There are many ways to go about working with your horse, but there are a few activities to help facilitate the building of a well-rounded horse. We all consider the phrase “well rounded” to be a positive attribute. Well, the same is true when speaking of horses and it’s our job as their owner to help them become more well-rounded and mentally sound. These activities will also improve your own horsemanship and the communication you have with your horse.
The word activity means to be actively doing something. If you have an issue with your horse you can be proactive about fixing it. Even if your horse doesn’t have an issue there are always ways we can grow and improve our horsemanship. Often times it means getting out of our comfort zones. In horsemanship, it’s the only way we can help our horses through some of their problems.
By no purpose of our own, we can create some of the issues that our horses have. For example, we bought two horses as a pair. The owner wanted them to be purchased together and go to the same home. We quickly realized that they were extremely buddy sour which meant they were anxious to be without the other one. You couldn’t ride them out alone because the one you were riding was afraid to go by themselves and then the one left behind was worried their friend was leaving them. This behavior was created because the previous owners never separated them or rode them separately. Therefore, when you tried to separate them there were issues.
These are what’s called holes in the horse’s training. These holes can show up at any time too. It’s no different than when we work out regularly then fall out of it- that’s when we lose our muscle tone. Most horses have them, but so do we as equestrians. It’s OK not to know everything and be the best at everything. What is great here is you can improve together as horse and rider.
As you read over these activities ask yourself these questions. If you answer no to any of these then you can have a great idea of where to focus some of your energy.
- Am I comfortable performing these with my horse?
- Does my horse respond to me quickly and easily when performing this activity?
- Is my horse paying attention to me or is he or she nervous about their surroundings?
- Does my horse seem willing and interested in the activity?
horsemanship activities for any horse or discipline
1. Walk , trot, & canter
Is your horse comfortable in all three of these gaits? Your horse should be able to be ridden in each gait which includes the walk, trot, and canter. A trail horse on a backcountry trail going over rugged terrain will probably spend 99% of their time at the walk, but every horse needs to be comfortable in the canter under saddle because you never know when something is going to spook your horse into a faster gait. Likewise, a barrel horse may be used to spending the majority of its time running the pattern, but can you spend time just walking them or in a lope or canter? Time spent in each gait is good for both the horse and rider.
Spend some lengthy time walking and trotting, and cantering your horse. If you have an arena or large area make 2-3 laps in one gait without breaking into a different gait. If your horse breaks out of the gait you’ve asked correct them and keep going. When you’ve completed the laps give your horse a nice rest letting them know they did good.
Tip for the high strung horse: If you have a horse that really doesn’t want to walk, but wants to take off with you then try this when you feel them start to amp up. Try redirecting them into a circle instead of just pulling them back with your reins. Redirect their energy instead of trying to contain it.
Tip for the lazier horse: If your horse doesn’t want to break into the canter with leg cues and body energy you may try using your rein or a riding crop to spank their hind end to encourage forward movement and speed.
2. work off leg cues
Does your horse know all three positions for your leg cues? Mastering leg cues is a huge step in horsemanship. Think of all the directions you need to give to your horse. With your legs you should be able to send your horse forward, backward, sideways, and around. You have three distinct spots on your horse’s side to communicate to them which direction you want them to go. Moving the shoulder, the hind end, and the ribs all separately gives us a more refined movement of our horse. Let’s go over each position for your leg pressure.
- Position #1 is in front of the cinch which signals to the horse you want them to move their shoulder away and keep their hind end still. Practice this at the fence so they can’t walk forward.
- Position #2 is in the middle which moves their ribs and tells them to move laterally or to side pass.
- Position #3 is further back, between the middle and the flank which tells the horse to move their hind end and keep their shoulder still.
Tip: Work at the fence for your lateral movement until you are confident they understand your cues.
The last on this list of horsemanship activities is lunging. This isn’t something you need to do every time you ride your horse, but being able to lunge your horse in all three gaits easily and with subtle cues is a great goal to work towards. For example, if my horse is at a new place and is excited or nervous I don’t want to just swing up on his back. It’s always a good idea to get your horse paying attention to you and getting his focus and lunging is a great way to accomplish that. Teach them from the beginning and use it when necessary.
These horsemanship activities are a great foundation for any horse and rider. It’s really all about a balancing act and balancing this with that. Only you know what this and that is for your horse. I recently heard Carson James speak on this very subject in one of his Instagram posts. If you haven’t heard of him before you might want to check him out here. He has a lot of great advice.
I hope you found this helpful. Leave me a comment below I always love to hear from you.
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There are many different reasons why I have needed other things to do with my horse than riding. The main reason probably being time restraint. 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. Maybe you don’t have a reason other than you’re simply looking for new things to do with your horse other than riding? Here are 10 ideas to keep it interesting with your horse.