The dream of most riders and horse owners is to have a special bond with their horses. A lot of people also have problems because they want this bond so much that they let the horse do whatever he wants, as the owner wants to be the horse’s friend. But in horsemanship this just doesn’t work. We have to teach the horse rules in order to safely interact with each other.
The first and best way to create a bond with your horse is to teach him many groundwork lessons and practice them daily, adding them into your barn routine. Groundwork is essential to riding and training horses. It prepares the horse for the human environment by desensitizing him to objects and noises that he will experience, as well as teaching the horse some cues he will need under saddle. This will get the horse going forward, moving all parts of his body, slowing, and stopping. Most importantly the horse will learn to relax in the presence of people, in his work, and in his environment. A few examples of some groundwork exercises that will help you create a bond with your horse are lunging, backing, side passing, yielding the hindquarters, and forehand. For more ideas on groundwork check out my previous articles.
Spending Quality Time With Your Horse
It can be very beneficial to just sit with your horse while he is in his stall or pasture. You don’t have to do anything, just bring a chair and sit with him. You can also catch him and simply give him treats or groom him, then turn him back out. This will also help a horse that is hard to catch as well. Spending time with your horse without riding or working him will improve your relationship as the horse will recognize that when you come to see him it doesn’t always mean he has to go to work.
How you act and feel in the saddle directly affects how the horse acts and feels as he is being ridden. When you take the proper steps to prepare your horse to be ridden by teaching him ground manners and doing basic groundwork before you get on, you are setting the horse up for success. Horses tune in to our body language even when we are on their backs. They can feel us tense up or relax. Our horses can tell when our breathing changes as we get nervous or frightened, because of this we must ride with confidence. When you get worried while riding, try to take deep breathes and bend him in a few circles or even bend him to a stop. Your horse will then focus on you instead and be reminded that he needs to listen. It is also helpful to set reachable goals for yourself and your horse for each ride. When you complete a small goal it builds your confidence which makes big goals, such as mastering flying lead changes, seem more possible.
Desensitizing your horse to many different objects will create a bond as he understands that things may scare him but you always stay calm. Also, he will learn that scary objects won’t eat him and he will become more confident every time you expose him to something new. For ideas and tips to desensitizing your horse I have previously posted a few articles under the groundwork category.