Friday, February 19, 2010

Horses and Play

These are just some thoughts that have been going round and round in my poor little brain.

In terms of my training, my number one priority is for it to be ethical. My standards of ethical, which are probably different than other peoples but by no means at the extreme end of the scale. Also, that is not meant as a judgement. On some people and their forms of training definitely. Rollkur anyone? But on your average person no. I just want to do things differently.

I want my horse to enjoy what he does. I want to feel that he has a choice. I want to be his leader but I don't want to dominate him. When I say I want him to have a choice, I want to be able to ask my horse to do something and him want to do it. This is a huge distinction in my mind from telling and forcing a horse to do something. I'm sure a lot of people will read this and laugh and think I'm out of my mind. That's cool. But I really hope that there are some that think along the same lines as me.

This brings me back to horses and play. In a wild setting I am unsure how much time a herd would have to play seeing that they're busy surviving and all. I'm not going to glamorise wild horses, they have a rough hard life that I'm sure most of our domestic horses given the choice would refuse. However foals play even in the wild and I know for sure horses kept in a herd out at pasture will play. The sight of horses running and bucking just for the pleasure of it is one that always gives me a big grin.

I think it is important for every horse to experience play and to experience it with their human too if possible. So much of the interaction between human and horse is purpose driven. I feel very sad for the horses who live boxed 24/7 with hardly any contact with other horses. The ones that are pulled out and worked like machines and put away. This is the complete opposite of how a horse is designed by nature to live. There is no spontaneity, no play. I do think that people are becoming more aware of this though and there has been a definite change. More and more people are just hanging with their horses. There are more and more trainers who are advocates of play and fun with your horse. So I'm having a look at what I do with Fox and seeing what I can change.


  1. I think exactly the same way! I don't want my horse to get bored while working, so I change it up, we go different places and she loves to run, so I let her. I now know that she loves to go out on rides and I am very pleased with that. Her training is not complete, there are things that I want her to know, like rollbacks, side pass and leg yields, but she is only four and I have a lot of time to show her. Change up the things you do with Fox. When we bale the hay, we usually go play in it making the horses do tight turns around them and switching bales so they don't know what to expect, they really pay attention to our commands and never expect to go around one bale.

    We usually ride in pairs or three so it makes it interesting to gallop along another horse, just like in the wild. Now that I am talking about it, I can wait to do it again... and I'm sure Dandy will enjoy it too. I'll get working on her transistions too as soon as the snow and mud are gone... yeah... we're in winter! lol

  2. LOL I'm glad you understood what I was going on about!!

  3. Exactly. If it isn't fun for the both of you, why bother? Try playing soccer on horseback, or shoot some hoops while riding. I don't think ground play games are quite as good an idea.
    I think the fun and games should happen while you're riding.
    Grooming and ground work should be fun, but always geared to obedience and safety.

  4. Only problem is I'm still not able to ride:( so play on the ground is all we can do at the moment.

    But all your ideas are making me hanker for a good ride!

  5. Hmmm. sorry, I wasn't paying attention, happens with age:)

    Well, find something he enjoys doing, a toy that interests him, and build a game around that.
    I just didn't want him thinking YOU are a toy;)
    Does he like jolly balls?

  6. I don't want him thinking I'm a toy either! Have been thinking about getting him some kind of ball, that could be fun.