Gaining a New Horses Trust

First off, since it is Veterans day, I want to thank all the veterans who served or are currently serving. This is the home of the free because of the brave and I am so thankful for those who serve this great country. Don't thank them just today, thank them everyday. 

Thank you to reader Abby Foley for this question. I hope this helps you out with your new girl!

-         -  So- I am use to having horses since they were foals. I recently bought a 3 year old. I saw your post about coming so far with your horse Charlie - him trusting you, etc. What are your suggestions on how to build that kind of relationship with a horse that is 3, not a baby?

Gaining a horses trust is very simple when you own them from birth. Buying an older horse that has already bonded with someone else and trying to recreate that bond can be difficult. I personally have always primarily shown horses bred, raised and trained by my family. However, with my dad’s training business, we have a lot of horses in and out that were not raised on our property and I have the opportunity to ride and occasionally show them. These are the horses I have to work at my relationship with.

When trying to gain a horses trust, I have found that just loving on them can go a long way. Hug their face, give them treats, and take them for a walk or grazing. They will come to associate you with pleasant things. They also feel comfortable with you. It is amazing how far just some quality time can take you in a relationship with your new horse.

Next tip, take hands on care of them. Go clean their stall. Go spend 30 minutes just grooming them. Get to know every little inch of their body and all their quirks. When you truly know your horse, it will deepen your bond. Find their itchy spot and make sure to itch them every day you see them… there is nothing they love more.

When it comes to training and working, I find that showmanship can really bond me with new horses. Something about moving in unison and having them learn to react off your body so harmoniously just really gets you together in rhythm. Even if your horse is bad at showmanship or it’s not their event, do a little bit. It certainly can’t hurt and you will be surprised how much rhythm it gives you as a pair.

As for riding, I suggest starting out slow and easy. Lots of walking, bending, just feeling them out. Teach them to trust your hands by being slow, soft and easy. They mostly need to learn to trust you so in the beginning, don’t give them a reason not to. Of course, don’t let them get away with bad habits but I always avoid picking fights in the beginning until we have a trust built up.

Horses are herd animals; they look for a leader and a place to belong. When they are show horses and being care for by people, you need to become their herd. They need to look to you for guidance and leadership. Building that bond of trust and love will help with this. Play with them, scratch them, take them for walks; All of this will help them to realize you are their herd.

I know these tips all seem super simple and self-explanatory but they work. Even the horses I raise go through this process; they still need to learn to trust and love you. Charlie is a great example; he was scared to death of everything. He had the biggest panic button. I spent so much time just loving on him (maybe why he is such a cuddle big now) and leading him around and treating him more like a puppy then a horse. I cleaned his stall myself and petted him in between pitchfork-fuls. I groomed him and brushed his mane and figured out he loved having his withers scratched. For him, it helped him to trust me; he realized I would never lead him into harm and my presence usually meant something pleasant. He will follow me almost anywhere now. He trusts me. All the time I spent in the beginning paid off now because as long as I reassure him, he will do always anything for me now. I haven’t stopped all this once I gained his trust; I keep it up. You have to constantly work at a relationship and a relationship with a horse is no different. I think Charlie truly believes I am the leader of his herd and one of his people…. Or he just thinks he is a human child… it could really go either way with him. But the key is that he trusts me and will follow me anywhere. That is a bond that is purely priceless to me.

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