It's HOT and the horses and kids are sweaty. How can we play with our horses in this situation? It's easy! There are lots of ways to have fun doing horse-related activities. Simulations, water games, short sessions, giving baths, grooming and indoor activities are just some of the ways to avoid the summer heat, and to have fun with your horses at the same time.
Simulations (Horse and Human Role Playing) are one of the best things to do and the kids love it. It seems odd, but kids can learn just as well, even better at times, playing “horse” with a friend, simulating what they would do in certain situations with a horse. For example, if a horse crowds your space, you can do jumping jacks to defend that space. Another one, which seems to be the kid's favorite game, is asking your horse to do a circle around you. What would happen if the horse stops behind you? What would you do? All these things can be dealt with, without ever even coming in contact with a horse. It's a great way to allow your kids to practice their skills, without the danger of a 1000 pound animal, and it can be done in the air conditioning!
Another fun activity can be any kind of water games; a revolving sprinkler that attaches to a hose can be a great obstacle and keeps you cool at the same time. Although you must be careful, as with anything, that your horse is comfortable and confident going through the water. (If not, this is something that needs to be cut down into smaller steps and worked out with your horse.) Approach and retreat is a great method to use. Along with the sprinkler, you can search for puddles around your property; kiddie pools are also a great obstacle. (But they won’t last long if the horse gets in!) This summer, the kids developed a game called SIMON SAYS… (you’ve heard of this one) and their favorite task was “Put Your Nose On… the Summer Camp Leader.” I spent a lot of time moving quickly while the ponies were guided to put their noses right on me!
Finally, there are many things that can also be accomplished in a barn aisle or stall. Grooming, being the most prominent one. Grooming is not just brushing your horse off. If done properly with a curry comb, hard brush, medium brush, and soft brush, you will find that your horse's coat gets noticeably better in a matter of time. This can also significantly help with "summer itch," which is not much more than a dry, unhealthy coat. By intensely grooming, you can stimulate the circulation and the oil glands in the horse's skin to help your horse produce the necessary oils to hydrate the skin. Bathing your horse can also be a great summer activity - but be careful not to overdo it. Every time a horse is bathed, his skin is stripped of the oils and can easily become dry and itchy.
The best thing to do is to use your imagination. Try to think in creative terms, not just going out to the barn and riding. Gather up some friends and organize themes for the day. Summer tournaments are some of our best learning opportunities! We have different challenges set up in the arena, and everyone takes a turn. Summer is a great time to practice your photography skills, too. You’ll be amazed when you look back and see how much everyone has changed.