After School Fun

By Nancy Faulconer

What can we do with our horses after school? Lots of things! Instead of drilling your horses to do things, have fun. He’s been sitting around all day, thinking of ways to entertain himself. I bet he’s even thought of a few ways to test your leadership when you get out to the barn after school! Instead of practicing what you already know, try this!

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Make a game out of finding new things. Get some obstacles (pool toys are easy) and mess around with them. Invite a friend over and have a “contest”. Some ideas are: a scavenger hunt, (hide things and then look for them with clues) or see who can get their horse through or around the obstacles: kind of like a relay race! (Horses love to play!) Or Simon Says, or Follow the Leader, got the idea?

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In Photo 1, Tess earns 10 points for putting her foot ON the alligator.

Another of my favorite games is the PICK ME UP game (Photo 2). You climb on something, and ask your horse to come pick you up! What a fun way to build communication, patience and mounting skills.

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See if you can play with the ball, or ride your horse while sitting under an umbrella (Photos 3 and 4). Of course, if you horse is afraid of any of the toys, use approach and retreat with him and the ball or umbrella until he is relaxed and accepting. If he needs to move his feet, just walk AWAY from him, and keep the scary object out of reach. After you walk a bit, with him following at a distance of his choosing, he will probably stop being afraid and start being curious about your new toy!

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Setting up small obstacles for your horse to go over is also fun, and it builds his coordination and willingness to follow your direction. Plus, he gets to learn how to jump, without the added challenge of carrying the weight of a rider! (Photo 5)

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Asking your horse to step up into a tire (Photo 6), while ignoring the distractions of flapping tarps and other horses and riders, is excellent preparation for taking him other places, where he will need to focus on you, and not on the other things going on.

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Riding double is another fun way to try something new after school (Photo 7). Just make sure every rider has a basic understanding of horse behavior, permission from their parents, and a helmet.

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Leadership is a key ingredient in staying safe! If you have questions, please find someone to help you. Before riding double, make sure your horse is prepared for the extra set of legs. You can make a dummy rider out of an old pair of jeans, stuffed with sand and straw, and put that up behind you before you put your actual friend on! Hoofprint

Want more ideas?
We would love to hear from you.

Thanks to the models: Tess, rescued 3 months ago, Maude, rescued 6 months ago, Rocket, (resident of Cloud9 Ranch since birth) and our human children, Kylee Flagg, age 9, Jordan Faulconer, age 8, Peyton Rhodes, age 7 and Sierra Dally age 10.


About the author:
Nancy Faulconer, author of "Living with Horses and Children" and its related workbooks, is the proprietor of Cloud9 Ranch in Naples, Florida where she lives with her two children, one husband, 16 horses, 2 Great Danes, 3 cats, 2 goats and a Chihuahua.

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