Discover activities and fun things to do with your horse that you’ll both love!
Have you ever wondered how you can have fun with your horse? Horses are naturally playful creatures, and there are many ways to have fun with them. New training exercises, playtime, food-based puzzles or just spending some bonding time with your horse are all fun things you can do with your horse.
You might not associate the word ‘fun’ with horses, but, just like cats and dogs, horses love to play. In their natural state, horses in a herd will have fun playing with each other for long periods. Having fun is an important part of environmental enrichment for horses, keeping them happy and in a good state of mental health.
Most horses love having fun with toys, giving them hours of entertainment. My first childhood pony was a two-year-old Shetland colt with a very mischievous sense of fun. He would enjoy nothing more than playing with a soft ball, kicking it, jumping on it, and even running around with it between his teeth!
There are many toys available for horse owners to purchase, such as play balls and hanging stall toys. Some toys also have food rewards, such as treat balls and licks. Horses may get bored of having the same toy all the time, so swap them regularly to make sure that your horse has as much fun as possible.
It is important to make sure that toys are safe for your horse, with no sharp edges or hazards. Horses can be known to eat some odd things so make sure that there are no loose parts that could be ingested. Toys that hold treats or rewards should be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria from building up.
As you will see from this video, horses will play and have lots of fun with the right toys!
All horses love food, and eating does not just have to be a necessity – there are ways to make a fun activity for you and your horse as well. Try hiding treats or food in amongst their bedding to encourage some natural foraging behavior. Hanging vegetables such as carrots up in the stall can also be a fun game to keep your horse entertained.
One of the best ideas I have seen is a forage box – a cardboard box stuffed with hay and other treats. Herbs and other non-poisonous plants can be mixed in as well. Your horse will have fun searching out his favorite nibbles, probably destroying the box in the process!
3. Take your horse for a walk
This might sound an unusual thing to do but taking your horse for a walk can be a fun activity for you both. In the wild horses will walk a considerable distance each day, quite different from the barn and paddock most modern horses are kept in. Going for a relaxed walk with your horse means they get to see, hear and smell the surrounding area.
Going for a walk with your horse also allows you to relax and enjoy the local area with your horse. During ridden exercise, the tendency is to focus on how the horse is performing, its behavior and movement. A gentle walk removes these pressures and allows you to just enjoy being with your horse, enjoying the natural environment together.
4. Play in water
Water – horses either love it or hate it! A horse rescue shelter I used to work at would put inflatable paddling pools of water in the paddock on hot days for supervised playtime – there really is nothing cuter than a gang of ponies splashing water at each other. A shallow pond in your paddock will give your horse the opportunity to play with water, and they will probably have a good roll in the mud as well.
Some horses have fun with water by playing in their water trough, splashing water and dunking their muzzles to blow bubbles. Try floating carrot sticks or apple slices on the water to see them having fun trying to catch them – apple bobbing for horses! Your horse may also enjoy playing with the hose, so next time you are filling the watering trough see if you can instigate some playtime.
5. Teach your horse tricks
Teaching your horse to do tricks is not just educational, it can be fun for both you and your horse. Horses like learning tricks if the training is carried out in a fun and positive way. Learning tricks can break up the monotony of training and gives you and your horse a fun activity to do together.
Most people think of tricks as something complicated, like teaching your horse to lie down or bow. However, there are simple tricks that any horse owner can try to teach their horse for fun. Some of my favorites are teaching your horse to smile for food, kiss you, or even hug you!
6. Free play
There is nothing more fun than watching your horse express his natural behavior and happiness through play, and free play sessions are a great way to achieve this. Free play means letting your horse loose in an environment that is safe for him to buck, roll, jump and run. If you have ever turned out your horse into a snowy paddock you have probably witnessed some free play in action!
All-weather arenas can be perfect for letting your horse express his natural behavior. Make sure the arena is safe and free from hazards and obstacles. The fence must be high enough that your horse cannot jump out, and all gates must be securely closed.
Free play can be as simple as giving your horse the space to explore a new environment, perhaps with some toys. You may want to spice it up a bit with some loose schooling activities, obstacles, or jumps.
Pay attention to your safety during free play sessions. Body and head protection must be worn, and as with all training exercises make sure someone knows where you are. Judge if your horse’s temperament is suitable for free play – this exercise is more suited to calm horses with a playful nature.
