When the weather prevents us from doing more, or even small injuries when stabling is required, there are still small things done slowly that can be done to help keep our horse/heart connection and our horses minds exercised. Here is a list of things I do when our Winter puts a stop to big time play or riding, hope it helps you too.
Go nice and slow to start off, build up to more flapping but see what things you can rub on your horse and then around him at a distance. Try areas around him, high, low, in front, beside, behind and work on approach/retreat if something is worrying always releasing when your horse relaxes. This relaxation will get better as you work on releasing at the right moment, when he is calm and happy.
Try things like: Bags, balls, flags, bunting, stick/string, rugs, tarpaulin, cone on bum, feed bucket on bum, being near a curtain or going under a curtain or washing line (you could set up a curtain/line at stable door once your horse is okay with flapping plastic), you walking like you’re drunk to and around him, umbrella, rattles (can put small stones into a small water bottle), whistles, singing, fireworks (use a firework cd) saddle, bridle.
Can you take a saddle pad and ask for relaxation of the head as you slowly approach/retreat it up his neck…he’ll learn to lower his head when something is worrying on his neck and it’ll fall off over his ears rather than raising his head.
Can you touch him ALL over without worry.
Can you go under his belly….only when totally good with everything…a very BIG ASK.
2) Feel game (touching):
- See if you can bring his head down for relaxation, work with your hand behind his ears (poll) or slight pressure on rope/halter under chin first. Does his head come up when you try moving your hand quickly near his head? Can you put a wee bit of pressure on the rope under halter to ask him to relax down when you do this, if he drops his head immediately then stop moving your hand for a quick release for him…this can help to train him for a response of relaxation if in a difficult situation.
- Can you ask for his head down with your hand over his neck to halter and bridle him. This helps to bring relaxation but also to help put his teeth in a good position for him to ‘take’ the bit himself and not knock his teeth in the process if you are bitting your horse.
- Can you ask him to move one step back to put his bum on a wall. Most horses are worried about what’s behind them so this can help you find trust in each other
- Can you ask him to move one step sideways to put his side on wall. This also will help with claustrophobia and trailer loading.
- Can you ask him to put a foot (or place a foot with your hand or rope around leg) in a bucket or on a breeze block, on a carpet piece or on a tarp – just one foot. Once he’s done one foot try working on another etc.
- Can you teach him to ground tie?
- Can you teach him to back up from his tail?
- Can you teach him to move forward with a rope around one front leg?
- Can you teach him to move backwards with a rope around his back legs? (good familiarisation with ropes around legs is a must and you being behind him must be in place for numbers 7, 8 and 9)
- Can you back him into stable working first with bringing him out, in, out etc.
- Can you back him out of a stable, working as above.
3) Focus/Driving game (no touch):
- While keeping your feet still can you ask him to move one or two steps backwards and one or two steps over/away from you and touch a cone?
- Can you ask him to sidle to a mounting block. You can work on asking him to move over to a wall first as in the FEEL game. All of these are for just one or two steps, nothing big or fast.
- Can you half circle/squeeze him into his stable?
- Can you half circle/squeeze him out of his stable?
- Can you ask him to back up one/two steps before putting his feed down?
Also think about getting one obstacle and working all the above with that ie: a plastic bag. Can you use if for familiarisation in all areas. Can you ask him to put his front foot then back foot on it. Can you ask him to sidepass over it. Can you ask him to squeeze over it and round it etc. See how much you can do with just ONE THING.
Maybe print this out and tick things off as you work on them and I hope that gives you some fun things to try out that are do-able in a small space without much movement.
- Shelley – HorseSavvy