Safe Storage of Your Horsebox or Trailer
Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has left us all feeling pretty despairing, with shops closing left, right and centre, and social distancing leaving people feeling somewhat more detached than ‘distant’. But amidst all this doom and gloom, there’s a positive for those of us lucky enough to have our horses close to home, which is that we will be able to spend more time getting back to nature and enjoying quality time with our equines.
It’s all too easy to assume that we spend enough time with our horses, as the regular hacks and daily yard duties can take up a lot of time, meaning that it can seem like they are getting all the attention they need. But how much time do you spend just enjoying the company of your horse?
So if we have all been asked to stay at home, and are among the lucky few that have horses close by, what better time than to try new ways to interact and bond with our trusty steeds? In case you’re short of inspiration, we’ve put together some suggestions for things to try, all of which can be done without ever taking to the saddle!
1. Playing with them
Horses are very intelligent creatures, capable of a high level of processing and problem-solving. Playing with your horse stimulates them and encourages them to make decisions, whilst being a great way to build your relationship further.
Play could include anything from interacting with objects and toys to building an obstacle course for them to navigate in the school. Obstacle courses are particularly useful as the elements involved (such as poles, tyres and cones) can be changed and rotated to create endless new challenges, and it does wonders for increasing their agility. Plus, this is an activity you can do together, guiding them round the course and helping them overcome anything that might spook them.
2. Going for a walk
Simply taking your horse for a walk can add a new dynamic to your time together. There’s a big difference between riding your horse and walking with them, and it’s important for your horse to be able to enjoy your company without being in ‘work’ mode. This is the human equivalent of spending time with colleagues outside of working hours; you’re much more likely to be doing it because you want to!
Going for a walk with your horse establishes a deeper level of trust and also throws up some great training opportunities, as there are likely to be things along the way that scare or worry your horse. Remaining calm, keeping your energy low and using a gentle, reassuring tone will help your horse to become more comfortable with these foreign objects. This is your chance to show them that these objects are safe and help them to overcome these hurdles, ever increasing their trust in you.
3. Mutual grooming
One of the most common social behaviours seen in herds of horses is mutual grooming. This is the practice whereby two horses stand parallel to each other and are seen to ‘groom’ each other with scratching or tentative nibbles along the back or withers. This behaviour is thought to reaffirm the bond between horses and reduce social tensions in the group.
We all groom our horses to remove dirt and clean their coats, but try just spending some time learning how and where your horse likes to be touched, taking note of their sweet spots (they’ll let you know when you find one!) This process shows a level of respect and appreciation for your horse as a living being with emotional needs and desires of their own, and is a great way to improve your relationship.
Obviously, we are humans, and we might not all want to be groomed in the way our horse’s do, especially as some horses can be a little less than gentle with their style of mutual grooming! If you find yourself being groomed by your horse but would rather not be, try hanging a towel or piece of coconut matting at the right height for your horse to “groom”. If they persist, gently pushing their face away repeatedly with an open palm should do the trick, and most horses will quickly learn that you don’t want to be groomed in return.
4. Pampering them with a massage;
This is exactly the sort of thing that doesn’t normally factor into a busy day at the yard, but it’s a great treat for your horse and they’ll really appreciate it! Massaging your horse before exercise stimulates the delivery of blood, oxygen and nutrients to muscle fibres, whilst massaging after work helps to loosen the muscles and increase circulation, reducing stiffness and fatigue. In fact, a massage at any point in the day will be received graciously! This can be done with your hands or a massage roller, but using your hands will increase your feeling of connection and some horses even prefer the hands-on approach.
If you’ve never massaged your horse before, don’t worry, just follow these simple rules;
5. Just relaxing;
With the weather improving and the clock’s having just gone forward, chilling out in the field with your horse and soaking up a bit of much needed sunshine is a great way to spend your time, without having to interact with other humans!
You could take an activity with you to do while you relax, listen to some music, or try drawing or painting your horse and developing your artistic talents at the same time! They’ll enjoy you just being there and you might even get to see a side of your horse that the everyday pace of life wouldn’t usually allow!