HI Spy: Time out of the saddle

    Trick Training
    Groundwork and trick training can be fun alternatives to riding or additions to your regular training routine. Photo: Leslie Potter

    Most horse owners would love to ride every day, but sometimes life gets in the way. Whether your horse comes up lame, a bad stretch of weather hits or you simply don’t have time to commit to riding, sometimes time spent with your horse doesn’t involve getting in the saddle.

    On the other hand, plenty of horse owners take on rescues that can only be companions, knowing they’ll never ride. Many dedicated owners provide their former mounts with a well-deserved retirement for years after hanging up their horse’s bridle for the last time.

    What can you do with your horse when he can’t be ridden (or when you are unable to ride?) Plenty! Most horses love long grooming sessions, which also serve as excellent bonding time. Other horse owners find that the results achieved through groundwork are just as gratifying as mastering under-saddle skills. Others find that trick training is a great way to spend quality time together.

    What activities do you enjoy with your horse when riding just isn’t an option? Click “Submit a Comment” below and share your thoughts. Some of the answers may be selected for a future issue of Horse Illustrated.

    One selected response may be selected by the editors to win a monthly prize! If you would like to be eligible for the prize, please include your email address in the comment form (email addresses are not publicly displayed.)

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    1. My favorite way to spend time with my horse Blaze is to go out into the pasture with him(no halter or lead rope) and just spend time with him.

    2. I always have enjoyed walking out to the pasture, calling the horses, and watching them run towards me; stopping just before they get too close. Or maybe it’s the nickers. Or when they come and place their head in my lap. Whenever I spend time with my horse without riding it, whether it’s teaching him to kneel, or just grooming him, it’s always worth my time.

    3. We like to play the 7 Parelli horse games, which help our bond and improve our trust. But most of the time I just go out into the pasture and sit on the sun-warmed back of my Morgan cross, and read a book, or just relax, close my eyes, and breath in the smell of horse while I listen to her soft munching and rythmic breathing. NOTHING gets better than that!!!

    4. I have a back injury that prevents me from riding. So with my four little brothers ages 1-9 who are too scared to ride yet; my horse gets a lot of grooming and being walked around the yard. It is still a lot of fun, even if I can not ride.

    5. When I can’t ride due to weather or other circumstances I like to do ground work with my horse. We do alittle bit of Parelli and I spend alot of time grooming. I work on ground manners and showmanship. My horse and I enjoy this just as much as we love riding.

    6. When I’m not riding, I typically do ground work grooming, etc. But sometimes it feels good to take off his halter, lock him in the round pen and just walk around in there with him. Seeing if he’ll follow me and just hanging out and loving on him. 🙂

    7. When I am not able to ride, I mostly groom, but sometimes I just lead them around to get at least a little exercise or I do some groundwork.

    8. Blue Country Dancer and I spend time grooming and eating snacks. As soon as my back and legs get stronger, we will be doing tons of ground work to correct some issues of respect.

    9. Since I dont own a horse when I cant ride my lease, I take my camera out and take photos of my friends riding and the horses in the pastures. I also offer to help groom or groom my lease from head to hoove. Not one speck of dust! Well, until he goes out and rolls.

    10. My horse Hannah is less then a month away from having a baby, and peabo is just a weanling, so riding is kinda out for me, so instead I will take a plastic lawn cair and go sit under a tree with a book, before I can read my book, both hannah and peabo will try to figure out what I’m doing, poebo will lie his little head in my lap sometimes, and hannah will lean down for a hug, sometimes one of them will stand behined me and place thier head on my shoulder while I read me book. so cute!

    11. I don’t have a horse, but whenever I can get to the barn, my instructor orders me around like a mad women. I help little kids tack up their horses, sweep out the barns and tack room. I set up jumps for lessons and I catch naughty ponies out in the field. Finally when it is time to ride I am in a huge rush to get ready. I never have time to relax, but I love every minute I am around the horses. Whether I am riding or not.

