The relationship that exists between human and horse has potential to be unlike any other. When you have a bad day, your horse is the first one to make you feel better. When something exciting happens, you make sure your horse hears the news. Throughout all of life's good and bad, you know it's always you and your horse against the world. As emotional and inquisitive animals, horses are capable of forming strong bonds with their favorite humans. It doesn't, however, happen overnight. Human and horse bonding takes real effort and thoughtfulness. And once it happens, there's no better feeling.
If you're looking for ways to improve your relationship with your horse, we can help. These tips will help bring you and your horse closer together.
Groundwork is an excellent tool in improving your relationship with your horse. A lot of horse owners skip groundwork saying it's unnecessary or too boring. But the truth is, the work you put in out of the saddle is just as important as what you do while you're riding.
Groundwork can be done at any stage in your horse’s training—even if you’ve owned him for years. Working together on the ground gives you and your horse the opportunity to study each other's body language. The change in perspective is vital if you want your horse to be completely comfortable in your company. At the same time, groundwork teaches your horse to respect your space and learn more about your movements.
Try Out a New Discipline
Trying out something totally new, like a new discipline, is a great way for you and your horse to grow and work together. The challenge of learning new skills side by side forces you both to see things from the other's perspective. Think of it like a team-building exercise you might do for work. You and your horse will have a common goal, and you need to find a way to work together and overcome the challenge.
The key here is to not put too much pressure on yourselves. You don't need to be the next champion in whatever new discipline you decide to try. You should strive for basic competence. But above all, your goal should be to have fun and bond with your horse. Keep your training structured, but remember why you're doing it in the first place.
Groom Your Horse
Grooming is the perfect opportunity for serious horse bonding. The gentle movements help lull your horse into relaxation while building a foundation of trust. You're asking your horse to trust you with touching all areas of their body, and it's an easy way for you to prove that you're never going to hurt them. You're not asking your horse to work or do anything other than enjoy the attention. You show them that your relationship is about more than training and exercise, it's also about the quiet moments.
Horses mutually groom each other in a showing of affection, and taking the time to groom your horse can build your relationship. It's another opportunity for your horse to observe your movements, behaviors, and facial expressions. By getting to know you better, your horse will automatically feel more connected to you.
Care for Your Horse
If you want to have the strongest relationship possible, you'll have to put in the work. If you keep your horse at your house, that's probably not a problem. You're always the one who does morning turn outs, feeding, grooming, and training. But if you board your horse, your situation might be different.
A lot of boarders rely on the barn's staff to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to horse care. You might pay extra for someone else to throw out the morning hay and get the tangles out of your horse's mane. And while that agreement might be easier on your schedule, it's not the best if you're trying to form a friendship with your horse. It's natural that a horse will bond with the person they see most often. They'll learn to look forward to the person who feeds them and brings them in at night. It's harder to form a meaningful connection if you're the person who shows up once a day to ride. It might be tough to arrange, but being your horse's primary caregiver will always benefit your relationship
Create Positive Associations
It doesn't matter whether you're working with a brand new horse or a horse you've had for years—you can always work on creating positive associations. This is important, because when we're working with horses, it's easy to be all work and no play. If your horse only associates you with work, your bond will surely suffer the consequences. But if you make continual efforts to create positive associations, your bond will strengthen by the day.
One good way to help your horse associate you with positive feelings is to always greet them with a smile and a treat. This way, they'll always look forward to seeing you—even if you're planning a rigorous day of training. Praise and pets are also good ways to create positive associations. You want your horse to know that you are their source of safety, comfort, excitement, and all things delicious.
Spend Time Together
You don’t have to be actively riding or grooming your horse to improve your relationship with him. In fact, relaxing activities like hand grazing or hand walking your horse can go a long way toward improving your relationship. Simply spending time with your horse can pay off in improved trust and a stronger bond.
It will be worth it to end training early every now and then to make sure you have time for quality relaxation with your horse. Don't think of this time as missing out on work. If you're determined to place in your next show or beat your personal best, quality horse bonding time will help you reach that goal. When you and your horse have a strong connection, there's no limit to what you can do together.
Horse Courses by Elaine Heney
- Listening to the Horse - The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
- Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
- Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
- Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) - Grey Pony Films
What methods have you found were successful in improving your relationship with your horse?
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