with “neglecting” your horse for a while. Even though they’re not standing in the paddock dreaming of the Olympics, it’s normal to feel bad for giving them a few days off. 

One of the first options is to give your horse a planned holiday. You could look at moving barns, at increasing their turnout time in the field, or simply giving them a few weeks to a few months away from work so both of you can relax without pressure. They say that Dr Green solves a myriad of issues, and in many countries, it’s common for horses to get 2-3 months out in the field having a complete break over winter when the competition scene dies down. Even seriously high level horses have holidays, just like CEO’s and surgeons take vacations from time to time…and often come back to work feeling much better as a result of it. 

If you don’t fancy the idea of your horse having an extended break, what else could you do? One option is to find someone to lease your horse or take lessons on them, or even consider loaning them to a lesson barn for a set period. This allows them to continue working without you racking up bills. 

And of course, another fantastic option (if funds allow) is to send your horse for some schooling. Letting them spend a few weeks or months with a trainer means when you’re ready to get your feet back in the stirrups, you’ll likely have a horse who is easier to ride – and you’ll know they’re benefiting from the time they’d otherwise have off. Of course, this can be pretty expensive. But if you feel like you’re hitting a rut, the prospect of getting on a well-schooled horse might be exactly what you need to start moving forward again. 


Do you have any tried and tested remedies to get your mojo back when you don’t feel like riding? Share them with us in the comments to help out your fellow equestrians!


Great article full of good ideas. 👍🏻
Leave your comment