Some people see winter as a time to put the horses aside, some even complain about the weather, short days and no time to ride. Then there are those who see winter as a time to focus on other horsemanship challenges and these are only limited by your imagination.
One of the most beneficial things we can do with our horses when the surfaces and weather are not good is to float load.
All my horses load well but this can always be improved or revisited to ensure they are happy and comfortable being contained in a small space for a period of time.
It’s important to remind your horses that floats are a comfort zone, so its up to us to make it one in between needing to go somewhere.
Many horses find travelling uncomfortable even if they do load well so winter is a great time to put your horse in the float and go nowhere – feed them there, groom them there if its raining and you want to get the rug off or just send them in to rest there when doing some groundwork.
You could also challenge your horse to load when its dark, windy or raining as you never know when you’ll be pleased you did.
More ideas for winter time activities;
Play with worming and teeth care – make it fun by finding what your horse likes in the way of liquid type food ie: apple sauce, molasses, pureed carrot or other types of pureed food (baby foods have a good selection) then practice being friendly with the worm tube until he/she looks forward to it.
Then there are things like holding your horse’s tongue or simulating teeth rasping with the handle of your carrot stick (the rubber wont hurt them if you accidently touch the roof of their mouth).
Practice hoof handling: For those horses not particularly good with their feet or impatient with the farrier, you can never do too much leg handling and simulating the length of time the leg needs to be held up. Remember to build it up in small increments, use a rope to teach your horse to yield all 4 legs, leading foreward and holding up – its easier on your back too.
For those into barefoot trimming their own horses then this is a great time to practice and keep up with trims on a weekly basis.
De-sensitise to traffic: If the sun shines and you feel like some exercise but your paddocks are bogged, then taking your horse for a walk along the road or lanes close by can be just as beneficial as riding (great for our figure too), especially if they need more exposure to traffic.
If your horse hasn’t been in traffic, then pick a quiet country road or drive way and get someone to drive past slowly until your horse becomes de-sesitised to a moving vehicle. Some horses need help with accepting other vehicles like trucks, motor bikes and cars with trailers so this is best done on your own property where you can give the horse much more room, and time to investigate the vehicle.
It also helps to have a horse used to traffic lead the way and be a good example.
Find a place where there’s plenty of room for you to keep a good distance from the vehicle – remember you are playing a squeeze game here so start slowly with larger spaces.
Leading your horse out on the trail can also be a good way of teaching them about trail riding either on their own or with others. It keeps you safe and alllows you to train over obstacles like water, ditches and through gates to give your horse confidence and skills for when you want to ride and tackle the trail.
Then if you live within driving distance of an indoor arena, you can usually hire it by the hour for a reasonable rate or get together with a group of friends and make a day or half day of it to practice together.
As you can see,there are many ways to make the most of your winter days so get out of that nice warm house and play with your horses.