Bonding Ideas, Featured, Fun Ideas, Useful Tricks

31 Things To Do With Your Horse (other than riding)

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.

BONDING TIME

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 every day.  Your horse will really enjoy exploring new places with you.

2. Hang out with your horse. Sit in your horse’s pasture. No agenda. You might find that your horse will come over and stand near you and enjoy this ‘do nothing’ time. Take a book if you find it hard to just sit.

3. Find a treat your horse really likes. This can be used for training, as a reward when they do something really well or just as a special treat because you love them.  Here is one of Trigger’s favorite recipes:

MOLASSES TREATS

4. Find your horses ‘Favorite Scratching Spot’. A lot of horses love to be scratched in a certain spot. Find that special spot. It is usually somewhere they can’t reach, like their withers, or the top of their neck. Looks 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 really loves then 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 you 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 and paw the water and splash around, especially if it is 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 make the choice 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 things 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 you just need your horse to stand calmly.

12. Get your horse used to ropes around their body and legs. This is super 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 a good exercise to help you get really 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 a lot 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 that is 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 while they are at home and this can make 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 have a think about teaching your horse some useful tricks. These can make life a whole lot easier (and safer) around your horse. Here are some USEFUL TRICK ideas.

come when called

HEALTHY ACTIVITIES

20. Make de-worming time stress free. Get your horse used to a syringe BEFORE you have to actually de-worm them.  If you spend a bit of time teaching your horse that a syringe is a good thing then it will make de-worming time SO much easier.  I like to fill an empty and 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 breathes 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. Lots of 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 ground work training.

23. Increase your horse’s mealtime. Horses living in the wild eat for about 16 hours a day.  If you horse has an empty stomach for a long time this can cause a lot of 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 and this will extend 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 currently teaching Bella to do the Hokey Pokey (aka Horsey Pokey). Watch this video to see her first steps: BELLA LEARNING THE HOKEY POKEY

25. Teach Your Horse to Paint. It seems that some horses are quite creative. Horses can be taught to pick up a paint brush 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 really 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 that your horse can push around to get at the food.

27. Include toys in your training  Here is a link to video that will give you some ideas for toys that are cheap and easy to find: EXTRA TRAINING EQUIPMENT AND TOYS

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: BELLA ON A 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’ or the ‘Longest Tail’ or the ‘Softest Muzzle’.

31. Teach your horse tricks. This is my favorite 🙂  Trick training can be used to teach your horse many of the fun and useful things above – it is an excellent way to improve the bond with your horse, get them used to all sorts of different things and make training really enjoyable.


93 thoughts on “31 Things To Do With Your Horse (other than riding)”

  1. Having a relationship with your horse is the most rewarding. I have 8 horses that when turned loose seem to want to hang around me and play with me. Gets kinda funny because they fuss over me. I can sit in a chair in a pasture or on my ATV and they come to me. They have a feeling and a bond I feel too. Its love, trust, and kindship. They know were there for them. So you don’t always have to ride to have fun, just go down to the barn and play with them.

  2. Hi there. I was just wondering, if you were to start teaching your horse tricks and stuff, how do you start training them to do that. Like for example how do you start teaching your horse to picks things up for you. I’m very interested in teaching my horse these things, I just don’t really know how to start teaching her.

    1. Hi Mikayla,

      Really good to hear you want to start teaching your horse some tricks.

      I show how to teach a simple trick in my eBook (with videos and step-by-step instructions). It is a good place to start.

      Once you teach your horse a simple trick you can use the same method to teach her to do all sorts of things.

      You can find out more here:

      https://www.horsetricks101.com/products/

      Enjoy,

      Jain.

    1. Hi Arwen,

      You can teach a horse to come when they are called using simple step-by-step training. But I find that once I start doing interesting and fun things with my horses they come running to me, whenever I head out to their paddock. They are super keen to participate in our daily activities 🙂

      Just find activities that your horse likes to do and they will come running.

      Have fun 🙂

      Jain.

