I've noticed some people, pros and amateurs alike, seem to be reluctant to allow their horses play time. If you notice, many times when horses are turned out by themselves, they do not play. There are many reasons for this but often they are just in need of a playmate.
Joanne's National Trail Champion, gelding SS Ekspresev +// or "Ex", just loves to buck. I mean really hog it, head between his legs and just letting go for all he's worth! We absolutely always let him get it out before a ride. Even if he's just been turned out, we lunge him in as big a space as we can and even chase him to encourage him to buck (his favorite "play"). When he's done, he's ready and willing to work. The old timers I grew up with called this "gyping", as opposed to "lunging". In other words, playing instead of working - horses aren't stupid and I believe they understand the difference. I never expect a horse to work who hasn't had a chance to play first. This includes ground work as well as riding and it makes for a much more trainable horse. I've seen horses that are "broncy" under saddle for no other reason than they need to get their playfulness, which manifests itself into bucking, out of their system.
I hear lots about horse behavior but never hear about their playful nature discussed. What a shame! These are the best all-around athletes in our world. Many of them really enjoy showing their abilities off. When in the herd, healthy, relaxed horses do play just for the pure joy of it.
Give a playful horse a chance - let 'em play! Remember that often he just needs a little encouragement from you. I think you'll enjoy his antics and once he's through, he'll be ready to concentrate on his work, giving you a better ride. See you next week, JD