We’re over the darkest part of winter, but the cold and rain often hit their worst in February before spring makes its way in with warmer sunlight and longer days that make riding much more appealing. But before spring has sprung, there may be days when you can’t go for a ride – or when the weather means that you don’t want to!
For some alternatives for how you can spend time with your horse without needing to get in the saddle, take a look at our top ten things to do together that aren’t riding.
1. Review your horse’s vital signs
Making sure that you’re familiar with your horse’s normal vital signs will mean that you can make more informed choices about your horse’s care. Check their temperature and take a note of it. When your horse is resting, check their breaths per minute and heart rate – and then check them again just after exercise, when both should be higher.
Having this information logged will mean that you have a base measure that your vet can use whenever your horse is sick or injured.
2. Keep an eye on their respiratory health
Another reason to log how many times your horse is breathing per minute is that you can check their respiratory health when they’re in the pasture against when they’re in the stable.
If their breathing in the stable is irregular, too fast, or wheezy, you might need to change their bedding. Check out BedKind’s benefits for horses who are finding it hard to breathe – our cardboard animal bedding is dust-extracted, so that your horses sleep in an environment that’s virtually free from the dust that aggravates breathing problems.
3. Prepare for de-worming
Getting your horse used to taking in fluids by syringe will make de-worming time much easier for you both. If you’re able to convince your horse that a syringe is a good thing, you’ll have no resistance when you need to deliver some de-worming.
Suggestions for getting horses used to syringes include filling a clean syringe with apple sauce and giving it to your horse as a treat once a week – so they’re familiar with it as a form of food delivery by the time you need to administer medication instead!
4. Increase your horse’s mealtime
In the wild, horses will spend most of the day grazing – up to 16 hours, in fact. As a consequence, if domesticated horses have strict mealtimes, this can leave their stomachs empty for too long, which can lead to issues like ulcers or cribbing.
If your horse has limited grazing, or is stabled for long periods of time, you can encourage them to eat more slowly by using a haynet rather than letting them feed from hay on the ground – or, if you’ve already got a haynet, one with smaller holes will slow down your horse’s eating time.
5. Check out some new edible toys
Another way of ensuring your horse has something in their stomach can also help cure their boredom – toys that dispense food! Horses love toys that let them push the food around, or that they have to play with in a particular way before they get to the treat.
If you didn’t buy them one for Christmas, check out our list of gifts you can get your horse for a few of BedKind’s favourites.
6. Take a stand…
Teaching your horse to stand still without needing any kind of tie or restraint can be very useful. If you don’t always have somewhere to tie your horse, or even just if you need your horse to be comfortable standing still while other things go on around them, it’s worth investing the time to master this now.
7. …and teach your horse to go back when you point
Training your horse to go back whenever you point at their nose or chest is another trick that can come in handy later. It’s much easier to manoeuvre your horse around if you don’t need to physically move them all the time.
8. Teach your horse a new trick
As well as being fun, tricks can help your horse to learn to control their emotions, which leads to a safer riding experience overall. Teaching your horse to move a ball around with their nose or retrieve a cone and bring it to you can be a great way to bond with them.
9. Give your horse a good scratch
Most horses love to be scratched – and many have their own favourite scratching spot. It’s often somewhere they can’t reach themselves, like the back of their necks. Give your horse a scratch and pay attention to where they like it best.
Start from the withers – another tricky place for horses to scratch – and gauge your horse’s reactions. If they try to scratch you back, or you notice their eyes glazing over as you reach a particular place, you’ve found their favourite spot – something you can scratch to bond with your horse, as well as use as a reward during training.
10. Just hang out with your horse
Spending time with your horse outside of your specific routine can also help to build the bond between you. Head down to the paddock with no plan for anything specific – it’s good to just be where they can see you, and can get used to your presence without there being a specific task to achieve.
If you struggle to be still for long periods of time, taking a fold-up chair and a book is a good way to spend some time near your horse without needing them to be doing something.
Shop for the bedding your horse deserves!