Horseback riding is wonderful exercise and allows you to get away from your regular routine. When you are in open fields of grass, your problems disappear and everything else seems unimportant.
People who regularly ride horses love the experience of riding, but they also partake in this passion because of how great it is to have a horse as a pet.
Horses are so much more than animals that you can jump onto and ride from one place to another. They have feelings, emotions, and anxieties, much like we do.
If you are hoping to get more from your riding sessions than a workout and sore leg muscles, you may want to learn the best ways to bond with your horse.
Below are four techniques that will help you build a strong connection with your horse for life.
1. Do Groundwork Exercises
Groundwork exercises refer to activities that you do with your horse while you are standing on the ground. You usually have a halter and a lead rope that allows you to control the movement of your horse, pushing them in one direction or another.
The advantage of engaging in groundwork exercises is that you are building trust with your horse. You are creating a solid foundation that will translate to the times when you are on horseback and riding in the open fields or during an event.
When you successfully perform groundwork exercises, your horse starts to respect your personal space. They also begin to see you as the leader, and they follow the directions and queues that you give.
Make sure that you are starting slow with these exercises, as you do not want to overwhelm or frustrate your horse. Start slowly, go through each activity until you are fully successful, and then move on to another groundwork exercise.
2. Hold Your Ground
Horses are herd creatures, which means that they require the presence of another to survive. If you have a bond with your horse, they will start to see you as a member of their herd. With any herd, there is a pecking order, and you want to be the alpha in this relationship.
If you notice your horse disrespecting or ignoring what you are suggesting through physical queues, they are testing you to see how you will respond. Stand your ground and show your horse who is boss in this relationship.
That does not mean you have to be aggressive, as hitting or abusing your horse is unacceptable. You will hurt the animal, and you cannot form a lasting bond with a horse in this manner.
3. Learn Your Horse’s Physical Queues
Horses are emotional animals, and they can have negative reactions to particular stimuli or situations. You have to start recognizing when your horse may be tired, frustrated, angry, upset, scared, or feeling any other emotion.
Perhaps you notice your horse is anxious during a session, which was not the case before. Try to analyze what is different about this session. Are you wearing a new cologne or perfume? Do you have a new harness on the horse? Is there another horse training nearby that is bothering your animal?
When you understand what is bothering your horse, you can learn to anticipate their behaviors. Rather than having to react after your horse has done something harmful, you can preempt their behavior by eliminating the problem that is causing them to feel a negative emotion.
4. Spend Time Feeding and Cleaning Your Horse
Did you know that horses groom each other in the wild? They use their teeth to scratch the itches of other horses, among other actions.
While you do not need to chew into your horse’s skin, you can groom them using a brush to keep their hair clean and in great shape. You can also give your horse a bath using a hose.
Spending time with your horse is a great way to form a bond. Many riders find that feeding their horse, or sitting with them while they eat from a bucket, is another bonding exercise. Your horse will appreciate that you are spending time with them that does not involve riding.
Take Your Riding to the Next Level
Ask any experienced horse rider, and they will tell you that bonding with their horse was not only about emotions but the physical experience of riding as well. When you have a connection with the animal, you are much more likely to have a great experience during each ride.
Whether you are riding casually, racing, performing hurdle jumps, or trick riding, you must have a great connection with your horse. Only by establishing true trust between yourself and the horse can you achieve greatness while on horseback.
The above four tips will make it a lot easier for you to form a lifelong connection with your horse.