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Groundwork activities for horses & ponies.

Girl in blue eventing hoodie walking her horse

As you may have guessed from our previously blogs, we use a lot of groundwork with our ponies. I find it really valuable to to teach manners, basic skills and to educate with new and scary things.

After our recent poll on instagram, it seems that you would all love a few more ideas for groundwork too.

So here are 5 more great ways to use groundwork with your horse or pony.

  1. Use poles. This can be done in hand or ridden. Scatter poles randomly where you are riding, get their brains working, use them to weave and snake around. Get them going over the poles at different angles, slightly raised and in different gaits, this helps with their co-ordination and balance. Simple activities like this gets them using their bodies in different ways, using their brains and becoming more aware of their own bodies and spacial awareness.
  2. Teach them touch. Teaching your horse or pony the command of touch through positive re-enforcement is a great way to build their confidence and curiosity. This was an amazing tool we used with a pony we had previously who was very shy and spooky. It was a way to building up what she was capable of in a controlled way that she felt safe with.
  3. Long reining and lunging. So useful for teaching movement, fluidity of movement, how to hold themselves, move through gaits, encourage them to burn off steam, move forward without support on the ground and so much more. Make sure as with anything you gain advice from a professional if this is something you or your horse/pony hasn’t done before.
  4. Be less fearful. This can be done in hand or ridden but is best done in hand to start to give a reassurance. Add some ‘scary’ objects around the field or arena and start to show these to your horse or pony, allow them to explore at their own pace giving confidence to them and not forcing them to investigate. Start with less scary objects. You can even place these object at a safe distance from them in their field so they can go up to an explore and investigate in their own time when they feel safe to do so. Allowing exploration in a safe, controlled way at their speed ensures these items scare them less when you are out riding. I was so grateful mine were not scared on flappy England flags during the euros as every other house in our village seemed to have one.
  5. Standing. This is general manners but often over looked. Being able to stand for you to mount, stand while you open gates, have a chat, wait for traffic to pass. This is a vital skill, start with an easy stand, keep it short and lots of praise, starting non ridden or if ridden even having someone on the ground if needed.

Everything with our horses needs to be done slowly with baby steps, allowing them to achieve and build their confidence before moving onto the next step and also focusing on one thing at a time, remember they need time to process and make sense of things, the same as we do when learning something new.

I would love to hear your favourite groundwork activity.

Hayley x

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Horses need to play too – Horse enrichment ideas.

lady and child holding a brown pony

Over the last week the weather has been so changeable, we have hat sun, hail, wind and snow, usually all in the same day.

This got me thinking of different ways I can enrich our horses day as we haven’t been able to ride much.

Horses have lost a lot of the natural enrichment they would have in the wild and bored horses find their own entertainment and not usually in a good way, or they start with behaviours that we do not want.

I wanted to share a few of our ideas with you to keep their minds active. Obviously its important for them to be turned out in the field but sometimes that just isn’t enough mental stimulation for them and they get bored.

Horse Kebabs – We strung a variety of fruit and veg onto rope hung and different heights around the stables and yard area. These offered a great challenge being at different heights and also as they moved while they when touched as they were free hanging on the rope.

Scary Fields – This is a great opportunity to desensitise your horse. Add different objects around the field for your horse to investigate so when you are out and about items are not as scary. You can use tarpaulin, pool noodles. plastics, umbrellas, flags, cones, bottles, tyres, kids toys, bells….the options are endless. Do not add too many items at once and space them out so your horse can investigate each item without pressure and always ensure there is plenty of space so they can move away from the item if it is too scary. This is a low pressure way to introduce items and also give mental stimulation.

Scavenger Hunt – Add apples to their water, hay nets at different heights around the field, vegetables hung at different levels, large sensory balls stuffed with hay or fruit, pumpkins on the floor, herbs planted around the field…….. anything that adds variety to their diet, their day and encourages them to move around and scavenge.

Scratching Post – Add brush heads to a post for them to rub and scratch against.

Sound – Playing music, recording yourself reading a book or talking, this adds another dimension to their day when you are not around.

Let me know your ideas, I would love to hear how you enrich your horses life.