    12. my horse penny is retired so i am with her as long as i can . though i do exercise my friends horse. she grooms him 🙂

    13. When not riding, my horse and I take walks around our property. Usually we walk up to the pond where I then let him graze while we enjoy the sunshine if the day is cool or just perfect for relaxing in the sun. If the day is warm we go beneath the trees, where he can graze and watch the geese up close. He absolutely loves watching them and having access to the “greener” grass!

    14. I spend time out of the saddle doing much loved grooming and much needed ground work . I f I just find myself sitting in the treefort watching the graze in the pasture thats fine too.

    15. When I can’t ride my horses, I love doing ground work. I have been doing the Parelli program with my horse Rocky. Its been challenging but alot of fun! I also have taught my miniature horse Twinkle some tricks. From shaking my hand to giving me a kiss. She knows alot of tricks and I hope to teach her alot more.

    16. I love to sit in the corner of her stall while she eats peacefully and vent all my problems to her, and i know she listens to me and that never fails to make me feel happy all the time.

    17. I really enjoy the grooming process & my horse really seems to enjoy extra pampering. It is very relaxing to me both before & after our riding sessions and it also helps me to stay aware of any changes of anything on her body and to get to know every inch of her very well. It helps you learn what they find enjoyable as well & is nice to use those things they enjoy while grooming as extra little rewards after a riding session.

    18. When my new horse turned lame right after I bought him and couldn’t ride him for more than two weeks, I loved to just groom him and get to know him better. I also loved doing groundwork, walking him in-hand, and seeing him roam free in his pasture. I’m glad he has finally gotten better, but getting to know him really helped me understand his personality so we can grow and learn as horse and rider!

    19. My horse has had some behavior issues lately, so I am completely re-training her. Every day I want to ride her, but I stick to ground work! I haven’t ridden her in close to a year, but we are progressing very quickly! She couldn’t even trot on-line before. Now she can, and I like trotting her almost as much as I loved riding her. There’s no better feeling than being with her and not having to feel like there’s something missing. My favorite thing to do with my extra time is just hang out with her!

    20. My favorite thing to do with my horse when im not riding is brushing my horses and putting up their manes in funny styles. They enjoy it as much as i do. Even though riding is fun and a great way to get to know your horse, i think grooming really allows the human and horse to get to know eachother without having to follow the rules of thier riding disipline. You get to understand each others personality.

    21. When I’m not riding, I’m usually either grooming my QH mare or doing Parelli games with her. She doesn’t particularly like small spaces, so the Squeeze Game is what we play most often. The Parelli games help her to focus and settle down before we ride, and they also help us to tune into each other even when we don’t ride.

    22. I love just laying down in the pasture and watching Pogo be himself, whether it’s sniffing me for treats, trying to steal my hat, or completely absorbed in his own little world, with imaginary ponies that chase him around, or rolling in the ‘luxurious’ mud bath!

    23. When I’m not in the saddle, I go out and visit my boys. I’m trying to brush my 21-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Chief, everyday, because his coat is still kind of long. I still work a bit on Lakota, our 5-year-old half-Mustang gelding. It’s also really fun to let them run back to the paddock for supper from the pasture. Lakota loves to buck and fart at the same time. A few days ago, he almost went off the path into the woods, but Chief kept going towards the food, so Lakota followed. They are my Big Boy (Chief) and Little Man (Lakota). I love them both so much!

    24. when im not riding my arabian/quarter horse sharpay i love to take her on walks and to brush her till her white coat shines i most of all love to teach her tricks like how to baw.

    25. I couldn’t imagine myself not riding!
      When I’m not riding, I’m working.
      A farmer’s work is never done, ever!

