Do you sometimes feel like your horse resists you? Many owners experience times when their horse does not want to be caught, ridden or perform the tasks they are asking of them. In this blog we will discuss some helpful tips for creating a willing equine partner.
Earn Your Horse's Trust
As with most animals, trust needs to be earned. Horses are prey animals and humans are predators, so you need to approach your horse with a certain mindset when teaching them to trust you. It is important to be able to read a horse's body language and to avoid using gestures, tones of voice and attitudes (your thoughts and intentions are very important when working with your horse) that the horse will perceive as threatening. Before working or interacting with your horse, clear your mind of any worries and negative emotions. Focus on what you want to accomplish with your horse and send positive, loving energy to them. Changing your mindset at the beginning of a training session can greatly change your horse's attitude and make that session more successful. As you continue to make training sessions less stressful for your horse and as they learn that you will not put them in a bad or dangerous situation, they will begin to trust you and see you as a stable leader.
Part of earning your horse's trust involves ensuring that they are not in pain or uncomfortable. One of the most important ways to minimize discomfort is to utilize tack that fits correctly. It is extremely important to use a saddle that fits your horse in such a way that they can move freely without areas that are pinching, rubbing against them or restricting normal movement. If your horse pins their ears back or bites during saddling, moves away from the saddle or is reluctant to move with the saddle on, I recommend having them evaluated by a certified saddle fitter so you can find a saddle that will work best for them. The same is true with bridles......make sure they fit correctly and that the bit is the correct size and type for your horse.
Another important part of decreasing discomfort for your horse is to incorporate bodywork into their lives. This can be through massage therapy, chiropractic/body alignment, kinesiology tape, craniosacral therapy or a combination of therapies. Even when the horse's tack fits correctly, they will still experience body discomfort from sore/tight muscles, altered movement due to minor injuries (while riding or just playing in the pasture) and normal soreness from muscle development. We recommend finding an equine bodyworker or learning how to perform bodywork techniques yourself.
It is also important to condition your horse properly for riding. Similar to humans who are out of shape, horses can not go from no exercise to riding 10 miles overnight. Be sure to slowly build your horse up and prepare them for success. This will help earn your horse's trust when you do not ask them to do things that they are not physically ready for. The same applies for young, developing horses who may not be physically or mentally ready to perform the task at hand.
Provide Your Horse With An Environment They Can Thrive In
Horses, being herd animals, do best when they have access to other horses. Providing your horse with daily turn out (the longer the better), other horses to interact with and good quality feed, will make for a much happier horse. Horses evolved to eat continuously throughout the day. If your horse can not be turned out on grass, you should provide them with good quality grass hay all day. Most horses will also need some nutritional supplements to give them the vitamins and minerals that are lacking in most hays. Supplying your horse with an environment that they can thrive in will aid in earning their trust and having a willing partner.
Dr. Angelique Barbara is the founder of Angel's Animals LLC, a company that has developed online animal bodywork courses for both owners and professionals. Dr. Barbara's unique teaching style along with the dynamic layout of the courses allows people of different educational backgrounds from all over the world to benefit from her knowledge.