By Staci Jansen
Approaching a horse correctly is the first step to gaining it’s trust. Walk slowly from the side toward the shoulder, never approach a horse head on. Don’t look directly at the horse for a horse may interpret you as a stalking predator.
Horses have a blind spot right in front of their nose due to the position of their eyes on either side of their head. Approaching from the shoulder is less intimidating for a horse and allows them to see you clearly without a blind spot.
Horses have a strong prey animal response. In the wild, horses were stalked by predators and their defense was to run from danger.
Predators approached from the rear or from the nose of the horse – the two blind spots in a horse’s field of vision. Moving at a horse from a side position will be more comfortable for the horse than going straight at the nose like a predatory animal.
Once you have approached the horse at the shoulder, hold out your fist slightly and allow the horse to smell you. Don’t reach for the muzzle (nose), but wait for the horse to turn and smell you.
Horses will interact with you if given the chance and time to investigate the situation. These simple mannerisms will gain a horse’s trust.
The best place to touch a horse is the shoulder area. Horses are naturally shy about the head, reaching for a horse’s forehead or muzzle after entering their space, may trigger their prey animal flight instincts.
Touch the shoulder area in a rhythmic, massaging motion. Horses do not appreciate being patted like a dog. The off and on pressures of patting translate to an attack type encounter. Keep your pressure constant and moving.
Once your horse is comfortable with your touch, begin to move to other areas of the horse’s body slowly. This will build trust so that the horse knows you will not harm it. The relationship you are building now is your foundation for riding.
You want to be able to touch the horse anywhere on it’s body. The veterinarian and farrier will need to touch the horse to treat it and keep it healthy. Teach your horse that it’s not going to get hurt by touch, or that it’s even pleasurable, and your horse will starting seeking you.
By watching a horse’s body for alarm signals, you will know if the horse is anxious.
Signs that your horse is alarmed include: the eyes getting large and round, ears pinned back, the feet moving and the head up high. If your horse does these things, it is not comfortable with what is happening. In this situation, it is your responsibility to remove the cause of the anxiety. If you cannot relieve the horse’s anxiety it will try to flee the situation as its defense.
Reading your horse for signs of relaxation and comfort is also useful.
Signs that your horse is comfortable include: chewing and licking, blinking the eyes and big sighs. If you are touching your horse and see your horse do these things, it means they are relaxed.
Horsemanship is a partnership. Learn to read your horse’s body language and gain it’s trust before you saddle up and you’ll enjoy years of riding with a good friend.
“I have ridden a horse several times before but was never quite comfortable. A friend suggested your book, well within an hour I couldn’t wait to get back in the saddle. I have been having a great time ever since. I highly recommend this!” Mark Blanc
“I have a vacation planned and want to go horseback riding but didn’t know a thing about it. This book has given me everything I need to know and some outstanding information on what to look for. Thank you.” Samantha, New Horse Lover
(c) Copyright 2007 by Staci Jansen
I’ve been away from horses for 20 years, and admit I was very timid, even scared to ride again. Now I can enjoy my riding time and look forward to my next adventure with my horse.
Learn what it takes to get in the saddle, get a free ebook chapter preview from The Beginner’s Guide to Horseback Riding
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