Are Your Horse Activities
"Stalled" due to COVID 19?
By Lisa Bockholt, John Lyons Certified Trainer

Part 1 of 2

Stalled - Lisa Bockholt
COVID-19 can put a damper on horse activities, especially when it comes to attending horse shows and events. Here's some suggestions for keeping your horses tuned up, and improving their performance and responsiveness even when you are confined to your ranch or stable.

TURN AND FACE ON COMMAND - Make it a point that every time you approach your horse in a stall or confined area, they must turn and face you on command. By practicing this 100% of time, you will have developed a fool-proof cue that will work for you once your horse is turned out in a larger area.

COME WHEN CALLED - Practice having your horse come to you on cue. The more you practice this exercise in a small area, the better it will be when you graduate to a larger area such as a round pen, corral, or even a small pasture.

PICKING UP FEET - How many times have you struggled trying to lift your horse's feet off the ground? Wouldn't it be easier if your horse knew a cue to lift or give his hoof to you when you reached for it? Any time is the perfect time for teaching your horse how to "give" his feet for the farrier. Not only will this give you something fun to do with your horse, but more importantly, it will improve your horse's manners next time the farrier comes to trim!

TEACH YOUR HORSE A TRICK - Whether it's teaching your horse to put his foot up on a bucket, pick up a hat off the ground, or take a bow, teaching your horse a trick is something you can do in rainy weather or during self-quarantine to pass the time. Best of all, trick training has countless numbers of other benefits. Not only does trick training teach discipline, and improve responsiveness, it also improves mental charity (both yours and your horse's!) and helps develop greater flexibility and freedom of movement.

DESENSITIZE - Is your horse a little on the cinchy side? Hard to bridle? Doesn't like his sheath cleaned? During self-quarantine is the perfect time to improve on many areas in which your horse is a bit shy or sensitive. Ideas: Scrunch an aluminum can all around your horse's head, ears, shoulders, under his belly. Does the scary object/noise bother him? Continue, until the horse accepts the stimulant in a relaxed manner. Toss it under his legs. Kick it around under him like a soccer ball. Use your imagination.

PLAY SOCCER - Speaking of soccer...kick a soccer ball towards your horse. Will he stand calmly as it rolls towards him? Kick it under his belly, legs, and nose. Kick it towards him so that it touches one front foot. Reward with a small treat when horse moves a front foot and touches the ball. Each time horse touches the ball with a front foot, reward with a small treat. Expand on the behavior, only rewarding when the action becomes larger in nature. Pretty soon, you'll have your horse kicking the ball back to you, and you can take this show on the road!

HIP CONTROL - Does your horse move his hips away from you on cue? Each time you approach your horse in the stall, ask the hips to move away from you. Once you've taught this cue, your horse should be able to move his hips away no matter what space he is confined to. This exercise will make your horse much safer to be around, and build better hip control for you, which is something you need later on when you ride.

For questions you can call Lisa at 410-608-2195 or email