Horses are intelligent, perceptive animals, and every horse owner must continually work to improve the partnership they have with their mount. Earning the love and respect of a horse is essential to better cooperation, communication and trust for a long-lasting relationship both human and horse can enjoy.
To build a safe, loving and respectful relationship with your horse…
Always Be the Leader
Horses are social animals with strict hierarchies in their herds, and your horse will continually test who the leader is – you or him. Always use confident body language around your horse, being firm with your commands and staying in control at all times. Make your horse respect your personal space, and do not yield to any pushiness or misbehavior. Letting that type of behavior slide will only let your horse know that you really aren't in charge, and he won't respect you.
Work to Build Trust
Trust is not an automatic virtue, it must be earned. Take time to bond with your horse, both while working and just being close together. Rub and scratch your horse all over so he will learn your touch even if he can't see you clearly, and allow him to blow into your face as he sniffs you and gets your scent. Return the gesture by blowing gently into his nostrils. Talk to your horse in soothing tones, and always let him see the tools and equipment you use so there are no surprises that can shake trust.
Discipline As Gently As Possible
All horses misbehave now and then and every horse owner will need to discipline their horse occasionally. When your horse needs to be reminded of who is in charge, keep your discipline kind and gentle. With a trusting, respectful relationship, even a gentle reprimand will be effective, but if it is not, take a few minutes to learn what is disturbing your horse before you use harsher gestures – the problem may be able to be solved without discipline.
Always be consistent with your signals so your horse will always know exactly what to expect when you move a certain way, make a certain command or react to his actions. Consistency will help build trust between you both, and will help teach your horse what you expect as well so he can meet those expectations.
Repeating training exercises will reinforce your consistency and remind your horse about basic behavior and respect, as well as refresh his memory for signals and expectations. An easy, repeated lesson can be relaxing to your horse, and occasionally changing up a daily routine with a refresher course can be more engaging than always working on new techniques.
Provide Good Care
Even the best training and most enthusiastic work toward a good relationship will fail if your horse is not properly cared for. A healthy, nutritious diet, adequate veterinary and dental care, comfortable feet, proper space, good shelter and plenty of exercise are essential for a horse's health and well-being. If those needs are not being met, a horse will become moody, disrespectful and belligerent, and may even become sick, depending on the conditions. Properly caring for your horse is critical for the relationship of love, respect and trust you desire.
It takes time to build a bond with your horse, but with patience and perseverance, you can have a loving, respectful relationship with your mount.