Buying a horse is always a fulfilling experience, especially if it’s something that one has been longing for, but what if one gets a horse that was previously abused? Obviously, the one receiving the horse will nurture the horse and give it a loving home. However, a horse that has been abused by its prior owners will not trust anyone easily, even if the intentions of the new owner is noble. So how does one gain its trust?
Trace the roots of the horse's abusers
Getting this information will help one to understand the horse better, and why it reacts the way it does when certain people or objects are around it. However, horse experts do not agree with this. According to them, horses don’t think like human beings. Hence, they do not keep a record of wrongs or hold grudges, which make tracing the roots of their abusers irrelevant. They reckon that the horses will most likely relate to what was used to abuse them, and the exact part of their body that was abused.
But of even more importance is that anyone working to gain an abused horse's trust should not dwell so much on what the horse went through, and start feeling pity for the horse in the process. These feelings will rub negatively on the horse, and it will take more time to gain their trust. It’s better to be positive all the time, so that the horse can find the strength and urge to trust again.
Prepare the horse shed prior to its arrival
Make sure that the shed is built using strong materials with adequate lighting inside. For the floor of the shed, line it up with adequate amounts of wood shavings or even wood with the comfort of the horse in mind. Also remember that the horse must be give food and water. Therefore, one should place the water trough and the food container where they are easily accessible by both them and the horse.
Talk to a veterinarian
An abused horse can be a very dangerous horse, especially because of the pain it might be feeling, as a result of the abuse. For this reason, it is important to hire the service of a veterinarian who deals with horses. Get advice from the veterinarian on how to care for the horse. One should be open to learn from the veterinarian and receive tips on how to take care of the horse, such as what foods to feed it, the treatments it needs or even how to de-worm it.
If the horse wasn't being fed well previously, then giving it a large amount of food at once will only worsen its health. One should always make sure the veterinarian approves everything they do with the horse, so as not to put the horse’s life in jeopardy.
Take note of the horse’s reaction when being unsaddled and unloaded
Did it seem unaware of being unsaddled? Was it ready to charge at someone at the slightest touch? Did it become defensive or even try to run away? Was it necessary to put it to sleep so as to unload it from the trailer? Did it need to be blindfolded or tranquilized in order to get it off the trailer? A positive answer to these questions could be a sign that things are not looking up for the horse.
Rehabilitate the horse gradually
If the horse is still non-approachable, then give it time. It will come out of its own once it’s ready. Don’t ever try to force things as that will only worsen an already bad situation. No one wants the horse to think that someone else is trying to abuse it again by forcing it to do something it didn’t want to do. It is best to hire the services of an expert to help through this.
Get close to the horse once it is ready
Do this cautiously. One can start by touching the horse softly after approaching it from its sides. Start from the neck and gradually move to the other parts on both sides of its body.
Positive reinforcement, such as a gentle touch or talking in a soft voice, works best in trying to gain the trust of an abused horse, as they are given in response to good actions. However, negative reinforcement involves removing anything that is a source of discomfort for the horse whenever it does something good.
Let the new horse interact with the any other horses
Introducing a new horse to other horses may increase its comfort level, as it will be among its own kind. But this needs to be done gradually, as an abused horse may not welcome the company readily, instead preferring to be a lone ranger. It will also help if the other horses are trained and follow instructions readily, which can come in handy as one will easily guide them into receiving the abused horse into their herd.
Start training lessons with the horse
A horse expert will come in handy when it comes to training the horse. Train the horse on how to halter and lead, although these might be stuff it has learned before. Therefore, they could be more of refresher courses or retraining in case the horse wasn’t trained in the right way by the previous owner. Once this step is done, it is now time to put on the saddle and bridle.
During training, it is key to remain calm and patient. Talk to the horse in a calm and soothing voice to reassure it that you are only there to help. If the abused horse has not gained one’s trust, then it will most likely not let them train it. That’s why it is important to try and gain the horses’ trust first before doing anything else.
Decide on an acceptable way to ride the horse
This all depends on the horse's level of endurance. It could be cross-country, barrel racing or even show jumping, more so if the horse moves with a lot of ease and was very cooperative during training. But once one has decided on how to ride the horse, then it is important to be persistent and consistent so that the horse can perfect its capabilities.
It is not easy to gain the trust of a horse that has been abused. But with a lot of patience, it is possible. All one needs to remember is that trust takes time, and in most instances, they will need to hire the services of a horse expert who will be in a better position to handle such a case. If the correct channel is followed, then earning the trust of an abused horse will be much easier and faster.
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