Here’s a flurry of horse-related activities to enjoy this holiday season!
Many of us tend to either migrate or hibernate during the winter months. But winter can be an incredibly useful time to accomplish some of the tasks we’ve been putting off all year (why not spring clean your tack room early?) and an even better time to go back to the basics and bond with your horse. Take a break from rigorous training and enjoy the splendor of the season with these fun winter activities.
1. Teach him some tricks
This is one of my favorite activities. Teaching your horse some new tricks offers many benefits, all year long. You’ll keep him engaged and entertained, help him maintain flexibility, improve his circulation, and build your relationship. Try teaching him to kiss, bow, fetch and smile. Be patient, consistent and offer plenty of praise and treats. You’ll find you can have as much fun on the ground as in the saddle, and one will benefit the other!
2. Take a walk
A leisurely stroll through the scenic winter landscape can be calming and enjoyable for both you and your horse. Be sure to check the conditions before you venture out, as ice and snow can make for very dangerous terrain. You’ll also need to take proper precautions to keep him steady on his hooves. Outfit him with proper winter shoes for extra traction or let him go barefoot! Talk to your farrier about making some trimming adjustments for the season. Horses do very well in snow and, in fact, seem to enjoy it (perhaps more than humans). Just keep in mind that walking through deep snow is hard work! Your horse will tire more quickly, so shorter adventures are best until he’s more conditioned. Also, he’ll probably work up a sweat, so be sure to dry him off and keep him warm when you return to the barn.
Invest in his health
Harsh winters can take a toll on horses, despite their resilience; this is especially true for seniors and foals. If you’ve been planning to take advantage of the many alternative health services available for equines, now is the time to do it! Book an acupressure appointment for your horse to maintain his energy during the winter season, or a chiropractic session to keep his muscles and joints from getting stiff. Specialists are a wonderful resource that’ll help you make sure your horse is in good condition once competition season rolls around again.
3. Go for a sleigh ride
We all know the carol…so let those sleigh bells ring! There’s likely a horse drawn sleigh service offered right in your neighborhood, so don’t worry if your horse doesn’t drive. Wish he could? Incorporate long lining into your groundwork as a start to the training process. Sleigh rides are a great way to get the whole family into the spirit of the holidays – and harnesses make an easy gift to put under the tree!
4. Take it easy
Winter can be a great time to give your horse a rest from riding. Choose activities that will entertain him and strengthen the bond between horse and human – rather than horse and rider. Offer special care and attention during grooming sessions (this is a prime opportunity to practice your braiding skills!) and spend some extra time brushing his “favorite” spots. Feeling antsy? Exercise is still important during the winter, but it doesn’t have to be intense. Keep things simple with a lead line lesson. Refresh his basic skills and commands, assess problem areas and set goals for the spring. But remember, it’s not all about work! Enjoying the company of your four-legged friends is one of the best parts of the holidays.
5. Take some pictures
There’s nothing quite like watching your horse romp and play in a field of fresh snow. Why not make the most of the picturesque backdrop? Grab a camera or your phone and snap some photos of your beautiful companion, so you’ll have memories that’ll last season after season. Photography and videography are also great ways to improve your posture in the saddle, so enlist a friend to take some shots of you riding. Then curl up with some cocoa and spend a few hours assessing your skills.
It’s time to have some fun with your horse and give yourself a break from the stress of the holidays. Give some of these activities a try and you may find you’re more of a winter person than you thought!