QUESTION: I had a tight, close-knit bond with my first horse. Now I have a new horse, and I want to have that same type of relationship. I haven’t gotten there yet. How can I get closer to my horse?
1. First, get to know your horse. Does he have any funny little habits? What are some interesting aspects of his behavior? What makes him a real character in the barn? Once you identify these traits, you can learn to appreciate him as a unique individual.
2. Next, spend time with him. Groom him lavishly, discovering that special “itchy spot” where he loves to be brushed. Talk to him in a quiet, soothing manner. Share your secrets (he won’t repeat them!), and let him get used to the sound of your voice. Practice saying his name in a specific tone. Eventually he’ll recognize it and respond when you call him.
3. Finally , in addition to riding work, use groundwork exercises to connect with your horse. One example is a simple showmanship pattern that includes turning and backing up. Leading him through the obstacles of a trail course is another idea. Both encourage the two of you to work together as a team. Be fair and consistent when you correct his mistakes. Reward him for making good choices and responding to your cues. In a short time, your new horse will feel like an old, trusted friend.