How do I keep my horse from getting bored this winter?
Busting winter boredom can be a challenge. Often, winter brings closed paddocks because of mud, rain, ice. Arenas are often unrideable, and if you are lucky enough for a covered arena that can get monotonous and boring, too. So think of the winter as a time to keep your horse’s mental and physical fitness up by experimenting with different things. It may be good for you, too.
- Switch saddles. Blow your own mind wide open by staring to learn a new discipline. Call it cross training, call it getting out of the box. Just have fun with it!
- Change the scenery when you can. If the weather is good, can you trailer down the road to a neighbor’s barn to use their facilities? This will be good practice for upcoming shows, too.
- Teach your horse “tricks” using a clicker. Parties will never be the same when you train your pony to fetch drinks from the fridge.
- Organize clinics or schooling shows so that your horse friends can get together. This will give you some homework!
This little clicker is a great tool to help teach your horse new behaviors. For a little more on "clicker training", read this piece.
You can also use yucky winter days to teach and reinforce behaviors with your horse:
- Patient and confident hand walking and jogging skills. No vet exam is complete without these basics. Even the best behaved horse can use a tune up.
- Good trailer loading skills. Hook up your rig and practice loading. No need to go anywhere.
- This may be the winter that your horse finally decides the clippers won’t eat him. Maybe.
- Reinforce the good behavior when giving your horse oral medications. You don’t have to use actual meds, applesauce will do just fine.
- Now is the time to help your horse get over himself when he gets an injection. Teach him, step by step, that getting a shot is no big deal.
So what if he’s stuck in a small paddock or stall more than usual due to weather?
- Toys. Toys. Toys.
- Groom. Groom. Groom.
- Attention. Maybe more than once a day, some horses do better with many small visits instead of one big one.
- Hand walks if the footing is safe.
- You can do a lot of “clicker” training in a stall. It’s good for everyone’s brain!
- Slow feeders pass the time. Nothing like a really long food coma stretched out all day and night. Slow feeders are also available for grains and pellets, just in case your horse loves to scarf down his food. More ideas for slow feeders can be found here.
- Music. Some horses like a little music, some do not. Perhaps the radio can provide some calm company for part of the day? Thoughts on music at the barn can be found here.
How do you take advantage of winter to entertain yourself and your horse?