You may have heard the term “happy horse is a happy athlete” before. As much as we competition riders spoil our horses with physio, supplements and optimised training for each individual horse, we also need to remember to let them be horses. Just like humans, they need some downtime and fun time as well.
I believe you can achieve a happy horse through they way you train them, manage them and interact with them. Most of us know that there’s a lot more to horses than riding so it’s important that we work on those other things as well.
Happy horse by letting them be a horse
- Let them go out in the field. With high performing competition horses, we’re all more cautious about letting them go in the fields due to risk of injury. But I think this is very important for their mental and physical health. Even if it’s 30 mins in the round pen. I know the weather may not always allow this but whenever you can, do it. Put boots on them if you’re worried.
- Let them socialise. Whether it’s by having grills between the stables or putting them in fields next to each other, social contact will help them make friends with their own kind and even help them teach each other manners. This is especially crucial for young horses. And if you’ve got easygoing horses, you may dare to even let them in the field together. There’s nothing like a good nibble on the withers!
- Give them a day off. Just like humans, they need downtime too. Give them one day a week they’re not ridden and they can just focus on their own bits of being a horse.
Happy horse by bonding with the rider
- Give them good grooms. Sometimes we’re rushed for time but sometimes schedule in time to really give them a good groom. It’s great for their coat, gets the blood circulation going and helps them bond with you.
- Take them for walks in-hand. Something different for them to think about as well as make sure they’ve got all the manners in place from the ground as well.
- Take them grazing. Especially if fields are off limits, give them some grass. They’ll love you for it!
- Do some horsemanship exercises. There’s lots of great horsemanship classes, books and videos out there now that goes past Monty Robert and taming the wild horse. You can do lots of fun and useful exercises with poles, scary plastic bags, rubber mats, car tires and anything you can think of really – both on and off the horse!
These are only a few simple tips to get you started but don’t let me stop you from going further. If you’ve got any other further ideas please comment below, would be great to hear your thoughts!
P.S. Post on happy horses through creative training methods coming soon!