When the ground is slippery due to rain, mud, ice or snow, it’s more important than ever that your horse is relaxed when you’re leading him from the ground.  It is just too scary when a horse gets overexcited and slips and the risk of injury is high.

Sue palmer Dec 2013 pic HAT
Here’s a tip you can put into practice even if the weather is so bad you can’t get your horse out of the stable or field!  Standing still is one of the most important exercises that a horse can become skilled at.  It’s essential in your ridden work from a safety point of view – no one wants their horse to move off as they get on, or walk off during the ‘halt, salute’ of Prelim 14, or to fidget into the path of an oncoming car out hacking!
Pick an area to ask your horse to stand still, for example a corner of the stable.  Stand directly in front of him, so that you can see his hind feet when you look between his front feet.  Back away from him one step, leaving the rope loose so that he doesn’t think you’re leading him forwards.  If he stands still, walk gently back to him after around five seconds, and give him a stroke as a reward, then repeat the exercise several times.  If he takes a step, quickly move him back to the position that he was originally in, and begin the exercise again.

After a few repetitions, if you are being clear with your body language and your timing, your horse will begin to understand that you are asking him to stand still, and rewarding him when he does so.  You can then develop the exercise by backing further and further away from him or stepping out to the side rather than directly back.  Try to focus on the reward, rather than the correction.  Each time you progress the exercise, remember it’s the reward the lets the horse know he’s done the right thing.

Horse massage is another a great way of encouraging your horse to stand still, be calm, and trust in his handler.  You can then put this calmness and trust into practice when the ground outside is slippery!

Read more related Horse Behaviour articles
 visit www.thehorsephysio.co.uk and sign up to our newsletter. Sue Palmer is a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist, an Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Associate and a BHSAI.