Things you should be doing with your horse during the COVID shut-down.
Lots of people are spending a lot more time at home than normal. If you have your horses at home, this can equate to a bunch of bonus time to spend with your horses. That’s a real silver lining in this difficult time.
The first week may have felt like a little an unschedule recess with your horses. Lots of people got out on the trails, rode with friends & neighbors, and basically let their hair down with their horses. That’s a really great thing!
As time wears on though, it can be hard to know what you should be doing with your horse with the newly found time. Sometimes it’s a little easier to focus when the time you have available for your horse is finite. When the schedule has been thrown wide open, it’s easy to get lost.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Keep Up With Fitness
I’ve heard quite a few people talking about not having to worry about their horse’s fitness “Because everything is cancelled.” I’ll give you a few reasons that’s short-sighted:
This isn’t going to last forever!
Sure, our spring season has been scrapped, and early summer looks dodgy. But time has a tendency to slide by faster than we expect, soon enough we’ll be into summer.
You’ll want to be ready to go when they call “game-on” again, which brings me to my second point on this:
You can’t build fitness retroactively!
Once you know you’re going to be allowed to travel with your horse, you can’t flip a fitness switch. So keep that pony moving so he’s ready when it’s okay to travel again!
Take Advantage Of Training Opportunities
There are lots of things we allow to fall by the way-side when we’re training our horses especially if time is tight. In normal circumstances you might be lucky to get a couple or three drives in a week. on those weeks, you just get done what you feel like you can in the amount of time you have.
The result often allows the small training issues to fall by the wayside. I’m thinking about things like getting a better halt, a comfortable rein-back, or getting your horse really straight. Those are those little items that may feel a little too perfectionistic to focus on when you don’t have much time to spend driving. But if you’re currently stuck at home, now’s your opportunity!
Return to Fundamentals
A few people have brought up the fact that they don’t feel comfortable driving at home alone during a time when a trip to the hospital might carry even greater consequences than usual. I certainly can’t argue with that logic. One of the main reason my other two sports (skiing & skydiving) have shut down is that no one wants to add potential risk to the pool.
That’s not only smart, it’s socially responsible. But where does that leave you with your training if you don’t have help at home?
The one thing I can tell you is that not one moment’s worth of work on fundamental skills is ever wasted time. The most accomplished athlete or musician will tell you that revisiting the most fundamental aspects of an activity will only strengthen your most accomplished skills in that activity.
So if you feel like it’s not smart to be hitching up on your own, take this moment to sure-up some of your base skills. That can mean getting your horse to stand, not just in the barn, or at the hitching and mounting area, but anywhere you decide!
Ground driving is also one of those fundamental skills that people seem to forget about once the horse is hitched. That’s too bad because there’s a lot you can accomplish with just ground driving alone.
You can explain to your horse just exactly what he should do in response to your whip aids for starters! Check out the Moving Off the Whip lesson plan for help with that.
You can even take that a step further giong from Ground Driving to Long Lining, as really start to understand how your horse moves and why.
Share Your Shutdown Experience
If you’re sheltering-in-barn, what have you been up to with your ponies and horses? Share your experiences, thoughts, and ideas in the comment section below. I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to!
Could you please tell me how big is your arena as we see in the background of your video? Thanks
I don’t really know for certain, since it’s not my arena.
I’d approximate it to be about 20 meters (~65 feet) by 40-50 meters (~ 165 feet).
It’s large enough to get the work done when weather is an issue. We use it year round.
When considering arena size, it’s best to go twice as long as the arena is wide.
20 meters is a useable width for most driving (but it does get small as the horses get larger.)
During this increased time at home, I have gotten the chance to put my horse and 3 donkeys to a garden cultivator (single and pair). It helps them practice standing, turning, voice commands, putting up with noise and I find they are better in the show ring because of it. So why not try going back to the basics of farming to expand your horse’s training. All you need is a log or tire to pull around. Have fun!
That’s a fantastic idea. Not many people have had the experience of putting their horses to work in a more literal sense of the word “work.”
It’s a really great feeling when you do work with a horse that produces a tangible result.
Sheltering in place with 2 goofy pony boys. Having fun trying to learn Horse Speak via Sharon Wilsie’s book. Looking forward to working on horse yoga with core conditioning and lots of ground driving when the ground firms up. Oh! Practicing stand still, here, there, everywhere– practice, practice, practice…..
I can’t wait to see those horses doing Yoga!!