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so I have heard that it is good to play with your horse they don't see you as just "Oh hear comes the human that means work" but what do you play with them?? I have been trying to figure it out because a dog you can just go out there and play with them but what do you play with a horse???:unsure::unsure::unsure::unsure:
 

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Liberty work. Really at liberty. Teach them tricks. Reward them with stuff they like: treats, scratches, verbal praise. Just bring them in and feed them and groom them.
 

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Yes, Liberty. Or just groom them. Read a book next to them. Play with their mane. Give them treats... Pet them.... Just hang out with them so they know you aren't always work work work.
 

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so I have heard that it is good to play with your horse they don't see you as just "Oh hear comes the human that means work" but what do you play with them?? I have been trying to figure it out because a dog you can just go out there and play with them but what do you play with a horse???:unsure::unsure::unsure::unsure:

I read about these horse “games”: Parelli Natural Horsemanship: The Seven Games - Horse Illustrated. Has anyone tried them? I wonder if horses find them fun and if they do help improve communication and bonding.
 

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I also go out in their pasture and just stand with them while they graze or doze. I feel like it makes them feel like I'm part of the herd.
 

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Re: Parelli games. They aren't actually games. I don't think horses think of them that way, either. It's just groundwork. I've got nothing against groundwork, and in fact I did a Parelli clinic and my Pony really had a good time, BUT I think Parelli is mostly marketing. Lots of trainers will teach you how to do groundwork without acting like they invented it.

ETA: this is how I think of these "games." Imagine that I "invented" a new diet that was basically just eat food as close to natural as possible. And I said you could have lots of "tasty treats." And "tasty treats" were just raw carrots. I can call them "tasty treats" but you're going to look at them and think, "Hmmmmm..." Basically these "games" are like my "tasty treats" -- they're something everyone already knows about, repackaged to make you think they're something special.
 

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I love listening to them munch on hay. I have gone down to read a book with them or just sat in a lawn chair with them. I think I enjoy it more than they do!
 

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I agree with just being with them. Some won't be interested in playing and tricks, but their character will give you an idea about what you can do together.

My gelding could only be described as having a sense of humour. We'd sit in the field together, he'd follow me with his head in my back and he loved playing chase in the woods. We'd dodge between trees and hide, he'd come and find me then gallop away and burst out into the open and stop to wait for his sweaty, puffing human. He'd come back to find me if I was too slow. If I wasn't avaliable, he'd find one of our yard cats; poor little guys! He'd play find the mint when I presented him with two closed hands. He loved ear scratches that involved getting as deep inside his ear as possible and if you presented him with a ball, he pass it back and forth for hours.
 

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I love listening to them munch on hay. I have gone down to read a book with them or just sat in a lawn chair with them. I think I enjoy it more than they do!
Me too! My favorite is a cool and rainy day. I bring them all in to the barn and feed them hay, and then listen as they munch it. It's so nice and cozy!
 

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Just being with your horse can strengthen your bond with them and give them a break from riding. I often “play” with my mare in the pasture, just running around, grooming, and hanging out. I try and encourage her to engage in freedom of movement and play. Clicker training is also a really great way to develop a bond with your horse and play with them. All horses like +R and you don’t have to use it to teach fancy tricks.
 

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I initiate races, but it's not something most should do. Easy to get kicked or plowed over.
Grooming, petting, just hanging out, letting them come into your space/ask for attention and interacting with them on a level closer to theirs instead of boss b*tch all the time.
 

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You've got really good advice here. One thing I'd say - a good foundation for any of these activities is to first teach yourself to be "present", for lack of a better way to put it. When you're out just hanging with your horses (which is invaluable, as stated; some of the best hours I've spent with my horses have been doing this) you're going to want to stay completely present. This is a good opportunity even to do something like meditating. Horses know when your mind is off on other things and they don't appreciate it - to a horse, as a herd animal and prey animal, it's awfully important to be right in the present moment at all times. I think it's a great chance for us to really practice this. I have spent hours out in the field with my girls just being there, noticing the wind on my face, the smells, noticing when something caught there attention - you'll notice in a herd if one horse raises his head and p.ricks his ears towards something the rest of them have a look too. They're always in tune to each other's thoughts and thus can pick up on any possible danger or "interesting thing" immediately. So when I'm out with them I pay complete attention to what they're doing and saying with their bodies and I show it by mimicking them if it's a bigger response. You're going to want to notice any ear flick, shifting of weight, worried look, etc. All of these things tell us about what our horses are thinking. If one of the horses goes off to investigate something interesting they've spotted I pay total attention to it as well or even follow. If they spot something that worries them I straighten up and turn to stare at it as well. Then after establishing that it's not a threat, as they do, you show it by turning away again, relaxing your body/slouching a bit, and letting out a deep breath. Horses notice when you do these things in response to them (and when you're watching them), and they remember it. A great quote I've heard is "Horses know when you know and they know when you don't" - horses are so aware naturally and they are very aware when we're not aware. It gives them a feeling of security to know that you're so in tune with them and that you'll listen to the slight things they say with their body language. It's a great way to gain trust and become a part of the herd. I think it's really good practice too because when you're in different situations with them it will already second nature for you to be completely present and listening to the horse. I know for myself, as soon as I step into the pasture I take a breath, relax, and ground myself, without even thinking about it. It makes any horse-time very relaxing and destressing for me.

