Maybe you are trying to click with a new horse, or you are trying to train someone else’s animal. Maybe you had a bad accident and are trying to build your confidence around horses again. No matter the situation, bonding with your horse is essential to working successfully as a team. Spending quality time with your horse is vital to earning their trust. If you go out to the barn, pull out your horse, ride him and put him back. You are essentially coming into his space, taking him out to put some tack on him, asking him to exercise, and then putting him away. That is not quality time. Think critically and try to relate. I know I wouldn’t like it if one of my friends showed up and asked me to clean out their car and left immediately after. We wouldn’t have had spent any enjoyable time together. Your horse feels the same way. Here are some tips and tricks to help you and your horse become best friends.
Lunging and Join-up
Something I do with every horse I work or train is something called join-up. This is a method where you lunge your horse in a large round pen. I typically warm them up at a walk/trot both ways. Then, I ask for an easy canter. After that, step towards their head. You are “catching their eye” you will see their eye focus on you, they might turn their head towards you slightly, and their ears may swivel in your direction. This happens quickly. As soon as you see this, turn and walk a few steps in the other direction. In theory, they have payed enough attention to your body language and have noticed that you have taken the pressure off. The goal is for the horse to willingly come stand near you when you turn away. You have moved their feet and they are aware you can hold your own. Now, they will relax in your presence In a herd setting, the more dominant horse would use their body language to get other horses to move out of their way. You are telling them to be attentive. However, do not pretend like you are the boss. Being around a horse is being in control and being in submission. You must listen to your horse, you have a lot to learn from them too.
Grooming knocks out two birds with one stone. A horse needs to be groomed to get rid of loose hair and dirt in their coat. You are helping your horse and making him feel good. This will make him feel safer around you.
Let Them Settle
If you are struggling to bond with a skittish horse, remember all horses need to settle and have a routine. Let them settle in to their life, stick to a feeding schedule, and be there to calm them down.
Horses Need to be Horses
Something every owner needs to remember is to let a horse be a horse. Let him graze, let him romp with the other horses, give him scratchies! Even if you have big plans and goals for your horse, they need to be themselves. Horses will relax around you more if you aren’t always putting pressure on them to do something. This is also a good opportunity for you to watch your horse and learn all his ticks/body language.
Even if you horse has a riding schedule, take them on a leisurely trail ride. Maybe try riding bareback a little more. You may want to set up some sort of patterns to ride through to get them thinking and doing something different. They might enjoy it a little bit more than sticking to a strict routine. You and your horse will be having fun together which always strengthens a bond. Finally, remember to set a small goal to achieve every ride. Nothing feels better than achieving something together and praising your carrot-loving buddy!
Remember to be gentle even when being firm with a horse. Horses remember the what they fear because they are prey animals. You can being a stern, and yet still loving owner. Above all else, do not make a horse afraid of you. Fear injures a bond.
Above All Else
Make your time with your horse enjoyable for both of you. Don’t just ask them to work! Stick around, brush their mane out and braid it, feed them some carrot bits, sit outside their paddock and draw them, take them on a leisurely trail ride. Horses are not machines they need to participate in enjoyable activities just like humans do. These activities will relax you both and allow your four-legged friend to associate positive feelings with you.
Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.