  3. Thankyou. I do ride (sometimes!) but riding is NOT the only reason to have a horse if you love horses. Some people can’t ride due to physical or confidence issues and need to know that that is ok, even not enough space for a horse large enough to ride. So thank you again for your alternatives and the joy and partnership you can have with a beautiful, intelligent animal without having to sit on it! Though if you don’t want to ride, please take on a horse/pony that can’t be ridden for whatever reason, and know that you are saving him/her. Keeping a rideable horse as a pet, then expecting someone else to take it on if you don’t want it anymore is not fair to the horse.

    1. Wonderful comments Lisa 🙂 My older horse Trigger, is retired from riding now, but we both enjoy doing lots of other activities together.
      Jain.

  4. I am also a newbie with horses, volunteering at a rescue. I needed some ideas other than just ‘spend some time with the horse that chooses you’…I am 59 and like anything else if I’m still breathing I’ll try it. This is a nice article to start with.

  5. These are all such fun ideas! I don’t own my own horse (sad face) but am lucky enough to have an amazing riding instructor who lets me work with one horse in particular. I’ve just started teaching him tricks and we train at liberty, and had a really special moment yesterday. I’m teaching him touch at the moment and we had an audience as lessons were on, but he didn’t get distracted and did really well. Everyone was really surprised! The horse also follows me around without a lead rope and everyone was asking me why, and why their horses don’t, haha! Finding your website has really improved my horsemanship skills. Thanks Jain!

    1. Hi Clara,

      It is wonderful to hear about your training with this horse. It sounds like you have developed a good relationship with him and he really wants to be with you. That is a great feeling! 🙂

      Keep up the good work.

      Jain.

  6. I just love this post. I love spending time with my horses, not just riding. Bonding and doing other fun things together is a great way to spend an afternoon. Thanks for the ideas.

  7. I love this list. Every easy and easy to prepare for! Thank you for having the time to write this list. Even BETTER, providing pictures and videos

  8. Thanks a lot for this information. I just got a new horse and we could try these ideas soon to get a better bond and spend time together. I can’t wait to try them out.

  9. These are great ideas on what to do with my horse. Sometimes you need to do something besides riding. Love these a lot!

  10. I like all of these. It really helps boost my confidence with my horse. And my horse doesn’t have to sit in the pasture all day.

    1. Glad you like the ideas Mollie 🙂 Spending time with your horse doing activities that are enjoyable for you both is a great way to increase your bond and confidence with each other.

  11. I rescued a neglected pony and have built a really good bond with her but where we live, we can’t ride all the time. She is full of character and many of these things we have done, but these will stop her getting bored. Thanks for posting such great advice! Xx

    1. Glad you liked the post Annie 🙂 She is a lucky horse to have found you. I think it is SO important to not just ride our horses but to do other activities that they will enjoy. It really helps to improve the bond with our horses.

  12. My nephew had to .I’ve.to Australia with my sister and leave his Shetland pony Maggie who I own. The painting idea is great,I’m going to do some painting with Maggie and send the canvas to him 🙂 thankyou for the idea xxx

  13. I have walked my horses for years – I first started more than 30 years ago when the only horses I could afford were either old and arthritic, or had physical issues that required a long lay up. I discovered then how much fun it was to explore, to meander, to find natural obstacles to tackle, and to just plain see the neighborhood. It continues to this day when age and physical problems demand that I get out and walk a minimum amount of time every day. My current horse also does tricks, he dances, and I’ve taught him a lot of the things suggested in this article (side over to something so I can mount? Just point my finger at his hip. Ground tie – tap the ground with my foot and drop the rein.) I know that there are people out there who just prefer to ride – my husband is one of them – but for those of us who’d like some variety – this article is great!

    1. I agree Dawn. There is so much more to do than just riding. Going for explorations is a really enjoyable way of keeping horse and human fit 🙂 Wonderful to hear that you have taught your horse some useful tricks. Thanks for sharing. Jain.

  14. Karaoke. Horses love to be sung to. I find that often, one particular tune is favored. When my students start getting frustrated, I have them walk their horse for 5 minutes and they must sing the entire time. You would be surprised how much it settles both the student and their mount.

