We are in an unprecedented time. The threat and fear of Covid-19 is real, and it's happening. Depending where you are in the world, your government may have put a stop to boarders being able to see their horses. If you are one of the lucky ones who still has access to you horse, you're put in moral dilemma when it comes to riding.
I live in Canada, and the Canadian government has enacted social distancing policies meaning we are not supposed to be around anyone that isn't in our immediate household. Our hospitals are full with Covid-19 patients. So even if I were to ride and ended up in the hospital and now I'm taking up precious hospital space, and putting myself and my family at risk.
So with that being said, let's go back to basics with our selves and with our horses. Remember when you were a young kid? Personally, I was happy to be breathing close enough to smell horses, let alone actually being able to work with them. I'd spend HOURS at the barn, doing whatever I could just to be near the equines.
When I got my first horse, I spent so much time grooming her, hand grazing her, staring at her. What I didn't realize at the time is, I was creating a very special bond with her. Lessons, schooling and shows were not in the forefront of my mind. Simply being with her was more important than ribbons and accolades.
With my current horse, I feel like I've lost some of that. I'm more concerned with how training is going. How does his top line look? how is my riding technique?
So my first activity brings us back to our childhood roots.
1. Put In a Great Grooming Sesh
Get out your grooming arsenal and get to work. Shedding season is upon us. So take that time and put some elbow grease into it. As we all know, grooming is a great way to check out our horses. Look for weird bumps, scrapes, or whatever else your horse can get itself into. Check the legs for swelling. With spring in the air, check for mud fever.
For shedding, I use a rubber curry comb with the long nubs, as I feel like it really gets into the coat. Plus it's my horse's favourite.
Another game changer that I came across last year is the Equigroomer shedding blade. I use this on both my horse and my cattle dog. (If you know, you know- the shedding is REAL) I picked mine up at Greenhawk, but they are also available online.
2. Lunging and Long Lining
Lunging is a great way to keep your horse working, while still minimizing risk for injury. I personally flip flop between lunging in a halter, or a bridle. I'm not big on fancy lunging equipment however, I did come across this great lunging aid (By Waldhausen)
I feel like it gives me a little more control when my horse is feeling himself. It doesn't force him into a false frame, and is completely adjustable.
If your barn allows it, free lunging is also a great way to get your horse moving and enjoying himself. My barn limits free lunging to the weekends, so horses don't chew up the ring too badly for riding during the week. My horse Archie LIVES for his free lunges. I refer to free lunging days as my horse's mental health days, because he gets to rip around, roll, buck and squeal until his heart is content.
3. Pony Tricks
Trick training and ground work can be a great way to engage your horse's mind while still being cautious. It's also a great way to hone your horses manners. We've got the time, we might as well give it a try right?
There are COUNTLESS Youtube videos on the subject. My suggestion is to keep things simple when you're starting out. A simple treat between the legs for a bow is a great beginning. It also provides a great way for your horse to stretch his back and legs.
4. Hand Graze
Weather depending, hand grazing can be a great bonding and decompressing time with your horse. Spring time in British Columbia can be pretty unpredictable, but we do get some really nice moments of sunshine. Plus the incessant rain is great for green, lush grass.
Obviously if your horse has dietary restrictions, this suggestion might not be the best idea, but otherwise a short hand graze can be pretty relaxing. The soft rhythmic sound of horses chewing always makes me feel more at ease.
5. Take a walk
Last on the list is fairly straight forward. Take your horse for a hand walk. Not only is this exercise for you, but it's also an easy way for your horse to get out and get his brain working. Walk around your property if rules permit it. Do you have trails near by? Horses can always benefit from a SAFE change of scenery. Remember to practice social distancing in these circumstances still. This should come second nature to us equestrians. We've been keeping one horse length between us and the next horse since we first started riding!
These simple little activities can keep us and our horses happy while we brave this strange point in time.
It's important to mention, it's ALWAYS safety first when it comes to horses. If you are trying something new with your horse, consult your trainer, and barn owner to ensure you are mitigating your risk.