    26. I just got my 6 year old Arabian mare a few months ago, and I have been building an inseparable bond between us. She is not saddle trained, and after grooming we work on that issue. She’s good for saddle and bridle now, but more ground work and slowly putting more of my weight on her, we’ll be good to begin getting me off my feet. She is such a smart and loving horse, and I tell her that I love her all of the time.

    27. When I’m not riding, I’m preparing my horse for better riding! Whether it’s groundwork or feeding high energy feed, it helps my horse perform better in the arena and out on the trails!

    28. Lately, I haven’t had as much free time as I’d like, since I’ve been spending time refurbishing my barn and pastures. But my favorite thing to do when I’m not riding is sit in the crook of the tree in my gelding’s pen; he stands with his head in my lap and I stroke his face while he naps. It’s so peaceful and relaxing that just ten minutes of that makes my whole week go a little smoother.

    29. When I’m not riding, I find tome to spend with my horses in different ways. Either cleaning their stalls, feeding, turning them out, grooming them, or just petting them and feeding them treats. They help me relax. Just spending time in their presence seems to be almost like therapy for me.

    30. I spend a lot of time with my 3 year old Shagya. We learn tricks, I scratch his favorite places, he even hugs me! Of course I hug him a lot, too. We wander to the less developed parts of his turnout and I try to desensitize him to things(he doesn’t worry about much!). I also give him toys to play with and take TONS of photos.

    31. I love setting up little obstacle courses in the field or arena, and having my horses follow me at the walk or trot around them. I set up small jumps, weave poles, trot poles, and all sorts of other things! I sure get my exercise in! Hand-grazing is another fun thing I love to do. I’ll sit under a tree with a book or lunch while my horse grazes around me. It’s a nice way to relax and still spend time with my best friend.

    32. Whenever I can’t ride, whether its bad weather, a cancelled ride, or a lame horse, I like to get out to the barn and bring my horse in, to groom him, pull his mane, trim him, or practice my braiding (you can never get enough of that!). My old barn also offered ‘In-barn’ lessons on horse theory for riders who were in Riding Levels’ 1-10. I enjoyed going to those because I always learned something new. But most of all, I loved spending time getting to know my horse on the ground, rather then up in the saddle.

    33. Sometimes, I’m not mentally ready to ride and instead of having a bad day I make the concious decision to stay out of the saddle. But that doesn’t mean Ruby and I don’t spend time together. My little Arabian just loves to take walks just like a canine. We walk all over, we both get excercise and we both come home in a wonderful mood.

    34. I am recovering from ACL surgery, so I am forced out of the jumping saddle for 6 months. I spend my time at the barn with my horse by lunging him. This is an amazing activity, as it builds trust and keeps your horse fit at the same time! I highly recommend it for every horse owner.

    35. I enjoy grooming sessions and working on communication with activities such as Monty Robert’s Join-up and other Equis activities

    36. I enjoy grooming sessions and working on communication with activities such as Monty Robert’s Join-up and other Equis activities

    37. With working full time, it is hard to ride alot except for the weekends, so I love going out after work and calling for my horse Dolly. She responds with a head roll and a whinny which makes my day! I love taking her out and grooming her and just walking around so she can eat some new grass. We will both let out a deep breath which tells me we are both in sync with our surroundings. I do give her treats as a reward for some basic groundwork and it is so rewarding!!!

    38. I’ve just discovered how crazy my horse is for ‘mutual ‘ grooming… Meaning I’m scratching him! He is very aloof with other horses and after two years of love( he’s a rescue) is is accustomed to my need for lots of physical time…. I’ve know him for 5 yrs and he has never groomed another horse or let one touch him long enough… The only one who tried got a nasty bite… So he’s discovered this new ‘thing ‘ now when I bring him in for the night he waits for it!!!!… I use one of those shedding jobbies the metal one that wraps around…. He moves where he wants it most…. When I stop and step back he has a huge yawning session…. Stress relieved! It’s a whole new relationship

    39. I try to ride every weekday or at least go see my horse. On days where I’m too busy to ride I work a little bit on a Liberty/Bridle-less demo my horse and I are doing to music! It’s for an open house (or should I say “open barn”!) my barn manager is hosting on May 19th. So far it’s doing great because my horse is supposed to follow me over jumps on the ground while getting used to music (our song is You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story). Anyways, it’s a fun thing to do when I can’t ride; I think it helps my relationship with my horse and it’s just plain fun!