    1. What an excellent idea Dave! I can imagine that singing would really help to calm everyone. I must try this and see which songs my horses like best 🙂

      Thanks for the tip,

      Jain.

    1. I have always sung to my horses…I’ll make up the song on the spot regarding whatever is stressing or worrying them & we get through it.

  15. I volunteer out at a horse rescue where there are a number of unsound horses, including my “foster”, who I spend an hour or two specifically with each week. I’ve been looking for some new ideas of ways to bond with him, so this list comes in super handy! Thanks for making it!

  16. Thank you so much for this info, i have just been GIVEN two horses and bonding time is exactly what i need with them. with all of this stuff to do we will never get bored…i mean, you can’t ride all the time!

    Xxx Mykaela

    1. That’s really good to hear Mykaela. Your new horses are so lucky to have found you – someone who thinks that bonding time is important 🙂

  17. Theses are amazing ideas! I’m always looking for other things to do with my horse then riding! I’m defiantly trying theses!!! 🙂

  18. I suggest reading a book to your horse. He or she will learn the rhythm of your voice and breathing. Because your focus is on reading, not on what your horse is doing, it’s a great way to relax – and learn something!

    1. Sitting and reading – most often reading out loud – has enormously positive results with all my rescues. I also like walking my “barn/buddy sour” horses around the neighborhood or hand grazing away. These are all awesome.

  19. I think I know what hosting site you’re using for this blog, either way, you should probably add a share button for Facebook and Twitter, it would help bring more traffic!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Leneka. It is really appreciated. I did have share buttons on this site, but during an upgrade I took them off and forgot to put them back. Whoops. I will put them up again today. All the best, Jain.

      1. My mega expensive horse just sustained an injury that will make him unridable for life. He is a retired stakes winning off track thoroughbred…. An only 11. I want to teach him how to do something instead of waste hi. Away in stall or pasture…so I am going to try to teach him to paint!!!

        1. Hi Cammy,

          So sorry to hear about your horse’s injury.

          There are LOTS of things you can do with horses other than riding. My horse, Trigger, is retired now but we still do lots of fun activities together – it is time that we both really enjoy – and I don’t miss riding him at all.

          I hope this article gives you lots of ideas.

          Have fun with your painting 🙂

          Jain.

        2. It sounds like you will keep him because you love him and he will be a companion, I am so glad. I am so sorry for him, that he was injured, horrible, please take good care of him with hugs and kisses.

    1. I really like these because I have a horse I am training and I cannot ride her yet and I can do these things instead of wanting to ride her! 🙂

      1. Yes, and they all help to improve the bond with your horse. And that can only help your training Madison 🙂 Jain.

      2. Spend as much time as you can. The benefits are extraordinary. My boy was 11 when I got him. I spend a lot more time on the ground than in the saddle. He is 23 and my best friend.

        1. Yes, didn’t give up. I was able to get my first horse at age 56. My lifetime dream. He was only 4 1/2 yrs when I got him. He was trained but we are growing together.

          1. Never! We had a woman who was 60 ride but she rode when she was younger. She had cancer and her last wish was to ride again!

          2. It’s absolutely not too late. If you are not used to much physical activity, go to a gym, work on balance, flexibility and core strength for a month first.

          3. I bought my first horse two years ago, my 2nd 18 months ago. I will soon be 61 and I am reveling in living my life-long dream. GO FOR IT!!!

          4. Never too late….I’m 66….. As long as I can saddle my own horse….I’m good to ride! ???

      1. I’m 13 and have three horses I’m sure your time will come and once it does you’ll have so much fun good luck!!!

      2. Don’t give up… My dream was to have my own horse. However I had some fear…I started lessons pushing thru my anxiety and just bought my first horse. 2 yr led gelding . Soft, quiet more whoa then go … I’m 44 !

    2. Thank you so much. Our horse trainer moved away a couple of weeks ago and said I should train one of our horses she was working on and I didn’t know where to begin. This has gave me a great place to start.

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