Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
10 Things to Do With Your Horse in February
February can be a long, cold month in some parts of the US, making it one of horse owners' least favorite months of the year. It doesn't have to be, though. There are plenty of things that riders and horse owners can do this month, productive things to prepare for the good riding weather to come, as well as just for fun.
1. Clean Your Tack
If the weather isn't great and you aren't able to do much riding, it is the perfect time of year to give your tack a good cleaning. Bring it home from the barn so your fingers don't freeze. Watch your favorite horse movie or binge on your favorite trashy TV show and get your tack clean and conditioned. No better way to start the spring riding season than with clean tack!
2. Plan How You Will Recondition Your Horse After Time Off
Just like we get sore when we first get on and ride after time off, we can't forget that our horses also need to get back in shape. Grab a calendar and make a riding schedule. Plan how you will get your horse back in shape. Doing too much too soon is an easy way to get your horse sore and grouchy.
Avoid starting off the season with a resentful horse by planning a riding schedule that eases your horse (and yourself) back into work without overdoing it. It will help your horse both physically and mentally.
3. Set Goals
If you have read my writing before, you probably know that I'm big on journaling and goal setting. February is the perfect time of year to spend time starting a riding journal and setting goals.
I would suggest setting overall goals for the year and then breaking them down into weekly and monthly goals and tasks. Breaking it down into smaller steps will make goals seem less daunting and more attainable.
4. Learn About a New Discipline
If you ride English, spend some time reading about western riding. If you are a dressage rider, maybe read up on eventing. Learning about new disciplines might inspire you to try something new with your horse.
If nothing else, seeing the horse world from a fresh perspective will help you to realize that horsemanship is not only a journey but a diverse one. It will also help you appreciate that you can take tidbits you learn from other disciplines and apply them to your horse and your riding.
Never know, you might find a discipline that you are interested in enough that when the weather breaks, you actually want to give it a try!
5. Brush Up on Ground Work
Winter is the perfect time to brush up on groundwork with your horse. Sometimes we let things slide when the weather is good, and we just want to jump on and ride.
Use the winter weather months to reestablish your horse's good ground manners. This is something you can do in the barn aisle or even the stall if need be. Establishing leadership on the ground will only benefit you when it is time to start under saddle work again.
6. Teach Your Horse a Trick
There are tons of youtube videos and books about teaching horses tricks. Do some reading and research, and pick a trick to teach your horse. Anything from bowing to lifting their leg with just the tap of a finger.
There are a million tricks you can teach your horse. Do some research, start with something easy, and give it a try. If nothing else, I bet you will have a lot of fun in the process!
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7. Work Out/Exercise
Probably the last thing you want to hear! The thing is, the better shape you are in when you start riding again, the better your rides will go. Use your time inside to exercise and work out. Get yourself in the best shape possible.
You don't have to have a gym membership to work out! There are tons of youtube videos and information online to help you come up with an exercise regimen that works for you!
Think of how great it will feel to get back on your horse after a lot of time off and feel like you can still walk afterward!
8. Ride Bareback
Winter is the perfect time to practice riding bareback. Your horse's body heat will keep you warm! Even if the ground isn't great and you can only walk, it is still beneficial.
Riding bareback is great for improving balance. You can also learn a lot by riding bareback when it is so easy to feel your horse's body underneath you. There will be subtle things that you will notice that you don't with a saddle between you and your horse.
9. Experiment With Horse Treat Recipes
There are tons of horse treat recipes . . . in books, online, they are not hard to come by. Experiment with making horse treats; see which ones your horse likes best.
You know the things horses like; you could even get creative and make your own horse treat recipe.
Make sure to share the goodies with your horsey friends at the barn. Give each horse at the barn Valentine's Day treats homemade by you from you and your horse!
10. Read Horse Books or Binge-Watch Horse Movies
There is no better time for binge-watching your favorite horse movies than February. If it is cold and dark, you can cuddle up under a blanket with a hot cup of coffee and get your horse fix.
Watch the horse movies you were obsessed with when you were a kid. Watch YouTube videos on training topics that interest you. There are zillion horse books out there just waiting to be read. From non-fiction to fiction, take your pick!
When springtime comes and the weather improves, you do not want to waste time inside, so winter is the perfect time for being a horse-crazy person watching and reading all you can about horses!
Think positive; spring is right around the corner!
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on February 11, 2019:
Thank you. Romeo is one of the most gentle and well-trained horses I have ever owned!
Francine Glasser from Kingston, NY on February 11, 2019:
What a beautiful horse and you take so much care of her!