Sometimes you can’t ride. Sometimes you don’t want to. Here are 31 fun and useful things to do with your horse – other than riding.
1. Take your horse for a walk and explore the neighborhood. Let your horse graze, sniff and see new sights. In the wild, horses travel vast distances and come across different things daily. Your horse will enjoy exploring new places with you.
2. Hang out with your horse. Sit in your horse’s pasture. No agenda. You might find your horse will come over and stand near you and enjoy this ‘do nothing’ time. Take a book if you find it hard just to sit.
3. Find a treat your horse loves. This can be used for training, as a reward when they do something well, or as a special treat because you love them. Here is one of our horses favorite recipes:
4. Find your horse’s ‘Favorite Scratching Spot’. Most horses love to be scratched in a particular spot. Find that special spot. It is usually somewhere they can’t reach, like their withers or the top of their neck. Look for signs that you have found ‘The Spot’. These include eyes glazing over, a quivering lip, or they may return the favor by scratching you. Research has shown that rubbing or scratching a horse on its withers has a calming effect. If you can find a spot your horse loves, you can use this as a reward during training.
5. Have a picnic with your horse. Go and join your horse in their pasture. Take some food for yourself and some favorite treats for your horse.
6. Lead your horse to water and let them play. Find a waterhole, river, or pond. Take your horse there on a long lead line and let them get wet. Most horses will walk in, paw the water, and splash around, especially on a hot day.
7. Try training your horse without any restraints, at liberty. Your training will need to be fun and engaging to encourage your horse to stay with you. But it is wonderful when they choose to be with you.
8. Braid your horse’s mane. Be creative. Be gentle. Most horses like to have their mane stroked or gently brushed.
USEFUL TRAINING EXERCISES
9. Line up with a mounting block. Teach your horse to position their body alongside a mounting block or raised area, so it is easier for you to get on. It will also put less strain on your horse’s body and limbs if you get on this way.
10. Pick up things you have dropped. Teach your horse to pick items up, for example, your hat. This will be helpful if you drop something while you are riding. You won’t have to get off – just ask your horse to pick up the object and pass it to you.
11. Ground tie. Teach your horse to stand still without needing to be tied up. This is very useful if you don’t have anywhere to tie your horse or just need your horse to stand calmly.
12. Get your horse used to ropes around their body and legs. This is extremely helpful if your horse ever gets caught up in anything – they are far less likely to panic.
13. Stand inside a hula hoop. Practice getting your horse’s front feet or their back feet inside a hula hoop laying on the ground. This is an excellent exercise to help you get precise at moving your horse’s feet.
14. Teach your horse to drop their head. See how close to the ground you can get their nose. Asking your horse to lower their head can have a calming effect and makes bridling so much easier.
15. Back your horse by just pointing at their chest or nose. This will make it easier to move your horse around.
16. Work on those little annoying problems. Does your horse do something a bit annoying, but you just put up with it? Spend a few minutes every day just working on fixing this problem. Several short sessions are better than one long one.
17. Pick up your horse’s feet by just pointing at them. No need to bend down and lift heavy legs. Just point, and your horse will pick up their foot and hold it up. The farriers love this one!
18. Build an obstacle horse course. Start simple, and then add items as your horse gets more confident. Horses are naturally curious, so they will enjoy exploring these new objects. Plus, obstacle courses are a great way to get your horse used to scary objects at home, making them calmer out on the trail. Add things to your obstacle course that you might find when you are out riding, for example, rubbish bins and plastic bags.
19. Teach your horse a USEFUL trick. There are so many tricks you can teach your horse. There are all the usual ones like kiss, hug, bow, etc, but also think about teaching your horse some useful tricks. These can make life much easier (and safer) around your horse.
20. Make de-worming time stress free. Get your horse used to a syringe BEFORE you have to de-worm them. If you spend a bit of time teaching your horse that a syringe is a good thing, it will make de-worming time much easier. I like to fill an empty, clean syringe with apple sauce and give my horses this once a week. When I have to actually de-worm them it is easy.
21. Get to know your horse’s normal vital signs. Work out how many breaths your horse takes per minute when resting and after exercise. Also, check temperature and heart rate. Then you will have a base measure if you need to compare them if your horse is ever sick or injured.
22. Get fit with your horse. Many people walk their dogs to get fit – why not walk your horse? Or, for those that are fitter, try jogging with your horse. You could also include some groundwork training.
23. Increase your horse’s mealtime. Horses living in the wild eat for about 16 hours a day. If your horse has an empty stomach for a long time, this can cause many problems, including cribbing and ulcers. If your horse is stabled or has limited grazing, spread out the time they are eating by placing some large smooth rocks in their feed bin (just make sure they are too big to put in their mouth or swallow). Your horse will need to push the rocks around to get to their feed, extending the time they are eating.
JUST FOR FUN
24. Do a Little Dancin’. Teach your horse some simple steps, crank up the music, and dance! I’m teaching Bella to do the Hokey Pokey (aka Horsey Pokey). Watch this video to see her first steps.
25. Teach Your Horse to Paint. It seems that some horses are pretty creative. Horses can be taught to pick up a paintbrush and apply paint to a canvas. The result is a beautiful, impressionistic painting.
26. Find some ‘edible’ toys for your horse. There are lots of wonderful horse toys available now. Horses love to play, and providing toys can cure boredom. Try a toy that gets them thinking or gets them active. Research has shown that horses prefer toys that dispense food. Look for toys your horse can push around to get the food.
27. Include toys in your training. Here is a link to a video that will give you some ideas for toys that are cheap and easy to find.
28. Dress your horse up and take photos to send to your friends to give them a smile.
29. Stand on a pedestal. Teach your horse to stand up on things. As long as the object is solid and stable, you can teach your horse to stand on just about anything. Here is a video of Bella getting up on a large rock.
30. Hold a show. Get together with friends and practice ‘showing’ your horse. Make it fun by holding classes such as the ‘Horse With The Glossiest Coat’, the ‘Longest Tail’, or the ‘Softest Muzzle’.
31. Teach your horse tricks. This is our favorite! You can use trick training to teach your horse many of the fun and useful things listed above – it is an excellent way to create an amazing bond with your horse, help them to be calmer around many different things and make your training really fun. 🙂