Building a stronger bond with our horses is something a lot of horse owners forget to do but they don’t realise the positive impact it would have if they did. Yes, you can get on a horse and ride it but having a deeper and stronger bond with your horse will just transform your riding and your overall relationship and partnership together.
As an equestrian that doesn’t see riding as the main priority when it comes to horses, I spend a lot of time creating a bond with my horses on the ground and I would like to share with you all my top 5 tips to create a stronger bond with your horse or pony.. They are the main part of our lives after all and sometimes, doing things with your horses other than riding stops your horse from seeing you as the person that turns up to the yard to ride and then leaves. Doing things that your horse will enjoy other than riding will make them work harder for you when you do come to ride.
These 5 tips are also great for keeping your horse stimulated when you have made the hard decision to retire them. Day to day turning out and bringing in can get boring for you and your horse and you may feel like you have lost that connection between you both but you can keep the flame alive!
Grooming plays a massive part in creating a stronger bond between you both as it gives you time to get to know one another on a deeper level. Grooming not only cleans your horse but you can also pick up on the things your horses aren’t so happy with and most importantly, any changes in their attitude or body, cuts or bangs. Some evenings I just groom my horses for hours and I don’t expect anything from them in return. It makes them feel good and look good!
2. In-Hand Walking
I often take my horses out for hacks in hand around the fields or around the yard. We just go for Sunday strolls really, at a steady pace, nibble some grass, have a little sit down, chat to the passers by.. Really relaxing and gives the horses something different to do without the pressure of having a rider on board. Obviously, not all horses would be suitable to do this but I am lucky enough to have calm horses and I know how to handle them in hand. If I feel they might be a bit excitable that I will take them out in a bridle to be on the safe side and I always take them on a lunge line so if they try to run off I still have hold of them.. But if you are calm, so are they!
3. Playing in the Menage
Playing games with your horses and stimulating their minds other than riding can be really helpful to grow the bond between you both. They learn to respect you on the ground and know when you are being playful and when you are being firm. I often free-school my horses and after that I like to do sequences with them. My horses naturally follow my lead and with this I set up courses in the ménage or field with different objects such as poles, jumps, chairs, plastic bags, etc etc.. I then walk around the course myself in walk and they follow behind. I will then sometimes increase the pace to run and they will then trot behind.. A great way to do trotting poles more freely and if you have a spooky or young horse, this is also great for de-sensitising them to different objects that they may come across in later life.
4. Chill Together
There is many different ways that you can chill with your horse whether that be in the stable or in the field. I like to go and sit with my horses while they are grazing in the field on a nice day. I will usually take the wheelbarrow down and do some poo picking while I am there but I am always interacting with them and they are always coming over to see what I am doing. Just being in the presence of your horses for periods of time helps them grow a bond with you without you even realising it.
5. Trick Training
I follow a lot of equestrian accounts on Instagram and Youtube and one thing that I was really interested in was watching other equestrians clicker training their horses like you would a dog.. Positive reinforcement training is a great way to create a bond with your horse using a clicker. You can re-train your horse out of bad habits or teach them new tricks using the clicker and using it in a positive way which helps your horse to trust you more. I found this really worked with my rescue pony, Adie. He responds so well to the clicker and we have a bond stronger than ever since using this. I spend around 5-10 minutes per day or every other day teaching him something new. It can literally be to look away when you have a treat to stop them from imposing on your personal space. It is a great way for your horse to learn the boundaries and to be well mannered.
These are 5 things that I personally think work really well and I am very content with the bond I have with both of my horses. I would love to hear below how you built your bond with your horse or pony or tips and tricks for creating a bond with a new horse.
Thank you for reading, until next time..