Building a healthy relationship between you and your horse can make all the difference in terms of performance in the show ring. Whether you’re a new or experienced horse owner, it’s very important that you and your horse learn to work and communicate effectively together. This, of course, can only be done after you understand your horse’s personality – and this, as I’m sure you’re aware of, takes time to do.
A few years ago, in 1998, my parents guided me through my first horse purchase. I was quite young at the time – only 15 – and the horse was an eight year old Quarter Horse mare. She wasn’t particularly friendly, but, in her defense, she was passed from her previous owner to a trainer, which left quite a noticeable and deep mark on her personality. You could easily tell that she wasn’t too keen on bonding with other humans.
It took a couple of months until she truly acknowledged me as her owner and several more years before we really began to understand each other. So, how did I manage cure her standoffishness? The answer was very simple and came quite naturally: I just needed to spend enough time with her. Because I always came in to check on her and make sure that she had everything she needed, I managed to gain her trust.
Is communication truly the key? Can a horse really communicate with a human? Yes and, surprisingly to some, horses are highly communicative animals (but subtle). Abby, my horse, used to communicate by nudging or by using her eyes. Through time, I managed to learn all of her expressions – I knew when she was bored, tense or relaxed, for example. The fact that she loved attention also got her noticed in the show-ring.
The truth is that horses can often be very expressive animals. Bonding with Abby and taking her on trail rides was so fun that I sometimes couldn’t tell where she ended and where I began. So, to conclude, this is how I managed to bond with my stubborn mare, and you can bond with your horse as well provided that you follow this basic outline:
- Spend enough time with your horse: this includes simple activities like grooming, bathing and massaging. It’s important that you visit your horse frequently, even if you only spend the time sitting in his or her company.
- Take everything slowly. As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In order to bond with your horse, you’ll definitely need time. The amount required largely depends on your horse’s past, but this can be hard to know. Was your horse abused? Maybe he or she, like Abby, was passed down from owner to owner and, as a result, feels disconnected. If this is the case, be sure to give your horse enough time to recover.
- Good healthcare is key. It’s important that you keep your horse dewormed, vaccinated and properly fed. This allows your horse to feel better and acknowledge that you are concerned about his or her wellbeing.
- Find an activity that you both enjoy, such as riding or jumping. Other examples of equine activities include lunging, grooming and vaulting.
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