One of the most rewarding aspects of owning or riding a horse is the incredible bond that is shared between horse and rider. This bond, when properly achieved, has the potential to completely revolutionize the way both horse and rider view their work as a team.
It is not always possible to get in the saddle to complete all of your bonding activities with your horse, so it is important to be aware of various different methods and activities you can use outside of riding in order to strengthen your bond with your horse. Continue reading for examples of these activities and methods.
Take A Walk
Simply going for you a walk with your horse around the farm’s property is an excellent way not only to ensure that your horse is stretching their legs and getting exercise for the day, but also to ensure that you get to spend valuable time bonding with your horse on a one-on-one level.
Simply grab your horse’s halter, lead rope, and maybe a few treats. For yourself, make sure you have the appropriate footwear for the terrain that you will be walking, and grab your helmet for safe measure. Going on a walk with your horse ensures that you will be the only individual he or she will be making contact with for the duration of the walk. Unlike spending time with your horse While they are out to pasture with other horses, a private, one on one interaction such as this will ensure that your horse will give you their undivided attention.
During your walk, speak to your horse in a calm and friendly tone. Even if it is just to recount your day or to share your plans for the next showing season, it can be extremely beneficial to spend time talking to your horse so they can become more accustomed and comfortable with you as a whole.
Going for a walk also opens up opportunity for you to work on your horse’s ground manners. Hand walking your horse will give you the ability to recognize when your horse is in need of a little schooling as far as their ground manners are concerned. Taking a walk through a pasture may present situations in which your horse may need a little guidance, whether it be that they are frightened of something, or whether it be a behavioral issue. Having close contact with your horse on the ground will allow you to correct the issue and a personable manner that will help establish rules, a connection, and further strengthen your relationship.
Positive Reinforcement/Clicker Training
Many horse owners see a massive amount of benefit in doing positive reinforcement training with their horse, usually using a clicker device to do so. The idea behind positive reinforcement training is just that- rewarding the horse positively for good behavior, or for completing a task when asked.
Clicker training can be used to train your horse for any number of reasons, whether it be to discourage crowding the stall door at feeding time, walking in a more respectful manner on a lead line, or even for more personal and in-touch groundwork session on the lunge line. The idea is to introduce a concept to the horse, and when they comply with what you are asking of them, to reward them promptly with the sound of the clicker to let them know that they have followed instructions correctly. Most individuals will start out using treats in combination with the clicker to enforce the idea that the clicker is a positive reinforcement. After the horse has begun to fully understand what has been asked of them, treats are usually not needed in using the clicker to reward the horse for a job well done.
Positive reinforcement training, as well as any behavioral training or general groundwork, have the ability to strengthen the bond between you and your horse considerably. It is a great way for you to directly communicate and work with your horse on the ground to establish a more personal and direct line of communication between the two of you.
A simple but thorough grooming session has the potential to break down barriers between you and your horse. Horses bond with one another through mutual grooming, so it only makes sense that you will be able to bond with your horse during a grooming session, as well. During a grooming session, horses visibly relax and find comfort in the company of their companion or groom. Use this to your advantage to turn the session into an opportunity to strengthen your bond with your horse.
Not only is a grooming session a great way to inspect your horse’s body for any signs of injury or illness; it is also a fantastic way for you to have one-on-one interactions with your horse in a relaxing, calm, and enjoyable environment for them. While you groom them, speak to them in a calm and friendly manner. Take note of the way they respond to your voice and touch. This is also a good opportunity to use positive reinforcement training, as well; if you find that your horse may be a little hesitant to lift their hoof for the pick, or a little weary of a soft brush on their face, use positive reinforcement training to correct the situation and explain what you are asking of them.
Building a stronger relationship is not only beneficial in a social manner; it also has the potential to take your work as a team to new levels, as your horse will place a large amount of trust in you, and you will do the same with them. While these are just a few examples of ways to form a bond with your horse outside of the saddle, there are countless activities and methods that you can follow in order to strengthen the bond and relationship you have with your horse. Set aside some time to work on strengthening your relationship with your horse; you won’t regret it!