Like every other relationship we have in life the one with your horse isn’t automatic, it’s something you need to work at. Horses are flight animals that survive on their instincts so it’s important that they trust you, you’ll have a far better partnership if they do.
Why is it important to bond with my horse?
In the wild horses live in herds and work together to ensure they are safe from threats and dangers. While most horses these days don’t live in the wild they haven’t lost their survival instincts so working with these instincts rather than against them will not only make your horse feel safer, happier and less stress but it’ll also help improve the relationship he has with you. After all, if your horse is worried every time you arrive to see him because he’s unsure what you’ll do he won’t be relaxed. This will result in him being unhappy and on edge, a feeling that will only be reinforced until to do something to address it.
Developing your partnership with your horse isn’t difficult and doesn’t take long but the most important thing to do it understand him and respect how his mind works rather than always expecting him to do what you want to do.
Everybody has got their own way of bonding with their horse and the key is to find what works for both of you but here are a few tips for things you can try and that will help.
I don’t mean the sort of grooming your do to clean your horse’s coat I mean social grooming, or allogrooming as it’s called. This type of grooming not only reaffirms your place in his the herd but also reassures him that you’ll look after him and protect him from predators.
Horses allogroom other horses by ‘nibbling’ along each other’s neck, withers and back. While you can literals do this if you want to I’d recommend using an old tennis ball with a quarter cut out of it (making it look like a 3D Pac-Man). You can then place the tennis ball in your hand and gently squeeze it to give your horse the impression you’re nibbling him. Doing this for just a few minutes a couple of times a day will really help the two of you bond.
Brushing your horse’s legs and belly gently will also have a positive effect on your horse because these areas are difficult for him to reach.
Join-Up is a training method that was developed by the world-renowned Monty Roberts as a way of humanely training horses without stressing them at all. The idea behind it is that you speak to your horse in his language and on his terms, using your body position and eye contact to gain his trust. You start by ‘sending’ the horse away from where you’re standing then when he’s ready slowly invite him back to you.
Once you’ve gained his trust and he wants to be part of your ‘herd’ he’ll automatically do what you ask him to do rather than you having to encourage or persuade him to do so.
Your horse will also be far more comfortable and relaxed if you’re speaking to him in a language he understands, he won’t be trying to work out what you’re saying all the time.
Spend quality time with your horse
Don’t only visit your horse because you’ve got to feed him, muck him out or for other chores, visit him just to see him and spend time with him. This might sound like a strange thing to say and I know that we’re all leading busy lives but even if it’s just an extra 15 minutes each day your horse will thank you for it.
Use that time to spend some quality time with your horse, whether it’s stroking him or just talking to him. You could even have a picnic with your horse, take some sandwiches and a few treats for him then find a nice spot to stop have your lunch, you could even invite some other friends and their horses. Ever since I was very young I’ve always enjoyed leading my horse to a quiet area of the paddock and then sitting down and the two of us having lunch together. As well as being beneficial to your horse, it’ll also have a positive effect on you too – I defy anybody to not come away feeling happier after doing this!
Horses are very social animals and the time you spend bonding with them in this way is very important. It reinforces the connection they have with you but also helps your horse to feel comfortable around you and therefore more relaxed and happier.
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