Every horse, like every human, is an individual, so it can be misleading to make broad generalisations. Horses come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and also temperaments. There are also a wide range of training methods to choose from, so which one is right for you and your horse? Which one will help you to develop that special relationship that you've always dreamed of?
That will depend on you, your horse, your situation and what you're hoping to achieve. A good place to start is by getting to know each other, your likes and dislikes, and finding ways to connect and develop the bond between you. Each relationship is unique and will bring out different aspects of those involved. You might notice that you have a slightly different relationship with each horse you meet and your horse(s) will have different relationships with the people, and horses, in their life.
The first step in exploring a new relationship is to spend time together watching, listening and exploring the other's responses with an open and curious mind. Observe your horse as he interacts with others, both horses and people, and you will begin to get a sense of his character. Is he outgoing or more of an introvert? Is he more curious or cautious? Is he more of a 'do-er' or does he tend to hang back and watch the others before choosing whether or not to get involved himself? Does he enjoy physical contact, or is he quite reserved? Does he have a 'sweet spot' where he likes to be scratched? When you then interact with him yourself you will have an idea of his personality and the sorts of things that he might like to do.
Watching your horse will also help you to develop an understanding of his body language. What signals does he give if he starts to feel a little anxious? Does he:
When horses show any of these signs we've probably lost their attention because they could be focused solely on diffusing or avoiding the tension that they're feeling.
Horses also use 'affiliative behaviours' to maintain herd cohesion and harmony. These include:
- licking lips
- relaxed ears
Once you and your horse have begun to get a sense of each other's character, a great way to develop the bond is to have fun together. You can obviously draw on the list of things that you've observed your horse doing and that you know he enjoys. This could be playing games together, exploring new things or just chilling. You can also include things like grooming, massage and bodywork, though if you have a nervous horse, or one who sometimes prefers not to be touched, you might need to build this up slowly, perhaps finding that 'sweet spot' and starting there, keeping the sessions very short initially and extending the time as he becomes more comfortable.
You can also go for walks with your horse and allow him to forage in the hedgerows, which is not only great exercise but also provides him with mental stimulation and some extra, interesting things to eat with a variety of health benefits. You can see more about this here.
Doing things which encourage your horse to think for himself can be good too, as it enables him to engage his brain before he responds to situations rather than just being reactive.
However, if you are struggling with your horse's behaviour, or feeling unsafe, I recommend finding a good equine behaviourist to support you.
You could also explore the following questions:
- is he in pain? (eg injury or uncomfortable tack)
- is he bored? (eg has he been doing the same thing for several days in a row / is he a young horse with a short attention span)
- is he distracted?
- is he picking up something from you or other people / horses in the yard?
Given that horses are such sensitive animals it is also very important for us to take good care of ourselves. This is true physically, emotionally and mentally as any imbalances could affect the horse and his behaviour in negative ways.
Using your breath and getting present can help to:
- bring your energies down
- calm a rushing, busy minds
- bring yourself more into focus and alignment
- open yourself to the world and communication of your horse.
Other ways of supporting your own wellbeing and balance include:
- taking time-out for yourself
- meditation / mindfulness
- physiotherapy / chiropractic / massage sessions
- a healthy diet
- getting sufficient sleep
- complementary therapies (eg homeopathy, aromatherapy Bach Flower remedies, EFT, healing, etc)
Robyn Harris is a Holistic Wellbeing Therapist with EQUENERGY: Wellbeing Naturally.
Her journey into working in the field of wellbeing began when she trained in Reiki to Level II then went on to study energy work with The Healing Trust. Being a real animal lover, and realising that she wanted to focus her work in this area, she completed the Diploma in Small Animal Healing with Elizabeth Whiter and, having a passion for horses, she then added the Equine specialism. Several of her case studies for the Diploma were carried out at HorseWorld in Bristol and she still volunteers there once a month, offering healing and equine massage to the rescued and retired horses.
She has also studied Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to Level III and has just completed a course in Nutrition as she believes strongly in supporting wellbeing through healthy, balanced diet. In addition, Robyn is a META-Health practitioner, helping people to uncover the root cause underlying disease so that it can be addressed directly in order to allow the body's own healing systems to function more effectively.
You can see more about Robyn's work on her website: https://www.equenergy.com/ where you will also find links to her social media.