First Steps in Forming a Relationship with your Horse

I am spoiled by my horses. When I show up they all think their favorite toy has arrived, and come over to me. This is not the case with many horse owners, and IMO changing this would be the first thing I would undertake in my relationship with my horse.

Most people don’t see a problem because they are too busy to notice. Here’s a typical scenario: you get to the barn and meet up with a friend. Both of you start chatting as you walk out to your horses’ paddock. Your horse looks up and acknowledges your presence but goes back to eating hay. You walk all the way over, pull the horse’s head up to halter him and then walk out with him.

Where’s the problem? There isn’t one unless you want a totally different relationship with your horse.

The horse coming to you: shows his interest/trust/friendship with you. It also starts the session off with the horse using his free will to participate, as well as opening his curiousity to you.

Here are some ideas on how to get your horse to start coming to you:

1.) Waterhole Ritual, Sharing Territory by Carolyn Resnick. The more you become a part of your horses’ everyday life, the more curious he will be about you.

2.) Waterhole Ritual, Saying Hello by Carolyn Resnick. Coming up to say hello and leaving, helps your horse understand that you are not there just to grab him and go off and do a bunch of work that he has little interest in.

3.) The Approach. When I approach a horse that is not coming towards me of his own free will I walk up to him until I am about 6 yards away and then I stop. Depending on the horses’ senstivity this might be enough and he will approach. If not, I’ll shorten the distance to about 3 yards, and then wait again to see if he shows interest.

5.) Waiting. The key is in the WAITING. Most people don’t want to wait, get frustrated, walk up and halter the horse anyway. However, if you will be patient 9 times out of 10, the horse will stop what he is doing and amble over. They are just that curious!

6.) Walking Backwards. Horses are keyed to approach something that is retreating; and to run from something that is approaching. When you stand, wait, get their interest, and then walk backward, it draws them like a magnet! They can’t seem to resist trying to come over and investigate!

You don’t want to turn your back and walk off, unless of course you know you have the horses’ complete interest, but it is safer to walk backwards so you can keep an eye on the horse. If the horse loses interest, stop, approach, wait, get the interest and take a step backwards and see if the horse re-connects.

I walk slower then the horse is approaching so that allows the horse to catch up to me.

6.) Be fun to be around. To really help the horse want to be with you, go do something the horse considers fun right after the capture. Maybe it’s as simple as giving a signal that the horse can now graze while on the lead, giving a bit of carrot or horse cookie, going to play with their favorite toy such as a ball, or even getting groomed.

7.) Learning from a Friend. If you have one horse that loves to be with you and another that is hesitant, it’s great to approach them when they are together. Your shy horse can learn from the friendly horse that hanging with you is interesting and safe.

8.) Patience. In the beginning it takes a lot of patience. Especially if you have a very distrustful horse or one that has been abused or neglected.

This may sound all so simple, but I thought I would post it on this rainy day because a lot of people make this mistake. I mean a lot! But if you can change things where your horse comes to you, you will be amazed at how this first small step begins the changes in the bond between the two of you.

This entry was posted in Carolyn Resnick, Essays, Pyschology and Behavior, Training and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to First Steps in Forming a Relationship with your Horse

  1. Mary H. says:

    Great post. It amuses me to no end when people tell me what a great relationship they have with their impossible to catch horse. Don’t they realize there’s a reason the horse is hard to catch?

    I find going for walks around the pasture and letting the horses follow me is great for building confidence and curiosity.

    I find Sharing Territory (or what parelli calls undemanding time) works well in the beginning. I have some horses to get frustrated with this exercise now — they’re quite impatient to play and don’t want to waste the whole day sitting around!

  2. horseideology says:

    😀 Yes there is a lot of self-deception going on in the horse world. It used to tick me off and I felt a need to run out and get everyone corrected… nowadays I’m more quiet and just ask a lot of questions… getting too old I guess 😛

    Yes, in a friends video she talked about returning the horse to the group so I’m hoping to write and experiment with that idea… bring the horse back, and continue to hang with the horses before leaving.

    What I do on Sharing Territory is I know intersperse it through the work/play session or do it at the end. Pony is too excited when I show up, so I do down time, some games, then down time, then games etc… Big Guy wants hang out more in the beginning; Little Girl wants to do something RIGHT NOW!!

  3. Mary H. says:

    that’s the nice thing about spending time just hanging out with the horse— you really start to learn what it is the horse wants to do!

    If I have too rigid of a plan, I’m liable to make both of us frustrated. If I wait a bit and watch the horse, I figure out what we need to be working on.

    • horseideology says:

      Yes, there has to be flexbility – but also consistency. I think that is where beginners working with their horses go wrong – lack of day in, day out working on various building blocks towards a goal. Like most things, it’s a balancing act.

  4. Pingback: Don’t let Freshness expire « Horse Ideology

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