This time of year we often find that as our horse or pony’s routine changes, so does their temperament! Riding in the dark, being stabled for longer periods and a chill in the air can cause some horses and ponies to spot monsters around every corner. So we’ve come up with a few ideas to try and keep your horse or pony focused over the colder months...
- Base as much of the diet on fibre as possible. Choosing high fibre and low starch feeds can help to reduce the risk of unwanted excitability as they provide slow releasing energy.
- Imaginative school exercises. Ever feel like you’re sitting on a ticking bomb when you ride in the school?! You could try including some pole work in your flat schooling sessions to take their attention away from the gremlins lurking in the corner and focused on something positive. We’ve come up with some ideas to help you get creative with a few poles.
Alternate raised poles – Helps to engage the horse at both the front and back end.
Fanned poles on a circle – Great for accuracy and rhythm.
A pole on each quarter of the circle – Can be ridden in walk, trot or canter.
2 poles on the long side of the school – Perfect for adjusting the amount of trot or canter strides in between the poles to help work on rhythm
A square of poles in the middle of the school - Lends itself to being used in lots of different ways
- Try not to avoid open spaces. Although it’s tempting to steer clear of open spaces when you feel like your horse or pony is possessed by demons, it’s this time of year that they appreciate a bit of freedom most. The more you avoid a situation the scarier it gets. Gritting your teeth and going for a canter on the grass three days in a row may help to make it an enjoyable part of your horse or pony’s routine – we hope!
- Ride with a friend. If you’re not enjoying riding on your own then ask a friend if they can step in and help by coming for a ride with you. Horses and ponies are herd animals after all so having a buddy may help your horse to settle.
- Jumping around (for the right reasons!). Jumping can be mentally and physically stimulating for horses and ponies so where appropriate you could add this into your weekly exercise plan.
- Mirror in the stable. Some famous riders have found that their horses find comfort in having a mirror in their stable.
- Lunging/loose schooling. A great way to help them to let off some steam, especially before you ride.
- A change of scene. Taking your horse for an outing whether it be to a competition, to hire a school, to ride on the beach or just a hack with a friend can be as enjoyable for you as for your horse or pony.
The countryside looks beautiful on a frosty morning, so we hope some of these tips help you get out on your horse or pony and make the most of it. If you would like more information on feeding excited horses, you might find this blog useful too…