Grow your relationship without riding!
Spending time with your horse and developing a bond can be extremely beneficial. Mutual trust and respect is formed from this extra time spent together. There’s something special about creating a genuine relationship with your horse. While it won’t happen overnight, the process can be exciting and a lot of fun.
Take a walk:
Try an enjoyable walk around the farm with your best buddy. Leave the saddle in the tack room and head out with only a halter and lead. Not only can you improve your horse’s ground manners, but this low-stress exercise will build trust. Depending on your confidence, you can enjoy a stroll around the barn or take your experience out onto the trails.
Let this time be causal and stress-free. There’s nothing wrong with having a good conversation! They say horses are excellent listeners. You can even cross creeks and hop over logs for added adventure.
This is a great way to get close to your horse. It also provides you the perfect opportunity to scan their body over for bumps, cuts, or injuries. You’ll quickly learn what is normal or abnormal for your individual horse.
During this process, groom your horse for fun, rather than trying to remove dirt. Use this time to find out if they like to be scratched or gently stroked. Look for their ‘sweet spots’ and focus on those areas. You can try behind their ears, along the neck, wither area, shoulders, and rump. Grooming is a way to show your horse appreciation and can be considered a reward.
Tackling an obstacle course can be a great way to gain your horse’s trust. You can create a few obstacles right in your arena. Some ideas include a tarp, bridge, flag, pool noodles, and logs. The important thing to remember is to be patient. Don’t get aggressive or fearful, as this won’t be productive to proving yourself a leader.
When you get good at home, test your skills by trailering out. Some facilities have very involved courses that you can walk or ride your horse through. How exciting is that!
Each training session should include the use of positive reinforcement. Basically, reward your horse when they do something correct. They will look forward to spending time with you when they get rewarded. Horses aim to please. Treats, pats, and praising words encourage them to try harder.
Yes, it’s as simple as just being with your horse in their stall or field. I also like to let my horse hand graze every once in a while. They really enjoy that one-on-one time together. Even a short 15-minute hang out session can prove to be useful in bonding.
The best way to build a bond with your horse is to spend extra time with them. These experiences should be fun for the both of you. The more enjoyable moments you have together the stronger you’ll relationship will grow. Be patience and give it time!
**Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn’t writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily’s background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm.