Do you have the winter blues? Are you bored from being housebound? So is your horse! Well, maybe not housebound, but bored from not being stimulated and exercised.
Follow along below for five boredom busters that are guaranteed to build your relationship with your horse!
1. Carrot Stretches: Horses are similar to humans. In the winter, their muscles can grow tight and lose their flexibility from lack of movement. The same is true for humans! You can help your horse by practicing carrot stretches.
Carrot stretches are a wonderful tool to help your horse become more flexible and even better; you will feel a difference under saddle, once the outdoor thaws out. When practicing carrot stretches, it’s important to remember that your horse’s ability to stretch may be limited. Over time, as you practice more carrot stretches, your horse’s flexibility will improve.
Think in human terms: could you stretch past your toes on the first try? Most people would say no! Over time, as you continue to practice and lengthen those muscles, your flexibility will improve. The same is true for your horse.
2. Groundwork: Groundwork is essential for daily handling of horses. In the winter, some horses can become unusually pushy due to Mother Nature preventing equine related activities. While being led, there a few basic steps that your horse should be able to follow:
- Halt: While your feet are moving, your horse should follow along beside you. When your feet stop moving, your horse should immediately halt. If he does not halt immediately, ask him to back a few steps to enforce what you are asking him.
Walk forward about five steps. Stop walking. Did your horse stop? If so, congratulations! You successfully taught your horse an important groundwork maneuver. If he did not stop, that’s ok. Immediately ask him to back at least three steps. Try walking off again.
For some horses, teaching him to stop moving his feet can sometimes require a large dose of patience. Remember: becoming frustrated will not help either your horse or yourself. Continue to patiently ask. Consistent repetition is essential!
- Turn on the forehand: Teaching your horse to turn on the forehand is not only helpful, it can build your communication! To start, face your horse. Calmly walk to either his left or right side. Gently use your fingers to rub along his barrel. Generally, you will want to rub where your leg would rest along his barrel if you were riding him.
Continue to rub, but begin to apply pressure. Gently increase the pressure until your horse swings his hindquarters away from you. Sensitive horses will respond immediately, where less responsive horses may require more pressure and take longer to react.
During your first attempt, immediately reward your horse for taking one step. The reward means you stop applying pressure and promptly feed your horse a treat or reward with praise.
After rewarding your horse, try asking again. Remember the steps:
2. Apply pressure
3. Gradually increase pressure is your horse doesn’t respond right away
4. Once your horse moves a step, release the pressure
As you continue to practice, your horse should respond and understand more quickly with each step. Also as you practice, continue to ask for more and more steps. Eventually, you should be able to complete an entire turn on the forehand.
Don’t forget: your horse has two sides!
- Turn on the haunches: Begin by standing on one side of your horse. Gently begin tapping on your horses jaw and gently apply pressure to his shoulder. He might become flustered at first, simply because he doesn’t understand what you are asking. Remember that dose of patience? It still applies!
The moment your horse moves his front legs, reward him. Release the pressure and praise him with your voice or horse treats. Once praised, ask him to move his front legs again. Similar to the turn on the forehand, consistent repetition is vital.
Initially, only ask for one or two steps. As you continue to practice, continue to ask for more steps. Eventually, your horse should be able to complete and entire circle.
Remember: your horse has two sides!
3. Toys: Is your horse playful? He might enjoy a toy in his paddock or stall. A wonderful tool to use with your horse is a large, equine approved ball. With the ball, you can teach your horse to follow the ball. Eventually, some horses enjoy the ball so much, they play “soccer!”
4. Obstacle Course: An excellent way to continue practicing groundwork is to set up an obstacle course. Do you have a tarp lying around? What about a few ground poles? When setting up an obstacle course, you can be as creative as you want!
5. Barn Time: It may sound silly, but just spending time grooming your horse is a great way to bond. As you groom, you help stimulate blood flow throughout your horse’s body. Think of it as a mini massage for your horse.
Also, as you’re grooming, you learn what your horse looks like. I know, this sounds silly too, but knowing your horse is important if he was injured. While grooming, you can find any new bumps or scrapes that may have appeared.
Any time spent at the barn, is quality time to spend with your horse. If Mother Nature allows it, bundle up and enjoy a few peaceful hours at the barn!
About Bit Blanket, Inc.
Jamie Sturgess, Inventor and President of Bit Blanket, Inc. has been an avid horse lover since she was a little girl growing up in New Hampshire. She has always loved everything about horses; the way they look, the way they smell, the whinny when they hear you coming, and the way they know and understand your personal touch. One thing she never liked, however, was feeling bad every time she had to put a cold bit in her horse’s mouth on those blustery winter days in New Hampshire. Over the years, after trying all the various approaches and techniques to offer her horse some relief from that cruel practice, she came up with the concept of an easy and effective way to warm a cold bit. Bit Blanket is an electric bit warmer that you simply plug in and it begins warming your cold bit immediately. Jamie is proud to offer riders and horses a safe, effective, easy-to-use option for warming cold bits. To purchase or learn more visit www.bitblanket.com or contact Jamie Sturgess at 603.329.3044 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.