What do you do with your horse when you can’t ride?

I’m coming to terms with and beginning to accept that it’s possible that I may never be able to ride again. I’ve been in a limbo of “I really should right, buuuut” for a long time now, and honestly, it’s kind of a relief to let go of the expectation that I need to ride.

I’m mostly into breeding nowadays anyway, but I do want to keep my horses in shape, both mentally and physically! I know there are plenty of groundwork exercises that can be done that really help muscular development. I’ve done liberty in the past but I probably need more rehab from my latest accident/surgery before I can run around the arena for that again.

I’d love to learn more in hand dressage. It is difficult to find resources to learn how to train with it, though. And I’ve never found an instructor IRL who specializes in teaching in hand work.

Any ideas and advice are greatly appreciated!

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Could you learn to carriage drive (as in, would your health permit it)? That would be like in-hand dressage on steroids :smiley:

Carriage driving is lots of fun and has quite a welcoming community, too.


I find formal in-hand dressage/long reining to be more physically demanding than riding! I don’t want to pry into the specifics of your physical limitations but I would suggest lunging over ground poles, then cavaletti as a good way to get them listening and engaged.

When one of my horses was SO hot, reactive and scary that he was unsafe, we spent months on progressively longer lines until he was so attuned that I could point him around a course of jumps without a line at all.

Have you reached out to dressage trainers and asked about ground exercises? They may not explicitly advertise it but most advanced trainers will know enough as it’s part of schooling upper level collected work.

At the end of the day, the horses won’t care if they are in peak fitness. Just some time with you to bond and check in will be enough while you heal :slight_smile:


There’s a Theraputic stable in my area that includes Driving for their students.
The carriagemaker I go to has made vehicles for use by less-abled clients.
So, yes, could be a good alternative.
With this Caveat: Drivers have only 2 Aids
Find a good knowledgeable trainer to evaluate & start your horse.
And to get you started as a Driver.

I find myself sorta in the same boat, but without the need for recovery from trauma.
Just plain {ahem} Lack of Impulsion on my part.
I have a lovely rideable horse - no Packer, but we know each other & he’s kind.
I also have a mini I drive who Driving friends tell me is the Prize in the Mini Lottery :grin:
Lately, working either one requires an effort of Will :roll_eyes:
I can blame the weather (unseasonably hit Summer), but it’s really just Inertia.
I think my Mojo is taking a vacation & hope a cooldown brings it back.

Much Luck to you in getting back to the passion we share! :ok_hand:


Look into the Warwick Schiller program, loads of connection and building a relationship stuff. I’m enjoying the heck out of it.

Then long lining is a blast.


I went to driving. I also have the horse at a trainer so I don’t have to worry about doing the stuff that is physically challenging.

I could probably ride now, but I have desire to. I can drive the hell out of a horse; if I were riding I would likely be limited to putzing around & trail type stuff - which I hate. I’d rather be a good whip than a mediocre rider.

I have grooming days where for no reason other than I feel like it I spend afternoons spiffing up my boys like they’re going to a show, feet and all. I enjoy it, they enjoy it—we’re all feeling better afterwards.

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I had 8 years of will I or won’t I be able to ride again (6 surgeries over 6 years including back and tailbone). The tailbone surgery kept me out of the saddle for 2 years and was the big one for wondering if I would ever be able to ride again. I didn’t want to put her with a trainer…I am too hands on. I kept saying after the next surgery, if I can’t ride I will sell her. Well, I never did sell her. I probably should have but as of last year am back to riding.

Most of that time, I did what ground work (lunging, in hand, long reining) I could. I mostly taught myself for good or bad. I had 2 extensive foot surgeries so she had about 6 months of ‘vacation’ for each foot. I introduced her to liberty work. She had a couple 4-6 month periods where a friend rode her while her horse was on stall rest and rehabbing.

So what I had last year when I was able to resume more consistent riding I had a very in tune, but so-so fit 19 yo horse with low mileage. This spring, she was a pistol…acting more like she did as a 4 and 5yo. She has settled down and I have really enjoyed riding this summer. We started back with lots of walk only but are now back to dressage training and since I moved barns last fall, she is now a trail horse. With all my issues and infirmities, I had kind of made her into an arena flower :grin:. I suppose, if I couldn’t have ridden, at this point I would find arrangements to make her a pasture puff that I could go out and have my pretty pony sessions.
I have had her since she was 2 and at this age, am very leary of trying to re-home her.


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