Here Bear (background), Shiloh (foreground) and I (photographer) practice a “non-ridden” activity in the form of pedestal work at liberty. While I do still ride Shiloh, Bear is retired.
If you stick around the horse world long enough, you will probably find yourself at some point with a horse who can’t be ridden. Maybe due to age (too young or too old)/health/training issues, the horse just isn’t suitable for riding. Or maybe you love horses but aren’t interested in ever sitting on their backs.
Even if you don’t ride, there are many important reasons to spend time with your non-riding horse. They still require routine health care, exercise and mental stimulation. You will want to keep their basic handling skills in tact. Being caught in a pasture, allowing hoofs to be picked out and trailer loading can be important skills for any horse to learn or maintain. Don’t forget too that just hanging out with your horses can be enjoyable as well. I frequently sit in the grass or on an over-turned bucket at a safe distance and watch my horses graze or snooze.
Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to come up with activity ideas. If we aren’t riding, what exactly do we do? I personally keep a list of all kinds of ideas for doing stuff on the ground with my horses. I’ve picked them up over the years from books, magazines and online sources. Some of my favorites are:
- Teaching a horse to work a platform or pedestal, first in-hand and later at liberty
- Practicing crossing individual obstacles from the ground like poles and tarps
- Laying out an obstacle course with cones and weaving through it together without a halter or lead rope
- Playing with (or in the case of my horse below, tasting 🙂 ) one of those big horse balls
Recently, I came across a really cool “activity generator” that dovetails nicely with my list!
See the free “activity generator” from Good Horse at https://good-horse.com/tools/activity-generator/. The “Non Ridden Activity Generator” allows the user to select ideas across five different activity categories (care, bonding, enrichment, training and exercise). The generator will produce a random idea for you with just a click. It doesn’t instruct the reader on how to complete the activities much beyond listing the idea and maybe a sentence or two about the activity, but I found it fun to see what the generator produced.
Not everything will be “doable” or suitable for every horse or handler, of course, but if you keep clicking, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something to your liking. I haven’t personally gone through all the options in every category so I can’t comment on everything, but I liked what I saw. For example, the last time I used the generator, it gave me the following ideas:
Care- Pick out your horse’s hooves
Bonding- Take your horse over trotting poles at liberty
Enrichment- Try some apple-bobbing
Training- Get your horse used to wormer syringes
Exercise- Longe-line your horse
Don’t forget that even if you do ride your horse(s), you can still use these ideas to add variety to your time with him or her. Maybe use them as a warm-up to a ride or for those days when your schedule or the weather interfere with your original riding plans.
As much as I love to ride, I spend a lot more time with my horses on the ground than in the saddle. It is wonderful to remember that there are all sorts of helpful, fun and enriching activities for my horses and I to engage in together apart from riding.