Things to do With Your Horse Other than Riding
There are some days when you might not be able to ride your horse, but you still have free time to spend with them. I’ve been in this situation countless times, so I put together this list of 35 fun things to do with your horse besides riding.
1. Do Groundwork With Your Horse
One of my favorite things to do with my horse when I can’t ride is work on groundwork. Why you might ask? Because what you teach your horse on the ground can greatly improve your experience in the saddle! Here are my 5 favorite groundwork exercises if you’d like some inspiration.
2. Give Your Horse a Makeover
Giving your horse a makeover is tons of fun, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve freshened them up. You can give your horse a makeover by brushing their coat and trimming and braiding their mane and tails. If you’ve never trimmed your horse’s mane before, I recommend watching a few videos on the subject to help you prepare.
3. Give Your Horse Treats
Something fun that both you and your horse can enjoy is feeding your horse treats! If you usually feed your horse the same treats, why not experiment and try feeding them something new? You might even have a few things in your pantry that are safe to share with your horse. Here’s my article on 8 human foods your horse might enjoy.
4. Take Your Horse for a Walk
When you’ve been riding a lot, sometimes it’s nice to slow things down and just take your horse on a relaxing walk. It’s important that you spend quality time with your horse outside of difficult training sessions so that they won’t negatively associate you with unrewarded labor.
5. Watch Your Horse Play With New Toys
Introducing your horse to new toys on a regular basis is a great way to keep things interesting for them. The good news is that there’s certainly no shortage of horse toys, both manufactured and homemade! Just a word of warning, read the reviews on any horse toys to make sure they’re durable. Here are a few of my favorites on Amazon:
6. Do Desensitization Training With Your Horse
Desensitization training involves gradually introducing your horse to things that they might find frightening and slowly teaching them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. If your horse spooks easily, then desensitization training is a must. I’ve broken down the training process for you in a step-by-step guide here. Time spent desensitizing your horse is never wasted time!
7. Make An Obstacle Course for Your Horse
Next on my list is making an obstacle course for your horse. Obstacle courses are a great way to determine a horse’s skill level and find areas that you might need to spend more time working on. I recently made an obstacle course for a young horse that I’ve been working with that you can see on my YouTube Channel here.
8. Correct Your Horse’s Behavioral Issues
When your horse demonstrates any bad habits, you should try to address them as soon as possible! Correcting bad habits early on can make the process far easier for you since your horse won’t be set in their ways. If you’re not sure what bad behaviors might need correcting, my article here goes over the most common ones.
9. Do a Checkup of Your Horse’s Vital Signs
It’s good to get in the habit of checking your horse’s vital signs on a regular basis so that you can catch any potential health concerns early on. A few vital signs to check are their temperature, pulse, respiration, stomach sounds, and capillary refill time. I plan on making a video in the near future covering each of these. You can follow my YouTube channel here to stay up to date.
10. Teach Your Horse to Come to You
One of the most satisfying things to teach your horse is to come to you when they see you. Many horse owners still haven’t quite figured this one out yet, so I put together the steps I take with my horses to get them to come to me here. Since I want my horse to only come to me for food, I use methods that don’t involve treats!
11. Give Your Horse a Good Workout
You don’t have to be riding in order to give your horse a great workout! There are plenty of ways to exercise your horse on the ground. While you should avoid overworking your horse, it’s important that you don’t underwork them either! Happy horses are healthy horses, and the healthiest horses are the ones that get regular exercise. Check out my favorite workout methods here.
12. Get Your Horse Used to Water
If you plan on taking your horse on trail rides, or you want to be able to give them a nice bath from time to time, it’s essential that they won’t go crazy when dowsed with water. As with most things with horses, it’s important to start slowly and work your way towards getting them completely comfortable with water. You can find my water training guide here!
13. Give Your Horse a Bath
If you haven’t taken care of the last point, I suggest you hold off on this one! But giving your horse a bath on a hot summer day or after a good workout can be fun and refreshing for both you and your horse.
14. Teach Your Horse to Stretch
Teaching your horse to stretch by using a treat is always a lot of fun, and can be entertaining for people to watch. Stretching helps your horse warm-up for a workout, cool down, improves their overall flexibility, and can also help your horse avoid injuries. With so many benefits, there’s no reason not to incorporate stretches into your barn routine!
15. Introduce Your Horse to New People
Horses, like other animals, should be socialized from an early age. If a horse is only around one person it’s entire life, you never know how it’ll respond to new faces and voices around. Another reason to bring new people around your horse is that not everyone gets to enjoy the company of horses! Find a few of your non-equestrian friends and invite them out to spend some time with your horse.
16. Train Your Horse to Move Sideways
If you’ve mastered the basics and you’re ready to move onto something slightly more advanced, teaching your horse to perform lateral movements both on the ground and in the saddle is a great way to take your skills to the next level. You can read my guide on teaching your horse lateral movements here.
17. Have a Photoshoot With Your Horse
When’s the last time you had some high-quality photos taken with your horse? If the answer is never, why not get a friend with a nice camera or a local photographer to come out and snap a few photos? Years from now you’ll be thankful that you did! If you prefer DIYing your photos, here’s my horse photography guide.
18. Train Your Horse to Stand Still
If your horse can never seem to stand still, then it’s time to do some training! This is especially important when it comes to mounting. If your horse starts moving when you’re only halfway on then you run the risk of injuring yourself. Here’s a training guide that will help!