    40. I am constantly in the saddle ,but when I don’t have time to ride I try to teach my horse some groundwork skills or other little things we need to improve on that could possibly help when we are in the saddle too .

    41. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of “out-of-saddle” time with my horse thanks to a knee injury. It’s done both of us a world of good! I never used to be able to do any grounwork/showmanship with my mare, Georgia, without a chain on my lead, but now that’s changed. After a week or so off we were were with only a normal lead, and now only 2 weeks later, we are working completely at liberty! I am so amazed at how quickly Georgia caught on to everything, she always finds a way to amaze me. When we aren’t working on our groundwork skills, I love just making Georgia look pretty. Some days I’ll go out to the barn with Show Sheen in hand and work for hours just because I can. About 100 pictures later she goes back into the field to role in the mud, but it’s definatly worth it!

    42. We just found out that my Morgan-Cross is foundered due to too much spring grass and wet, muddy pastures. She just got her feet trimmed too, and she is really sore from that as well. Now that I can’t ride for a while, I’m focused on getting her better so that we can ride again. I have been hand-walking her around to help with the founder, and been visiting her often. I’ve worked on grooming nad pulling her mane, and anything that doesn’t cause her too much pain. She is a real trooper for sticking this out…She is willing to try just about anything for me. I love her.

    43. Whenever I’m not riding my favorite mount, I’m either doing groundwork, or taking a walk with my horse out of saddle. It gives time for my horse and I to come closer, and it’s also great exercise for me.

    44. I spend several hours a week in the saddle but when its too muddy to go into the outdoor arena or go for a nice trail ride, or just feel like giving my mare a break, I work on teaching her good ground manners and may even throw in some tricks like, giving hugs or bowing.

    45. When I am not in the saddle, I love to teach my horse new tricks and specialties. He does anything for a treat, and I use that as an advantage. I have already taught him how to bow, and I am also working on teaching him how to lay down so I may mount him bareback.Every horse has a trick up their sleeves.It is just trying to find it is the hardest part.

    46. When I’m not in the saddle, all I think about is when I can be again. But, it’s not always easy to ride all the time, so the way I spend time with my horses is feeding them. We feed our 2 yearlings in a corral in the pasture, and the ever-faithful geldings come up as well. We probably spend an hour just loving on all of them and finding their favorite scratching spots. The horses love it and its a way for me to continue our (the horses and I) relationship even when I can’t be in my home-away-from-home, the saddle.

    47. When I’m not in the saddle, I either doing groundwork or hanging out with my mare in her field. We love to race each other. She can outrun me easily, but for some reason we’ll stay in-step with me.

    48. I recently broke my ankle, so I am out of the saddle for a few more months. I still go see my horse as much as I can, and make sure to give him lots of hugs, scratch his favorite spots, and do what grooming I can. I also love to do my homework in his stall!

    49. I love to try something new with my horse, like teaching him a trick or giving some of my new homemade treats. One time I even stenciled non toxic paint onto his hindquarters in the shape of a star. It looked amazing and we both had fun doing it!

    50. I often spend more time on the ground than in the saddle. I use it to get a closer connection with my horse whether it be a nice walk, ground workouts, or even just a brushing.

    51. I spend time brushing Ginger and massaging her before we do any training. Sometimes we just walk around and look at all the “scary objects.” Every once in a while i lunge or do ground work with her to strenthen her trust.Just going out to pet and feed her treats is a bounding moment. I belivie that just spending time with your horse is one of the most important things you can do for your horse to make you a real team.

