As writer and answering to reader’s questions for Belgian horse magazine CAP for years, at one point I received the following question: “How can I build a better bond between me and my horse, so that horse riding is more fun and successful for the both of us? R.B.”
Because of the frequently similar questions I get in my mailbox, I have decided to discuss this in greater depth. It just happens that there are a lot of people who feel like their relationship with their horse can only get stronger and also realize that a good relationship affects the training of the horse in a positive way!
A horse that likes to be with you, sees you as a friend, and trusts you will truly cooperate throughout the riding. It’s good to also look beyond than just the riding. A horse who doesn’t trust the person beside him will definitely not trust the same person sitting on him.
Keep in mind that you should also train/ride correctly. You can easily break the bond you created from the start when you train/ride the wrong way which can inflict pain on your horse or scare him (even if that wasn’t your intention).
Now, how do you create a stronger relationship?
Step 1: understand your horse!
You create a better bond with your horse when you immerse yourself in the being of a horse. How it communicates, how it reacts, how it learns, how you can fulfill its natural needs…
Your knowledge of the nature of horses and understanding your horse is the first step to a good relationship. During the interaction with your horse it is important to meet the nature of the horse and work especially through body language, the horse’s language. Then, your horse will understand you too!
Step 2: Liberty Training
From here on you start with the 8 connection-exercises from the Liberty Training. These are exercises that you can do with a horse that is not attached to a rope (in riding arena, a big paddock or the meadow). Here you should initially work on the friendship and mutual trust. This is the most crucial thing if you want to develop a strong bond.
During the Liberty Training you will obviously learn more than building a bond. You learn how to handle certain “difficult” behavior in a horse-friendly way, should it occur. You can learn how to give more confidence to an anxious horse, help your horse that was traumatized by something in the past, overcome dominant behaviour, …
You also learn how to step out of your role as trainer so a deeper connection can be formed. If you can’t step out of your role as trainer during the Horsefulness Liberty Training, it will all be too technical and too forced. This is definitely not good for the relationship with your horse!
Step 3: Groundwork
After Horsefulness Liberty Training you can move over to Groundwork where you can do fun things with your horse, such as going out for a walk, doing different groundwork exercises, maybe some clickertraining… It is up to you to find out what your horse likes.
It is of great significance to spend a lot of time with your horse, also often without having to “work”. Both parties will then gain trust and a feeling of togetherness. Togetherness is really important for horses, it gives them inner peace.
So, just sit by your horse in the meadow, give the horse a grooming or massage, walk through the meadow together (loose or on a lead rope).
The more time you spend with your horse in a correct way and which is also understandable and enjoyable for him and makes him feel relaxed and happy, the better your relationship will be and the more successful riding will be too.
But don’t let “successful riding” be the main reason you want to work on your relationship with your horse, of course! Let that expectation go during Liberty Training. Just enjoy every moment of just being with your horse & the connection with your horse!
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