5 Non-Riding Exercises to do with your Horse
Riding/Training:: Everything Horse
As the lockdown persists, here are 5 non-riding exercises to do with your horse. While riding hasn’t been banned, it may still be a good idea to consider doing more groundwork to help prevent injury, as the last thing any of us want to do right now is end up in hospital, or put any more strain on the NHS.
Now maybe the time to learn a new skill, slowly and safely of course. New skills and exercises undertaken may help you and your horse overcome difficulties you may have had under saddle, and will help keep him (or her) thinking, fit and supple. In-hand work also helps build trust, a better relationship and can teach your horse to respect boundaries.
There’s a whole array of articles and videos to feast upon while staying at home, which will help prepare you for some of the new tasks you may want to tackle. If your horse is ‘green’ be patient, take new tasks slowly and be consistent with any new lessons learnt. Be kind and reward good behaviour with any work or exercise you do with your horse.
- Lunging – an obvious one we know, but one still to be included none the less. If it’s the first time you’ve lunged for a while, refrain from using too many gadgets (well any really). Start by lunging your horse, equally on both reins in a lunge cavesson, or with the bridle on. Get a good feel for how your horse is moving, look for any reluctance to bend, move forward etc. Depending on your ability, it is recommended you use a roller with two reins, however, if you’re new to it all, just use the one for now. There are many points to consider here, take a look at our lunging feature to pick up more hints and tips.
- Long reining – especially good for young, and/or nervous horses. Practise going over poles, walking up and down a driveway (if you have one) or even walking around an unused field. Again, experience comes into play here, if you don’t have much, start slowly and only do what you feel confident with.
- Carrot stretches – this can be done in the stable or the school. Keeping your horse supple will ultimately help you both in the long run.
- Polework from the ground – use a lunge line and either a natural horsemanship headcollar, lunge cavesson or bridle. Asking your horse to step away from you using your voice may seem easy, however, this is a great trick to help tell you whether or not your horse listens to you, and respects your space. Use poles already set out, a square is a popular choice, a fan of poles and other shapes have become popular alternatives.
- Free school – with your hat on :). Great for helping your horse think, stay supple and keep muscle tone. However, don’t overdo it and keep it short at first. Make sure you warm your horse up before you ask them to open up and go over any jumps. Prepare your ground first, pop some trotting poles down, and where you plan a jump tunnel, prepare the wings with the pole on the ground. Work on using your voice, and body language to see if your horse responds. If the response is minimal, concentrate on this more when you next lunge.
There are five days worth of exercises here that you can do with your horse without any need to climb on board. Draw up a plan using a calendar giving your horse a couple of days off and write a daily note on observations. Hopefully, you and your horse may learn new skills, overcome obstacles, and build a better bond over the weeks to come where lockdown is no doubt set to continue.
Feature image credit Steph Gumn