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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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Top 7 mounted games for kids

Girl riding a white pony

Summer holidays seem to have got here quickly and with another seven weeks off this means a lot of time for riding.

In our house the boys seem to have plenty planned however my daughters only plans are riding, her poor pony is getting ready to pack its bags and escape I think, it has never had so much love and attention.

With this in mind I have pulled together our top 7 mounted games to play while horse riding, as schooling can get boring, hacking is not always possible and as much as my daughter has decided cantering and jumping are great fun there is only so much her pony can do of this each week as we need to care for their joints and jumping daily is not good for them.

So here goes, they are all easy to set up and most importantly fun.

1 – Bending – Super simple but races round bending poles or cones in different gaits. I often use a timer or spots on the floor which need to be hit and there is a prize at the end (an ice lolly usually works well).

2 – Simon Says – Just like the unmounted versions but I use a mix of horsey tasks for example touch your ponies bum, touch your toes, ride one handed, stop, ride to the fence, trot to the cone, round the world, trot, touch ponies ears, touch your head, etc.

3 – Sponge and Buckets – Set up two buckets either on small tables or hung on fences, fill one with water. Give your child a sponge and get them to use the sponge to move the water from one bucket to another. They can do this against the clock or against a friend or just to see how much water they can move.

4 – Red and Green – Great game for if they have another friend who is also riding with them. Green means go, Red means stop. When you shout Red the last one to stop is out.

5 – Fetch – Set up some items attached to a fence, on cones etc and when you shout an item the child has to ride to it, pick it up and then ride to an empty bucket or basket and place it in there. This can be timed or against someone else.

6 – Egg and Spoon – Just like a traditional egg and spoon race but on horse back, however you can adapt this and use a shallow basket or bowl with a ball for younger children or a cup of water for older ones, you can even ask them to trot, making it harder to not spill the water.

7 – £5 Challenge – I loved this as a child. Place £5 under your bum/thigh/knee and try keep it there while you walk/trot or canter. Keep it there and you get to keep it. This is also a lot of fun (and a lot harder) bareback.

I hope you have the most amazing summer of riding fun, make sure you tag us in some of your pictures @redbearequestrian we may even pick our favourite and send them and their pony a special treat.

A note about safety

Safety is so important when it comes to riding activities. You know your child’s ability best so adapt the activity to them and ensure they don’t get to excite and start pulling on the ponies mouth or kicking a bit to hard. It is easy to get excited and competitive but these games should be fun for the ponies too.

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Can horses bob for apples?

Because of the heat we have been looking for new activities to do with our horses which keep them cool.

There have been lots of early morning or late evening rides and groundwork but during the day I needed something to keep my daughter and her pony busy.

Her top three activities so far have been;

1.Water fights, although these start as showers for the ponies and quickly turn into water fights usually with the ponies joining in by tipping buckets and throwing them (one of their favourite pass times).

2. Carrot Stretches, they need to keep supple for riding and stretching really improves the stiffness if they are not ridden for a few days and also you can use these to build up one side if it is not as flexible.

3. Apple Bobbing.

Yes apple bobbing. This started as my daughter was worried her pony was not drinking enough, as I needed to get home I needed a quick and easy way to get the pony to water. This ended up being their favourite game.

We started with a big tub with a shallow amount of water, we showed her the apples then placed in the water, after a few minutes she found it and ate it. From here we built up how many apples we put in and to not luring her to bob with apple. She got quicker and quicker.

Soon we were throwing apples into a bucket from a distance and she would hear them hit the water and bob for them.

This is the perfect game, no mess, kept the kids busy and the ponies hydrated and their minds active.

Plus they could play in the shade and keep cool.

Wonder what we will try next…….I would love to hear what games you have been playing with your horses and ponies.

cof