There are many reasons I have needed other things to do with my horse than riding. The main reason probably being time restraint, but there have been other times such as injury or health related things. Then there has also been a pregnancy that has kept me out of the saddle. In fact, you may not ride your horse at all. Maybe you have a miniature horse or have a desire to own a horse, but not ride and that it totally fine too. Then maybe you’re simply looking for new ways to spend time with your horse other than riding?
Here are 10 ideas to keep it interesting that go beyond just regular groundwork. Nothing wrong with that, but these are great ways to bond and build a stronger relationship with your horse. They can boost confidence, be therapeutic, and be rewarding. Often, riding means work to a horse. These can be fun and relaxing and used either on their own one day or mixed in before or after a ride. These things I love doing- so does my horse.
Take your horse for a walk
This is probably one of my horse’s favorites. It’s simply a great time for bonding. Plus, it can be a family affair. When I take my horse for a walk, I go wherever I want and let them graze, and we just spend time together. It can simply be a walk around the yard or even down the road. Whichever you are more comfortable with. I pet my horse when we stop and enjoy letting them find some new vegetation to munch on. Often, there are a variety of different foods than what is in our pasture and I find that my horse always enjoys this.
Stretching your horse is a good thing to do before or after. Just like we need to stretch our muscles when we exercise, it is no different for a horse. They, too, can become stiff and sore. Just be safe when doing any unaccustomed exercise if your horse is unfamiliar with doing stretches, especially around their legs.
Here are some ideas for stretching
This is really good! It’s easy and safe. You can use a treat or a carrot to get them to bend to one side as far as they will go. This stretches the entire side of the body. Then repeat on the opposite side.
Front Leg Stretch
Get your horse to give you a front leg, then hold it until they give a good stretch. You will feel it when they stretch that leg. Immediately, release the leg, letting them know they did what you asked of them. This one needs to be done safely. Stand to the side and be patient with your horse if they are confused about what you want them to do. They will enjoy this once they understand. Repeat on the other side.
This is where you coax their head between the legs. Using a carrot, guide your horse’s nose to between his front legs as far as possible. This will give his neck and back a good stretch. This one is fairly easy and they catch on to it pretty quickly. I enjoy using a carrot because it’s longer and easier than a store-bought treat.
This one is one of the most rewarding to me. I just love showing off new tricks we learn. For these I use treats. A link to the treats I use is at the bottom of the page. Please be careful and make sure your horse doesn’t become too grabby. You want to give the treat on your terms and not let them take it from you. I make them wait until they quit asking and then reward them. To clear up any confusion, use a click or cluck sound to let them know as soon as they did the right thing you asked. Here is a few tricks that are super easy to teach.
This one isn’t as hard as it sounds. If you have a smaller area (doesn’t have to be a round pen) you can work on liberty. This is a great way to become more connected and in tune with your horse. Here are some basic exercises; because there isn’t enough space or time to fit all of it in on this page, but it’s a great start and will leave you hungry to learn more.
Begin with leading. Have them stop when you stop and speed up when you speed up. Won’t take long for them to catch on. Start on the line and work until it’s solid enough to take the lead rope off.
Then work on backing and having them back when back. You’ll need a dressage whip to tap them on the chest to help with this exercise.
I’m calling this one bathing for lack of a better title, but in the hot months, I like to just get the hose out and get to spraying. Not all horses love water as much as my horse, I know that, but I still think it’s a good thing to do to get them unafraid of hoses and water. My horse Pancho loves to roll in the dirtiest place he can find afterward, so I try to put him in a place to dry a bit before turning him out- that way the dirt doesn’t stick to him as bad. I don’t always use soap and do the whole 9 yards. It doesn’t even have to take long or involve a lot of work, but you will probably get a little wet too.
Going through obstacles
This is so fun to do and builds confidence in your horse. You can make obstacles or you can find some that are already around your house or barn. You’d be surprised what you can come up with when you get creative. I’ve taken my horse through my kid’s yard, which is full of toys and he does great. It’s an excellent test to see how they react to different things.
I almost didn’t add this one because it’s already such a big part of what we do with our horses. I mean, it’s a necessary part of owning a horse. If I was being honest, though, this is one of the most therapeutic things I do with my horse. After a long day of work, I don’t get a lot of time to ride, but I can pick up a brush. I get to work and get in the zone and my head just clears out all the stress from my day.
You can do this and kick it up a notch by giving them a grooming to remember. Get a rubber curry comb and get that dirt worked up. Your horse will love it. Switch out brushes that have different softness. I start with a stiff brush to brush away the dirt I just worked up. Then work my way down to a very soft finishing brush. Don’t forget their legs and face. Oh, and the belly! My horse always has an itchy belly! You can enjoy some of the facial expressions they make as they enjoy themselves.
If you want to take your grooming a step further, you can learn some different massage techniques that your horse will be in heaven over. Look for lots of licking, chewing, and even yawning as you work those muscles. These will let you know your horse is really enjoying it and able to relax.
Work on their hooves
Again, this is necessary work of owning a horse, but a horse is nothing without their hooves. Plus, this is especially great thing to do if your horse is difficult for the farrier. As always, be safe when working with their feet. Start with picking up all four feet and making sure they are comfortable with that. Clean the dirt and debris out of their hooves and inspect their sole and frog. It’s important to be familiar with your horse’s hooves and watch for thrush which is a common fungal infection in hooves.
That is it, that is 10 non-riding things you can do with your horse. I know for me in my season of life right now, time for riding is a bit scarce. That’s why I’m grateful for having a lot of other things I can do with them and enjoy their company.
Please leave me a comment below if you incorporate any of these in your routine with your horses. I’d love to hear from you.
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Here are some links to products you might enjoy using with your horse.
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