This horse is certainly making the most of his free play session!
7. Build an obstacle course
If you are doing some in-hand training with your horse, using obstacles can make this into a fun activity for you and your horse. You may be lucky enough to live near an obstacle course that you can hire. If not, it is easy and inexpensive to create some simple obstacles for you and your horse to enjoy.
Obstacles can be built from everyday items such as tires, logs, cones, and tarpaulins. Placing a tarpaulin on the ground held in place with logs gives you an obstacle to walk over. Start by walking between the logs over the tarpaulin, and as your horse gets more confident ask him to walk over the logs as well.
Teaching your horse to climb stairs is a fun activity for you both. Tires can be used as steps – fill a large tire with soil and pack it down until it is solid. Ask your horse to place just one foreleg on the soil at first and build the exercise up slowly until they feel confident to walk up and over the tire.
Other everyday objects can be used to create an agility-style obstacle course. Use flags, cones, and balls to create hazards for your horse to negotiate. These can be great for spook-busting as well, helping your horse to overcome his fears.
Grooming does not have to be a chore – you can make this into a fun activity for you and your horse to enjoy. Grooming should be a relaxing and calming experience for both of you; an opportunity to bond with your horse. Horses all have different personalities and enjoy different things when being groomed, so use this time to learn about your horse and what he enjoys.
When grooming, watch for your horse’s reaction to different techniques and respond to this accordingly. For example, he may like having his neck curry-combed, so keep coming back to this in-between grooming other areas. If his top lip is extended and twitching then he is certainly enjoying what you are doing!
9. Hanging out with your horse
This might sound a bit of an odd idea, but how much time do you spend just hanging out with your horse? Most horse owners are so busy taking care of their beloved animals that they don’t have time to relax with them as well. Try taking some time out of your day to just chill with them and have a bit of fun.
If your horse is in his stall, take the time just to be in the stall with him and watch what he does. Observe how he spends his time and get to know his habits and mannerisms. You may find that he simply wants to come and hang out next to you, which is great!
In the paddock try just sitting and watching your horse. Notice how he explores and finds food, and how he interacts with other horses. Again, he might come and stand near you to enjoy some ‘do nothing’ time.
The aim of hanging out with your horse is to encourage you both to relax and learn more about each other. Horses are naturally drawn to relaxed people. Spending time together in this way will help to improve communication and strengthen your bond with your horse.
10. Make everyday chores fun
I think that all horse owners would agree that taking care of horses involves a lot of work! However, we can use these daily chores to have fun with our horses.
At feeding time you could teach your horse to kiss you or hug you in return for food. Feeding treats to your horse can also be fun if you turn it into a game. Hide treats around the stall or in buckets to see how long it takes your horse to find them.
Exploit your horse’s playful nature and make time to have some fun with him while carrying out your daily chores. A little spray with the hose while you are filling the trough can soon lead to a fun game of water splashing.
Incorporating some obstacle training when coming in from the paddock to the barn can be fun for your horse. You could also try taking a different route to add in some variety or stop off for some hand-grazing along the way.
11. Ridden fun
A lot of time ridden work for your horse tends to be exactly that – work! Break up the routine of arena training and riding the same old trails with some fun ridden activities.
Obstacle training can be great fun when ridden. You may have already started this on the ground, but doing it mounted adds a whole new level of challenge! Turn your arena into an agility course using poles, cones, and tarps.
Playing ridden games with a friend is a fun activity for you and your horse. Ball and bucket type games are a good challenge, testing the relationship between horse and rider. Dressing up games and relay races are also fun games your horse might enjoy.
Horses are very responsive to music, so try riding in the arena whilst playing some of your favorite tunes. You may find that your horse adapts his rhythm and tempo in time with the music. Some horses also enjoy singing so try exercising your vocal cords whilst out riding and see how he responds!
Remember when you were a child and thought nothing of jumping on a pony bareback with just a halter? Recreate this with your horse by experimenting with some bareback riding sessions or use a bitless bridle. Riding bitless or bareback can be a great way to have fun with your horse whilst also reinforcing the bond between horse and owner.
Fun activities with your horse are a great way to strengthen your bond and prevent boredom. Having fun also helps your horse to think and engage the brain. Which fun activities are you going to try next with your horse?