Good for you learning about this. Your horse and you both will appreciate it. :)
 

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I don't think beginners should play with horses much at all. I bet a lot of people will disagree with me, but for one thing, horses are huge and play violently if they really get into it.

Secondly, you can reinforce things that can become bad habits, such as encouraging them to bite on things.

That said, I HAVE played very lightly with my old horse; things like putting my whip in front of him and asking him to grab it, and then tugging gently on it. Carrot stretches are a form of 'play'. Enticing him with one delicious strand of alfalfa to reach way out. But, do you see how these 'games' can encourage bad behavior in a horse, too?

I agree more with how @JoBlueQuarter describes the act of just 'being' with your horse. That is what horses enjoy most.
 

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+++ JBlueQuarter's post. One of the best pieces of advice or recommendations I received when first getting a horse was, "a lot depends on just spending time with your horse". And that was meant on the ground not on them.

One video I watched about using play to bond and motivate your horse that involved running with them cautioned about the danger involved as horses can do things in play for fun that are kind of rough on a human. So before any of that is done, the recommendation was the needed ability to read your horse carefully in order to stay safe was of paramount importance.
 

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I forgot to mention, I think it's really super that you're asking this question. There are at least 20 boarders and owners at my boarding barn, but I can count on one hand how many of them ever seem to spend ANY time with their horse outside of riding. I personally don't get it. I love riding my horses, but I honestly enjoy the time I spend with them on the ground much more. I can't wait until we get onto our own property and I can see them every single day.

About playing chase with your horse. I taught Pony to do this, and it was a LOT of fun. BUT. He got really worked up. We'd play chase with me sprinting and him cantering, and he'd kick out. I mean, nowhere near me, and obviously just out of high spirits, but still, if he had mis-judged that could have been deadly. Also he'd get a little nippy afterwards. So, sadly, we have stopped. I'm sure I'll try again in the future, because I just loved it. I loved having him canter next to me as I sprinted, and I loved the way he'd screech to a stop as soon as I did. It was great exercise for both of us, too. I think he just wanted to play with me the same way he'd play with another horse, and THAT is NOT safe for humans. Horses play rough!
 

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We have an old horse at our yard who holds a lunging whip in his mouth and “whips” people. It doesn’t hurt and he thinks it the best thing ever. You can practically hear him cackling. I have no idea how he picked that up.

My mare is a very curious critter but I can’t really let her get away with it too much because she ends up not paying attention to me and using it as an excuse not to work. “Ohhhh, loooook - a ground pole! How interesting!”. Yeah, right, pull the other one.
 

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Do you know the term "horseplay"? It signifies rough and tumble activities. Horses kick, bite and pound each other for fun. They try to hook the front leg of the other with their leg causeing them to fall. Then try to lay down on them and crush them with their chest. No thank you. I don't want to 'play' what horses consider play.
 

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OK here is a game I play with Arago when he is in the turnout with other horses. It is called The Carrot Handoff.

I have pieces of carrot hidden on my person. I reveal to him that I have carrots. He takes a carrot piece (carrots must be cut up or he won't eat them, he sticks them out of his mouth like a cigar). The other horses see this and of course come over, jostling for carrots and Arago backs away. I walk off and all the horses follow. This is really kind of dangerous. You do NOT want to find yourself in the middle of a horse fight. I carry a crop to wave around if the others get too demanding and I will withdraw behind horse jumps and objects. Arago will be away from the others because he is low ranking. I walk quickly past him and hand him the carrot. Then walking briskly away avoiding the rest of the mob so I can handoff another and another. Arago knows this game pretty well.
 
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