Sure, who hasn’t heard the age-old expression “practice makes perfect.” Not going to lie, it for sure puts the pressure on to make sure we get our hours in the saddle with the hopes of improving our balance, connection and overall relationship with our horse.
But riding isn’t like other sports. Your partner isn’t an inanimate object. It is a living, breathing creature with it’s own unique thoughts and emotions.
Regardless if you’re ground-bound from an injury, perhaps pregnancy or you are just craving a change - here are some alternative ways to put in some 1:1 bonding time with your four-legged friend that don’t involve a saddle!
Grab a curry, roll up your sleeves and get grooming! I love taking the time to deep-clean my guys. It’s rewarding, a decent upper body workout and who doesn’t love watching the relaxed droopy lip appear? Make sure to have your phone handy because 10/10 you’ll want to document your handiwork in order to prove you had a shiny horse at one point… until they’re turned out again.
Go explore! Have a horse that is nervous to go on trails or walk the property solo? I find that hand walking is a great way to introduce horses to new situations. Keep some treats in your pocket to reward good behavior, find some good spots for grazing and just enjoy spending time with your buddy.
Get your stretch on! Stand at your horses left shoulder and encourage them to stretch back for the carrot - I usually can get them to reach mid-belly. Repeat on the right side. I also do carrot reaches and hold a treat up as high as I can above their head and between their legs (these took Donny a little while to figure out, but he eventually got them!) I like to do carrot stretches pre and post ride to help give them a good stretch.
Follow the Leader
Grab a halter and lead rope and head for the ring. I like leading my horse over ground poles, in figure eight patterns and practicing stopping, backing up and standing. Ground work is always a great refresher for all horses regardless of age.
Work on balance, voice cues and ground work. If you’ve never lunged before, ask a professional to help you! It’s a wonderful skill to have and something you’ll be happy to know how to do if you’re ever stuck out of the saddle for an extended period of time.
Have any other ways you like spending time with your horse that doesn’t involve being in the saddle? Let us know in the comments!