Horse shows used to be the reason for Miniature Horses as far as I was concerned. I’d spend all year planning the shows, practicing for them. They were a huge goal, and other activities were there, sure, but not as important.
So if you’ve been devastated by the (understandable) cancellation of the shows and events this year, I understand where you’re coming from. During that time everything I did with my horses was either care or show related, and it would’ve been really hard for me to adjust to the idea that I had no shows to work towards.
Things have changed for me these days. I still love to go to a show, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the whole reason I have horses anymore, it’s just one of many fun things I do with them.
If you are feeling a bit lost with the unexpected change in plans, then I’ve compiled this list to help give you some ideas of things you and your horse can have fun with, until we can all get together at a horse show again – and stay tuned at the end for a challenge to help motivate all of us!
If, like me, you find a competitive goal very motivating, find an online competition to enter! My favourite is the International Horse Agility Club, where you build the course, practice your pattern, and then film your entry and you get feedback and a ribbon from England! You can learn more about the agility club by listening to my interview with founder Vanessa Bee in this podcast episode, or this one with Claire Perilli, 2019 World Agility Champion, or by visiting their website! (They have a free course available now to try it out!)
Other online competitions are available, including the Online Miniature Horse Show which takes place on Facebook. You can learn more in this podcast episode or by visiting their group. There are more and more online competitions available, so you can find the one that’s right for you!
Challenges (like the one I’m going to offer at the end of this post!) are also a great way to stay motivating, competing against yourself instead of others. It might be as simple as time spent with your horse, or tracking mileage, or learning a new skill.
The American Miniature Horse Association has a long running Mini Hours program where you can earn rewards for time spent with your horse. And I happen to have some inside information that the Western Canadian Miniature Horse Club is going to be rolling out a whole series of fun online challenges over the next few months, so be sure to like them on Facebook to follow along!
If you’re interested in tracking time spent doing various activities you can also try The Essential Horse Challenge.
Teach Your Horse a Trick
Like I said in this article (click to read), trick training is an amazing way to bond with your horse, and is an enjoyable activity to spend together. Something as simple as stepping on a podium or smiling for a treat is easy to teach, and rewarding for both horse and human. The options are only limited by your imagination! If you need some help getting started, I have a recording of a previous live course available here on Trick Training Basics.
To combine trick training and challenges, check out the All Animals NTD Spark Team.
Do A Photo Shoot
Whether a traditional photoshoot to showcase your horse’s good looks, or a fun themed photo, a photo shoot is a great opportunity to get your horse all shiny and beautiful and have some fun! Get a friend (that you live with or can socially distance from while you take photos!) to help, be creative and have fun – there’s no need for a fancy camera unless you want to, remember this is for fun! Maybe you want a new glamour photo for Facebook, or maybe you want to make a fun theme or costume, like fairytale, or beach, or anything you can imagine. (Hint – showcase the trick you taught!) And then share your photos on social media so everyone else can enjoy them too!
Go For A Walk
This isn’t something that I’d done much of, just walking or hiking with my horses, but when my oldest and dearest horse needed some gentle exercise we started daily walks and it’s been so much fun, for both horses and humans. You don’t need to go far – walk around your neighbourhood or your own pastures, explore the far corner of the property, or – like we do – go up and down the driveway. It’s a very pleasant way to spend time with your horse, and great for young or nervous horses to help build their confidence and their relationship with you.
Practice a Skill
If you’re a show person, there is probably one thing that comes to mind that you always wish went a little better at the shows. And if you’re not, it’s fun to learn something new! Practice teaching your horse to sidepass, or trot around cones, or jump! Whatever your horse needs to practice to be better than ever at their 2021 shows, or something that appeals to you as a fun new skill!
Hang Out With Your Horse
We can learn a lot about our horse, and develop a closer connection with them, but just spending undemanding time together. Go sit with them in the pasture, or take them for a hand graze on the lawn. Watch how they interact with the other horses in their herd, or which bits of grass are their favourite. Find their favourite scritchy spots and see if you can make their nose wiggle. Practice syncing your breathing with theirs, and be in the moment with them, instead of working on the next goal.
Make Someone Smile
Miniature Horses make people smile. It’s their superpower. Find a way to share those smiles, even if it means you have to get creative. Could you arrange a window visit at your local care home? Walk or drive through the neighbourhood and wave at your neighbours? Share a video of your horse being his adorable self on your social media so others can enjoy your horses like you do?
Do An Enrichment Exercise
An enrichment exercise is when you do something to allow the horse to engage and have fun in their own environment. Maybe you hide food throughout their paddock before you turn them out and watch them find it. Or introduce a new toy or other safe item for them to interact with. You could let them into a new space to explore or give them a special new treat to try. It’ll give your horse something new to and fun to explore, and be fun (and educational!) for you as you watch to see how they approach it.
Play at Liberty
See if your horse will engage and play with you with “no strings attached” – also, no whips or noisemakers or chasing. Will your horse follow you if they have the choice to do so? Reward the effort and engagement (that means treats in my book!) and encourage play! There’s nothing like running with your horse with them free and choosing to play with you – and if you’re worried about being safe from overly exuberant play, then this works just as well with you safely behind a fence!
The Miniature Horsemanship May Challenge!
Do 10 different activities with your horse (or horses) in the month of May!
You can use the one’s on my list, or come up with your own, as long as you do ten different fun things together – and share with us in the Facebook Community and with your friends on social media! Keep using the #minifunchallenge hashtag so we can find your posts, and when you’ve completed 10 send me an email and I’ll enter you in a draw to win a $50 credit towards any of my online courses!