You might be wondering… “What can I do with my horse in wet or winter weather?”
Here are 5 Tips to motivate you to bundle up and deepen your relationship with your horse in any weather! Winter can be such a beautiful time of year.
BUT for us horsewomen it can also be the hardest time of year to feel progress and motivation in our horse goals.
These 5 tips are a great starting point to add to as you put together your winter weather horse plans.
Tip 1 – Find Your Horse’s Favorite Scratch Spot
My horse’s love this one.
Start by setting the intention that you are going to give 100 percent of your focus and your attention to listening to what your horse is saying to you as you do this tip.
If you can, take this as focused time, (there are other times to talk to people), you are focusing on building your relationship to your horse as you to this.
Don’t get distracted.
Your horse will let you know when they do not like where you are scratching, or the pressure you are using.
Take your nails or a curry comb and start scratching or currying your horse.
Notice where your horse likes you scratching the most, as well as notice what type of pressure your horse enjoys the most.
Play with the pressure and how you are scratching.
Make this interesting and fun for yourself as well as an opportunity to learn more about your horse.
My horse loves hard pressure by his withers.
Tip 2 – Wu Wei With Your Horse
Wu Wei is an ancient chinese practice that when translated literally means “non-doing.”
This important concept means natural action,
or in other words, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort.
To practice Wu Wei with your horse you will think of doing nothing.
Yes, I said doing nothing.
No agenda, no plan, asking or teaching nothing.
You will enjoy just spending time together doing nothing.
You can give your horse some hay and then sit down adjacent to them, not in their hay pile as you are not forcing connection.
If it is not safe to sit then stand adjacent to your horse.
Watch and just notice your horse.
How do they eat, hear the chewing of their hay.
Spend 10 – 15 minutes with your horse just doing nothing but being together.
This can be powerful when you begin doing this every time you see your horse.
Tip 3 – Teach Your Horse “Look” Cue
There are many ways to teach your horse a look cue.
I use treats (carrots work really well) in this cue to visually help my horse learn this cue faster and in a happy way.
I begin teaching this cue by standing on the left side of my horse, just where I would stand when leading.
Show your horse the treat and point down to the ground setting your treat on the ground at the end of your point.
Do this a couple times until your horse follows you down and looks right away.
Next move to putting the treat on the ground in random in areas where you are working.
Move over to the area and just point down at the ground.
I always bend down slightly with my shoulders and upper body to use my body language as part of the training process as well.
Quick side note, this cue can transfer over to in hand trail or playing with obstacles in your arena as well.
Tip 4 – Put Your Head In The Halter
If you do Tip 3 prior to Tip 4 your horse now knows to look and stretch down.
Put your treat on the ground and hold the halter open just above the treat.
As your horse stretches down to get the treat put their nose through the halter and do your halter up.
Repeat multiple times and then move forward to no treat on the ground.
Hold your halter open and low with a treat in your hand.
Once your horse stretches down and puts their head in the halter reward with a treat.
Repeat until when you open the halter your horse drops their head and puts it into the halter for you.
(I developed this cue when working with a rehab horse who was fearful to allow you to put her halter on.
I wanted to find a fun way to make the halter a good experience instead one of fear and anxiety so this approach was born.)
Tip 5 – The Back and Forth Game
This is a tip I recommend using all the time, and all over the farm.
You can use this while catching and bringing your horse in from the pasture, in the arena, and so much more.
Or you can do this in a stall, a run in shelter, or in a barn aisle.
Start with your come forward cue.
I teach a come cue more in depth so for this exercise we will do a simple come forward cue.
Drop your shoulders and round your back slightly as if you were going to hunch over but pull back with your shoulders so you feel like you are pulling your horse back and into you as you do this.
Take a couple steps back and imagine pulling your horse forward through your chest as you pull your energy and body language down and back.
You are creating an inviting body language to give your horse the opening to move forward to you.
I use a hand cue as well with palm up and open and close my hand asking my horse to move forward to me.
You can use a kiss as well for your verbal cue.
Take a couple steps backwards as your horse comes forward.
Then straighten up tall, standing even and lifting your head up and eyes up at your horse.
Lift your hand up and open your hand to make your whoa or stop cue.
You may verbally use the word whoa as well.
Once your horse has stopped push out with your chest like your were going to puff your chest out, push forward with your shoulders allowing your shoulders to lead and imagine you are pushing your horse back from your shoulders and chest as you grow in your body and energy.
Take a couple steps towards your horse using a cluck cue for verbal both hands stretched out even with your belly button.
I slightly push with my hand movement to create a visual as if I was fanning the air with my hands.
Ask your horse to back a couple steps and then stop.
Once you have all three parts down, now you can play the back and forth game.
This should be soft, and fun not punishment.
Ask your horse to come forward, stop and back up a couple steps.
Now move around as you do this and begin to change the number of forward steps, the length of the whoa, and the number of back steps.
Change it up and keep it fun as you see what you can do with this game!
The winter does not have to be a time we give up on working with our horse.
It can be a time to focus on deepening our relationship with our horse.
Set that intention as the weather begins to change and it will help to keep your motivation to go out and continue working with your horse.