How do you keep a horse active when you can’t ride? Hand-walking activities can be interesting and fun for both horse and handler. Sarah Judson, owner/operator of Sage and Spur Ranch in San Luis Obispo, shares and demonstrates her ideas and activities for keeping horses active when they can’t be ridden,
“30% of our boarders are retired, young or in rehab,” remarks Sarah. Some of these horses rely on Sarah and her team to get them out. Many horses are mostly managed by their owners who find hand-walking activities beneficial. Keeping a horse active, when you can’t ride is a struggle many riders face.
Why Hand-walking a Horse may be Necessary
There are many reasons why a horse isn’t rideable for a period of time, or permanently. Rain and the resulting mud can render arenas and trails unrideable for awhile. Young horses just getting started are introduced to activities through groundwork, retired horses still need to be active, a high-energy horse may need extra warm-up time or something to do when not being ridden, and horses returning from or healing from an injury may need a way to be active without a rider.
So, What Hand-walking activities Can You Do With Your Horse?
Hand-Walking Ground Poles in the Arena
Set up poles to hand-walk or trot a horse over in the arena. Ground poles make a horse think and can teach rhythm while asking the horse to pick up its feet just a little more.
There are endless ways to set up grids even with as few as four poles. Keep in mind these measurement basics. Walk or trot poles should be spaced about four feet apart for walking over, and at least 2 feet apart for walking between.
Hand-Walking Trail Obstacles
Horses like a mental challenge, a puzzle to figure out. Hand-walking trail obstacles provides this challenge. Bridges, logs, teeter-totters, gates, cones, barrels, tarps and more can all be introduced in-hand.
Be sure you have good groundwork communication with your horse set before tackling obstacles. Setting a foundation from the ground will greatly enhance your saddle time, when and if you are able to ride again.
Go For a Hand-walking Trail Ride
Long slow distant work up and down hills strengthens back and butt muscles, while building up legs. Hand-walking a horse up and down hills can be beneficial for all horses.
Young horses taken on trail-walks can find their confidence and balance without the added stress of also learning to balance a rider, or deal with an unbalanced rider.
An unconfident horse of any age can also enjoy trail-walks as a way to be exposed to varying terrain and obstacles while the handler manages the horse from the end of the lead rope, instead of on its back.
SLO Sage and Spur Ranch Offers a Variety of Hand-walking Activities
Hand-walking activities are good for both horse and handler. SLO Sage and Spur Ranch offers many way riders can involve their horse in hand-walking activities. Whether it be poles in the arena, negotiating logs and bridges or a slow walk up and along the perimeter trail, or simply grazing and chatting with friends, both horse and handler will enjoy the connection and exercise experienced.