Horses are social animals, and bonding with your horse is absolutely crucial first step. Three simple bonding exercises are the foundation of every future training:
- Bonding time: Here is a good exercise to start befriending your horse: simply spend time with it at least few times a week. The longer you can do it the better. The purpose of this exercise is to let your horse look for a contact with you. Simply stroll through the meadow, read a book, enjoy the sunshine and ignore your horse. Don’t chase it and don’t look at it all the time. This exercise should be done in the open space, such as a meadow or a paddock, because it is important to allow your horse to go away from you if it feels the need to. This way, your horse won’t see you as someone who always wants something from it and it will start to appreciate your company.
- Greeting: When your horse starts regularly coming to you, you can start taking initiative. During bonding time, calmly step towards the horse. Don’t force it if you notice that the horse moves away, give your horse as much time as it needs to get used to you. When you arrive next to the horse, let it smell your hand and then walk away. This way your horse will learn that you don’t always seek contact only when you want something from it.
- Grooming: If the previous two exercises are going well, you can try to go one step further and touch your horse. If you notice that your horse becomes upset or scared, do not go any further and walk away. Horses who are best friends enjoy scratching and rubbing each other lovingly. When your horse starts enjoying your grooming, that means it trust you as a friend.
Through these exercises you show your horse that it can trust you and that it shouldn’t be afraid of you. Now it is much easier to teach it further steps in training: respect for you authority, leading, yielding to physical aids, standing still, and beyond.