Horse Behavior Young Rider

Horse and Pony Questions: Building a Bond

Hugging - Bonding with Horse
Photo by Yuris/Shutterstock

QUESTION: I had a tight, close-knit bond with my first horse. Now I have a new horse, and I want to have that same type of relationship. I haven’t gotten there yet. How can I get closer to my horse?

Young Rider Magazine LogoANSWER: That close bond you desire is something to strive for. As you already know, it’s the most rewarding part of being an equestrian. Here are three suggestions to help with your new horse.

1. First, get to know your horse. Does he have any funny little habits? What are some interesting aspects of his behavior? What makes him a real character in the barn? Once you identify these traits, you can learn to appreciate him as a unique individual.

2. Next, spend time with him. Groom him lavishly, discovering that special “itchy spot” where he loves to be brushed. Talk to him in a quiet, soothing manner. Share your secrets (he won’t repeat them!), and let him get used to the sound of your voice. Practice saying his name in a specific tone. Eventually he’ll recognize it and respond when you call him.

3. Finally , in addition to riding work, use groundwork exercises to connect with your horse. One example is a simple showmanship pattern that includes turning and backing up. Leading him through the obstacles of a trail course is another idea. Both encourage the two of you to work together as a team. Be fair and consistent when you correct his mistakes. Reward him for making good choices and responding to your cues. In a short time, your new horse will feel like an old, trusted friend.

This article about how to get closer to your horse appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Cindy Hale

Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.

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