Of course, you care about your horse, but how can you let him know in a way that he’ll understand how special he is? Here are 9 simple ways.
Vary your rides
The most obvious way to strengthen the bond between you is to exercise him more. When you ride, try to take new routes, and vary the terrain you’re exploring together. Varying the pace of your ride, and dealing with the unexpected, under your leadership, will build his confidence and trust. Let him outside in the sunshine.
Even when you’re not able to ride, let him get outside as much as possible, into a paddock, field, or even a yard. Let him stretch his legs in the fresh air and sunshine. This will help avoid the boredom of life lived entirely inside, and let him see what’s going on in the vicinity. It also allows moving his joints and letting him enjoy a free range of motion.
Walk with him
Your horse will appreciate your calm, assertive leadership. So, in addition to plenty of riding, sometimes take time to just lead him on a walk. Vary your position – lead from the front, walk by his side or position yourself behind while driving him forward. This will help establish you as a leader he can trust no matter what you want him to do.
Nutrition and hydration
To enjoy life to the max, your horse will need optimum nutrition, comprised of chaff, hay, or pasture. Horses love to forage, so consider hiding some chopped up carrots or apples into their food. Also, keep an eye on the water – most horses need between 25 and 45 liters of freshwater per day, and even more in high temperatures, so make sure there’s always a good, clean supply available.
Delight him with treats
Your horse will love treats as much as you love spoiling him with them. While carrots and apples are much-loved traditional choices, these days you can change things up with specially-prepared, nutritionally appropriate horse treats such as cookies and other snacks based on organic ingredients. Offer them pre-ride as a sign that more excitement is coming, or afterward, as a reward when the hard work is done.
Grooming and massage
Grooming your horse is another way to reinforce the bond between you. Horses respond to touch, so take time to notice what he loves and what he would prefer you avoid doing. Most horses love to have their neck, back, shoulders, hindquarters, and hamstrings massaged to relieve tension. Take time to massage him regularly, talking gently as you do so, to calm him and reduce any residual stress. The great thing is that you’ll probably enjoy this as much as he does. If you’re not sure how to start, there are plenty of great resources online.
An important way to show you care for your horse is to schedule regular check-ups with a specialist vet. In particular, checking his spine health will ensure he’s not in pain, especially when being ridden. Likewise, an inspection of his mouth from time to time will rule out any issues which could make him uncomfortable when you’re riding.
Keep him at a comfortable temperature
While as humans we soon feel the cold, horses tend to be more resistant to fluctuating temperatures. That’s why it pays to be sensitive, not only to the possibility that your horse is cold, but that he may become uncomfortably hot if you’ve covered him with too many blankets.
Check his saddle
Most of us understand that our weight can go up and down, depending on the season, our diet, and how much exercise we’ve been taking. Clothes that used to fit perfectly – may suddenly become too big or too small. It’s the same with horses. Get the saddle checked from time to time, to ensure it still fits well and hasn’t become too tight for comfort.
Introduce games and toys
Finally, when your horse has to be in the stable for an extended time, it can lead to boredom and stress. Think about providing some toys and licks to alleviate this. Toys that dispense treats, giant balls, kicking toys, and hanging snacks such as Himalayan salt licks can all provide stimulation and entertainment. They’re a great way to show your horse how clever you know he is!
We hope that these simple ideas will help you show your horse how much you love him, in some surprising new ways!