Getting a new horse is usually an exciting and busy time. It can lead to shopping sprees, nights spent carefully deciding which ‘colour’ to deck them out with and a whole new world of training opportunities!
Each new animal we encounter also provides the opportunity to learn. Each horse is different and can respond in new and unexpected ways.
My favourite ways to get to know my new equine partner involves a few fun games.
First we need to find out what food they like! Will it be carrots? Apples? Gumnuts? Maybe they’re simple folk and are happy with some chaff or hay.
Grab some of their favourite food and a fly swatter, head out and have some fun! You’ll learn all about your horse’s patience, comfort levels and mannerisms through some good training sessions.
Look up tutorials on standing face forward and targeting for a step-by-step guide on beginning to train with positive reinforcement if this will be your first time!
Another wonderful way to build up that relationship is through good old fashioned ‘quality time’. Bring your companion a couple of carrots and hang around to find their favourite scratch spot.
Although many horses will vary with what they enjoy or are comfortable with, a few common areas they often love include the withers, the base of the neck, between their front legs, under the chin and behind the ears. Some horses will be more or less comfortable with different areas – if your horse is a little head shy, start at the shoulder and ‘scratch’ your way up over several weeks to build up that comfort and trust.
Always keep a close eye on your animal’s body language. Pinning their ears, looking away or moving away can all be very big signs they’re not happy. Smaller indicators include wrinkles above the eyes and flared nostrils, as well as tense facial muscles. Notice these small signs for a chance to show your horse that you see they’re uncomfortable and will stop what you’re doing immediately.
On the other hand, if they seem relaxed and are leaning into the scratches, see if you can’t get them to the point of a wiggly nose. Some horses even enjoy ‘scratching’ your hand with their muzzle. This is called mutual grooming and is how two horses in a herd may bond.
In summary, you can build trust with your horse through:
- Love Bombing
- Quality Time
For more questions, please contact Madi Holmes @ PPGA
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