    52. I often enjoy long grooming sessions followed by a T-Touch massage as a relaxing alternative when I can’t ride my horse. Other times, I find that the best way to bond with her is just to sit in the pasture and enjoy her company as she grazes on a calm sunny day.

    53. When my horse comes up lame I literally drag her around with me wherever I go. I’ll tie her next to me while I clean tack, let her hand-graze as I watch friends’ lessons, and take her for walks around the barn. I think sometimes a more memorable time is had by both of us if I spend 15 minutes braiding her mane or stroking her face, than if I spent two hours jumping courses.

    54. When I am not riding, i like to just hang out with my horses in the corral and give them a full spa treatment. i like to just relax and admire my horses, and think about how lucky I am to have them for friends. Sometimes its good to just skip riding and BE with your horse(s). I also like to work on trick-training or just play with them in the meadow or arena, but really keep a relaxed and “lazy”, whatever atmosphere.

    55. my horse just recently got a stone bruise and i am really missing riding so when i can not ride him i will groom him and spend time with him in the pasture i also will take him for short walks. when he is not lame i will lay on his rump and let him Graze in the yard! lol

    56. I love to do groundwork and teach my horse tricks, like bowing and shaking hands. It makes a great show for the kids at the barn!

    57. When I broke my ankle and was unable to ride for several weeks I spent time educating myself more on everything from equine management to riding. I read books, articles, internet blogs on anything horse! I then took that and looked at what I could do better to care for my own horse. I learned quite a bit about the science and “folklore” of horses and now feel much more empowered when it comes to making decisions about managing feed, health issues, training, etc. I can feel confident I am making informed decisions!

    58. When I’m not riding, I like to sit quietly and observe my horses out in their pasture. I learn so much about their personalities and preferences from watching their personal habits and how they interact with each other.

    59. When I’m not riding my horses I’m grooming them! I love the feeling of a smooth coat with no mud or dust in it!

    60. When I’m not riding I will give them a good grooming, lunge, or just play with! I also like to watch them in the pasture.

    61. When im not riding I like to groom clean up rummels paddock take a walk with him on a trail with his lead line watch him graze in a pasture just chill and talk with him and chill he seems to enjoy this as well

    62. When I’m not riding, I love to just spend time with the horse I lease. I will groom her, or just sit with her and talk to her. I think it helps strengthen out bond, which can be a huge help when I am riding.

    63. Time out of the saddle is spent treating my horse like a spoiled puppy dog…time for fresh apples and carrots, grooming, teaching little tricks, and just sitting in the pasture observing how beautiful her every move is.

    64. I spend all of my time out of the saddle because I am confined to a scooter (motorized wheel chair like the one in the picture). I love to just take walks with my horses so we can spend time alone together to bond. I meet so many nice people on my walks as the site of me and one of my big Belgians or little miniature horses “walking” down the road is too much for them to ignore. Also it is a great way to get the horses used to traffic and other sights and sounds and a great way to see wildlife up close.

    65. I do groundwork with my horse. If you don’t have respect from your horse on the ground, there’s no way you’ll get it from him when you’re on his back.

    66. I love time spent on the ground with my horse. Relaxing grooming sessions are a favorite, and I also enjoy hand-walking my horse on trails. We also do groundwork exercises like desensitizing and learning to yield to pressure. My total time in the saddle is actually well outdone by my time on the ground! But I love it just the same.

    67. I like to play tag, do ground work, games, and braid flowers into my donkeys mane and tail. It gives us good bonding time out of the saddle.

    68. I love time in the saddle but when I can’t ride I love to try to figure out new ways to braid Frisco’s mane. It’s just another way to pass by time.

    69. I rarely get to ride my horses because my grandfather has to be there to saddle them, so when I get to see them, my brother and I make “salads” for them out of the fresh clover and grass outside of the fence. We mix in sweet feed and put it all in a big bowl for them to eat.


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