Improving your relationship with your horse. cont

Trust can take years to build and can be shattered in a second by making a training error such as reacting in anger and beating the horse! Fortunately horses are animals that don’t hold grudges and if one has developed a solid relationship of trust it can be restored quickly. However when abuse or serious physical pain are inflicted the relationship is seriously changed and the horse may not trust again, he may respect but he certainly won’t be trusting and as willing. Feeding, watching, being present around the animal and caring for it are what develop trust. It is during this time that the trainer/owner needs to get to know the particular animal and decide on the training approaches for future. There are many ways to work with horses and sometimes it may be a semi wild or dangerous horse and it may require the initial relationship start via protected contact training. This means the trainer is somehow protected from harm, an example would be the horse is in a stable or round pen and the trainer is safely outside the area. The goal of this is to establish and choose a type and level of interactivity that will allow you too safely and effectively train, feed and care for your horse.
Usually horses are worked and handled in what we call semi-free contact. This means the horse is on a halter or in an enclosed area like a round pen and cannot leave if he so desires.
Free contact or liberty work is the ultimate in a relationship of mutual trust and respect. It is where the horse is not confined or haltered. Both horse and trainer have equal access to the work area, the horse can leave at anytime it desires. However free contact can also be the most dangerous way to interact with animals and should only be practiced after many hours of relationship building and strong foundation of mutual respect.

So how do you tell if your horse and you have a good relationship? Here are a few points that will help you measure your trust relationship:
* Is your horse easy to catch? If he would rather leave or run around you then you have more work to do in this area
* Does he look pleased to see you? You are looking for him to be focused on you, with his ears forward. If he turns side on, turns his bum to you or walks off then you know you don’t have his attention and your relationship is not as positive as you would like it to be.
* Does your horse enjoy his work and offer little or no resistance?
* After you have worked your horse and un-tack does your horse still choose to be with you or is he in a hurry to leave and go back to his herd or stable.

It is easy to build a better relationship with most horses. Simply go say “Hi” as often as you can and just chill together. This is essential if your horse only sees you for lessons or rides because it is at livery with someone else. Test and improve your communication by building on your horses training with ‘special skills’ such as trick training, clicker training or just exposing yourselves to different situations that challenge you both frequently. Once you have a good relationship with your horse, strive to have a great relationship with your horse! It is worth the effort.