19. Take Care Of Your Horse’s Feet
Doing anything that makes your horse happy, healthy, and comfortable is time well spent in my book. One of those things is taking care of your horse’s feet on a consistent basis. When a horse’s feet aren’t’ cleaned and trimmed regularly, all types of medical issues can occur. I dive deeper into the subject here, but make sure you’re making hoof care a regular part of your barn routine.
20. Practice Loading Your Horse On a Trailer
You never know when you might have the opportunity to travel with your horse! That said, you’ll want to make sure that your horse doesn’t have any issues loading onto or coming out of a trailer. If your horse has never traveled on a trailer you should use caution and have someone on hand with more experience that can walk you through the process. The good news is you can start preparing your horse to load on a trailer even if you don’t have one to practice with yet. Check out my full guide here.
21. Teach Your Horse to Back Up
Something that every horse should be able to do is back up. While you’ll eventually want to be able to command your horse to back up from the saddle, you can begin the training process on the ground. This is one of the first things I work on with new horses. To learn how I train horses to back up, here’s a step-by-step guide I put together!
22. Train Your Horse to Ground Tie
Training your horse to ground tie is not only a good training exercise, but it’s also incredibly useful. Being able to drop your lead rope and have your horse stand still while you do something else for a few seconds makes your life as a horse owner a lot easier. At the time of writing this, I haven’t written a training guide for this yet. But I share new articles a few times a week if you want to check back!
23. Help a Beginner Horseback Rider
One of the things I love most about learning more about horses is getting to share what I learn with others. If there’s a young rider at your barn that’s asking for help with a particular issue, consider spending a few days helping them. However, I try to avoid giving unsolicited advice at the barn, especially to people that are taking lessons. Having 6 different people all giving you different information is not helpful as a beginner rider!
24. Study Your Horse’s Anatomy
One fun activity you can do with your horse from the ground is studying their anatomy. While you should always recruit the help of a trained veterinarian for medical issues, having a better understanding of your horse’s anatomy can help you recognize injuries and avoid doing things that might injure your horse. I once had to memorize the entire equine muscular system for my equine massage certification, and the knowledge I gained is still helpful today.
25. Train Your Horse to Stop Grazing While Riding
If your horse is constantly lowering their head to munch on some grass while you’re riding or leading them, a great way to spend some time on the ground is working on correcting this behavior. You can learn how to turn your horse from a trail-grazer to a trailblazer in the guide I wrote here.
26. Spend Time With Your Horse In Their Field
When’s the last time you’ve spent time with your horse without an intense training session or workout? Sometimes one of the best things you can do with your horse is to spend time with them in their field with no agendas. This lets them learn that seeing you doesn’t always result in hard work for them.
27. Make A Video With Your Horse
With such great cameras in smartphones these days, why not put them to good use and make a video with your horse? Whether it’s just a video of you doing training, or a compilation of a 100 different visits to your stable, editing a horse video is a fun way to break up your routine and capture some memories with your horse.
28. Teach Your Horse to Neck Rein
If you’ve ever watched an old western movie, then you’ve probably seen neck reining. Neck reining is a way of steering a horse by laying the rein against your horse’s neck. The benefit of teaching your horse to turn using neck reining is that it completely frees up one of your hands. If this sounds like something you’d like to train your horse to do, here’s my training guide for it!
29. Lead Your Horse Somewhere New
Something I try to do on a regular basis is to take my horses somewhere that they’ve never been before. Not only does this make things more interesting for your horse, but it’s also an opportunity to see if your horse needs further desensitizing training and how well they trust you. Find a new path to explore with your horse and see how they do!
30. Make Sure Your Tack Fits Your Horse
While this might not be the most exciting thing to do, it’s something that you need to stay on top of. Just like people, horses shift in height and weight as the years go by. Meaning that the tack you first purchased for your horse might not fit correctly anymore. Tack up your horse and look things over to make sure nothing is too snug or too loose. You should also look for signs of wear, indicating it’s time to update your equipment. You can find some of the tack products I recommend by going here.
31. Train Your Horse to Get On the Bit
Getting a horse on the bit is when your horse stretches through their body and neck to accept the pressure applied from the rider through a bit. When a horse is on the bit, it will round its neck and propel itself forward using its hind-end. This is beneficial because it helps the horse focus on the rider’s instructions and carry itself better. I wrote an entire article on the subject that can help you train your horse to get on the bit here.
32. Teach Your Horse to Jump
Jumping is one of the most fun things to do on horseback, but the training for it starts on the ground. The first step to teaching your horse how to jump involves training them to be comfortable while trotting and cantering over ground poles and then working your way up from there. If you’re serious about jumping, I suggest taking riding lessons. But here’s my guide for training a horse to jump if you’re an advanced rider ready for a new challenge.
33. Give Your Horse a Massage
Learning a few basic equine massages is a great way to help your horse feel their best. Equine massages can improve your horse’s muscle tone, circulation, and even give them a bit of a workout. Equine massage is great for horses who are injured and need a safe way to begin rebuilding their strength. I’m not a certified veterinarian, so please check with one before trying any new treatment on your horse!
34. Practice Showing Your Horse
If you and your friends don’t feel like riding, one fun way to spend time with your horses is to put on a mock horse show! Clean them up so they look their best, and grab a few impartial judges with some horse knowledge.
35. Introduce Your Horse to Your Other Pets
Last but not least, if you have dogs, cats, or other animals, consider introducing them to your horse. This should always be done with caution to begin with since you never know how your horse or other pets might react. I have a dog and a horse, so I wrote an article about properly introducing and riding with these animals here.
Thank you for reading! I hope you got a few good ideas for things you can do with your horse that don’t involve riding. For more fun horse lifestyle articles, you can go here!
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