Ever have one of those weeks where no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to work in a ride? Sometimes the weather is bad, or the arena is out of commission, or the trails are too “buggy.” It’s too hot, it’s too cold, too windy, or you just can’t fit riding your horse in your schedule.
Sometimes life just gets in the way of your riding fun.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some quality time with your horse, or do other “horse-related things.”
Here is a list of things to do “out of the saddle” when you can’t get that ride in, for whatever reason.
#1. Spend undemanding time with your horse. Take 15 minutes to go out and sit with your horse. Turn over a bucket in the stall, pen, or even the field, and just “be” with your horse. Take some cookies or carrots. Share an apple. Often we get in a rush to “do something” with our horses. Take the time to just enjoy his or her company.
#2. Watch instructional videos or work on your online courses. Rainy days are great for this kind of activity. Get out your favorite notebook, pop some popcorn, and settle in for some good horsie education. I watch Parelli Natural Horsemanship videos or Karen Rolhf Dressage Naturally videos. If you aren’t a member of these communities, YouTube has a plethora of other fun videos to watch that will help you learn new skills.
#3. Clip and bathe. Give your pony a beauty treatment. This is especially nice in hot weather. Use a conditioning shampoo and ultra-hydrating conditioner. Summer weather can wreak havoc on manes and tails. Clipping the hair around your horse’s fetlocks can help thwart scratches. Set up a hay bag for your buddy to much away while you clip and scrub, and then later when he or she dries. They’ll thank you for it! Don’t forget to use fly spray afterward!
#4. Work on your communication on-line. See if you can get your horse to move his/her hindquarters and forequarters with the lightest possible signal. Can you get them to back up without pulling or pushing? See if you can accomplish these tasks with just your mental intent and energy. It’s amazing how little it often takes for us to communicate with our horse partners.
#5. Organize the tack room. Make “keep”, “donate”, and “sell” piles of things you don’t plan to use any more. It might be a great way to help a horse rescue or make a little extra cash.
#6. Clean your tack. Don’t wait for the next horse show or clinic. It’s good to keep your leather clean and supple. Take a tooth brush and scrub the grime off your horse’s bit. Polish the silver on your western saddle or the stirrups of your English saddle. You’ll feel spiffy the next time you get to ride.
#7. Wash winter blankets and fly sheets. There is nothing worse than having to use a crusty, stinky fly sheet or blanket. Don’t wait until it’s time to use it. Most laundromats have large, industrial-sized washers that can handle the load of a horse blanket or sheet. Air dry in the sun for less shrinkage and freshness.
#8. Wash brushes and grooming tools. Soak brushes in a bucket full of sudsy water. Let them air dry in the sun. Pull hair out of mane and tail brushes—use that trusty toothbrush to get the crud from between the tines. Clean out your grooming bucket and reorganize your newly shined and clean grooming tools. There is nothing like the instant gratification of seeing what was once dirty, clean again.
#9. Journal about your last ride and what you hope to do the next time you are playing with your equine friend. What could you do differently? What could you refine? Been on the trail lately? If not, maybe hand-walk your horse pal on the trail for you to get some exercise and to help desensitize your buddy to the monsters that lurk outside the pen or arena.
#10 Set up some play-dates or trail rides with friends. Being with your horse is fun, but being with your horse, your horse friends, and their horses is even more fun! Come up with some games to play or obstacles to work with. Plan a picnic lunch for that morning trail ride. What about an evening or night ride? If going out after dark, don’t forget to plan for adequate lighting and bug spray—for you and your horse!