As equestrians, we all share the love of horses. Building a solid bond with your horse forms the basics of good training, both in the saddle and on the ground. By creating mutual understanding and trust, things will go much more smoothly as a confused horse can become a dangerous horse. There are some really simply things you can be doing to build a bond with your horse, regardless of whether you have just bought a new one or if you would like to affirm your bond with your existing horse.
I regularly revisit these basics with Bo to ensure we are always in a good place with one another.
Spend time doing nothing
I find that we often feel like we have to be doing something in our society. We have to be being productive, working towards goals and keeping busy otherwise we might be accused of being lazy or unambitious. I am often caught up in these notions which results in me incessantly making lists, plans, timescales etc. I am currently working towards living a slower life without as much of this emphasis and just doing things that feel good without stressing.
This extends to how you spend your time with your horse; sit in the corner of his stable and watch him munching his hay, or just stand/ sit and watch him graze in the field. He will be more likely to accept your presence if it is not forced and he will appreciate you just being with him, without asking anything of him. In turn you can begin to appreciate just how incredible he really is.
Find out what he likes
Horses are like people, they have likes and dislikes. It’s always good to know what your horse likes and doesn’t. For example, Bo likes a scratch where the indent of his shoulder is and he likes to be rewarded with treats when we do work. He also loves ‘Stud Muffins’- these are treacle horse treats I get in Scotland, they are his absolute favourite. He does not like pears however, or if you are in a hurry to tack up. He prefers if you go slowly to give him time to prepare; otherwise he gets anxious.
I have had Bo for almost 8 years so I know all the little details but only because I have taken time to listen and they change too as time goes on. Some horses don’t like scratches and some don’t like being fussed over when they’re eating. There’s no need for a horse to have to be OK with everything, its much kinder to respect them for it.
Set your boundaries and non-negotiables
There are things though that you should put in place purely on the basis of good manners and understanding. It works with children too- I do this with my class ;).
These could be things like asking your horse to go back when you enter the stable to prevent them barging through you, not allowing your horse to drag you over to that must-have patch of grass or asking the horse to stand at the mounting block. They will be different for everyone and it depends on what you find acceptable. For me, barging and moving in to me is unacceptable as I feel my space is being invaded so these are the things that I find important.
Listen to body language
We expect responsiveness and obedience from our horses when we ask them to do something and more often than not, even if they are not comfortable with what you’re asking, they will give it a go and try for you in a way that makes sense to them. By tuning in a little, we can start to hear our horses more loudly and we can let our horse know we are paying attention. How would you feel if you were trying to tell someone something and they just never listened? It would be frustrating and I bet you wouldn’t want much of a relationship with someone like that.
This is something that horses do with their friends in the field and its something you can do with your horse too to help boost the bond. Not all horses will be keen for this though but give it a go- start giving your horse a little wither scratch and hold your other hand out and see if your horse reciprocates.
So, there you have it, some ways to help you and your horse deepen you bond for a better relationship!