Winter means colder temperatures, gray skies, and frozen water buckets. Limited sunshine and frigid temperatures can make hibernating sound pretty good. Winter does have advantages, however, like more down time to spend with your horse and no biting flies. Who knew that rolling in the snow could be so fun? Horses seem to love it. Just because the ground is frozen, your fun does not have to be.
Just like us, a horse benefits from mental and physical stimulation. When coming up with ideas for activities, be sure to add variety. You both will enjoy the change of pace and learn something new together.
Here are some fun activities to do with your horse to beat the winter blues.
Grooming your horse is not a new activity, but it is often rushed. Take the time to enjoy it with your horse. Notice how he enjoys being brushed and the extra attention. You can even incorporate some basic massage to enhance the relaxation. This is also a great time to look over your horse for any scrapes or abnormalities.
Another common activity, but when was the last time you did it? This will help your horse stay flexible, which is also good for his health. Remember not to force the stretch. The more you practice the stretches, the more flexible your horse will get. Carrots are a great incentive for horses, and they eagerly reach for them. Click for a chart of stretches to try by Horse Journal.
Some horses need more desensitizing than others. If your horse spooks at everything, now is the time to work on it. It will build your horse’s confidence and trust in you. Start with one object, like a pool noodle, that you can move all around your horse, and work until you can run the noodle all over your horse’s body without a reaction. Another good tool is a plastic bag. It seems to scare most horses.
Lead Line Lesson
Go back to basics…we all have heard this a time or two. Now is the time to address any manner or behavior problem so it does not escalate. When you are experiencing a behavior problem, it is best to start at the beginning. Even if the problem is just basic manners, like stopping when you stop or backing when asked. This will reestablish you as the leader, and all trust is built from the ground up. Everyone can use a refresher now and again.
Master the Walk
Walk is a gait that is overlooked and not practiced by many. Try teaching your horse how to do an extended, collected, and loose rein walk. All three are useful and will make your horse use his mind as well as his body. You will not believe what a great workout walking can be. Saddle up and walk on!
Who does not like to kick around a ball? Especially when the ball is huge? Different horse personalities will take to this activity more than others. It is fun to watch a horse push the ball around and cut loose. You can also ask your horse to move the ball under saddle. Another idea is to put the ball in the pasture with other horses and let them play together. You can play referee to make sure the game does not get out of hand.
Back Up and Move Over
Basic commands like back up and side pass are useful and important for your horse to know. Practice these skills with ground poles or cones. Then, once they are mastered, try them under saddle. You can get creative and make a fun pattern to test your skills.
This is a personal favorite. Winter is a time to relax and rejuvenate. I bundle up and watch the horses interact with each other. The first snow makes everyone excited, and, just like children, they run and play. A horse needs time to be a horse and experience the mental release it brings. Sometimes we get so busy with life we forget to enjoy the moment we are in.
So pile on the extra layers, hat, and gloves, and frolic in the snow with your horse. Time flies when you are having fun, and spring will be here before you know it. Giddy Up!
Here are some winter activities to do with your dog, who may be feeling left out.
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.
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