I just wanted to write a little fun post because I was riding this awesome mare the other day. Her name was Dante. I had never ridden her before and I could tell she was quite stressed. I immediately knew it was time to use everything I knew about bonding with a horse.
As I groomed her and tacked her up, I spoke to her the whole time.
When I was walking her around before we started our ride just to warm up a bit, I sang to her a little melody I thought of using her name a lot. And then once I was riding her, I spoke to her throughout, patted her a lot and generally made a conscious effect to connect with her physically and mentally.
It was about 15 minutes into our ride when I felt her start to relax and completely listen to me. I could feel her licking her lips, I could feel more bounce in her step and her ears were back to me listening to everything I was telling her verbally and non-verbally.
Never forget to make time for just you and your horse
After the ride, I thought about how much better things were once we bonded and connected. Even with horses that you have been riding forever, I think it’s so easy to forget to take the effort to spend time with them and bond with them.
It’s like that with people too!
You should always make time for those important to you even when it’s hard.
Whether you ride for fun or you’re training for something, if you have a strong connection with your horse then everything will go smoother. It will be more enjoyable for you both.
Your horse wants your attention and just like a friend, spouse, or even your dog – if you don’t take the time to keep the relationship healthy, it will start to suffer.
So here’s some fun exercises that will help you foster your relationship with your horse and keep it strong!
Bonding with a Horse Exercise 1: Liberty work – go dancing with your horse
Maybe it sounds silly but it’s actually a lot of fun! And starting on the ground is never a bad idea when it comes to building up trust and relationship with a horse.
I’m not going to get into the details of how to do liberty training here but I have a great post about it that you can read here. We also have a guest post from Equine Angel about her experiences with liberty work, if you want to know more.
If you’ve seen Cavalia, Heartland or any other horse show, then you’ll have a rough idea of what I’m talking about.
Cavalia is a horse show that’s part of Cirque du Soleil and they do a lot of liberty work as part of the performance. Heartland is a show based in Alberta, Canada. It’s based on an actual ranch that takes in and helps troubled horses. The main character – Amy – uses liberty work throughout the show to help bonding and to build a stronger connection with the horse.
Here’s a Youtube video showing you if you haven’t seen the show:
If you’re interested in learning how to do liberty work, then check out this article I wrote on the best horse books ever and scroll down to the one on liberty training by Jonathan Field!
Bonding with a Horse Exercise 2: Turn up the tunes and do some routines
Another thing that I find really fun is listening to music while you ride!
Quick disclaimer: of course you want to be conscious of the personality and sensitivity of the horse you’re riding. If your horse doesn’t like music, or seems uneasy when it’s playing, just skip this one. Also, I would skip the death metal regardless. Instead I would go for something happy, motivational and generally upbeat. If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s Katie’s top five favourite horse-themed songs.
Classical is actually great for this! And I don’t mean Chopin or Mozart although if that’s your thing then definitely go with it. But I mean more like instrumentals. Think of the theme song for Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars.
If you do dressage, or freestyle reining you might be used to this already as many competitions are done to musical tracks. If not, then this is a great opportunity to try it out!
Finally, you can find some fun area routines to do here on Pinterest like the one below and make your own little combinations to a song!
Your horse will sense your happiness and enjoyment of the music and they will start to enjoy it too! Also some horses just love music and will associate it with having fun in the arena and listening to music with you.
Voila! Instant bonding 🙂
Bonding with a Horse Exercise 3: Start stripping & no not like that!
No not you silly! Your horse!
You want to start trying to ride without a saddle and then eventually progress to without a bridle. Of course this is NOT EASY – especially if it’s your first time doing it.
You’re going to have to be extremely patient with it and let yourself and your horse start getting more comfortable with the idea. Your horse is going to be uneasy too at first. They’ll be able to pick up on your nerves and might not like you on her back with nothing else there.
Horses can tell if you aren’t stable on their backs and they don’t like it, it will generally make them unwilling to move forwards.
The liberty training book by Jonathan Field that I talk about above will also cover in detail how to go bareback and bridle-less. But as always, you’ll want to start on the ground and work your way up!
Continue nourishing the 3 C’s with your horse
I’m a huge believer in the 3 C’s with your horse! I talk about these in more detail some of my other articles and how to develop them through groundwork.
They are: connection, communication & comfort.
I think these are the key factors that make or break whether you and your horse are going to get along well together and work well together. You’ve got to establish a good connection that allows solid communication with each other.
Over time this will lead to comfort with one another. That’s when you know you’re truly a team!
These 3 exercises I’ve listed here should help with the 3 C’s and should help you strengthen or maintain the bond you have with your horse.
Please let me know what you think! Do you have any other suggestions about bonding with a horse? Anything at all – shoot me a comment below and I’ll get back to you pronto.
Happy bonding 🙂
EXTRA: If you (and your horse) are super adventurous and into major outdoorsy stuff, here’s a sick blog I stumbled upon on other stuff that you and your friends can ride your horses out and do such as rock climbing, tree climbing and hunting. Just make sure to always be safe!
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