7 Ways to Bond With Your Horse (Without Riding!) – Your Horse
Vicki Yates, founder of the UK Unmounted Equine Association, shares her thoughts on how to boost your bond with your horse, unmounted.
“Spending time with your horse doing non-riding activities can have tremendous benefits for you and your horse’s physical and emotional well-being,” says Vicki.
Here, you came up with seven ways to spend time with your horse.
1. try mutual grooming with your horse
There are many things you can learn by watching your horse. for example, we can see how they communicate about sharing space and touching.
Pair bonds take care of each other and if we do a similar activity with our horse, we can find out how our horse likes to be touched. some love a scratch, while others prefer a soft, gentle touch.
This is not grooming to remove dirt; it’s all about discovering your horse’s sweet spots. you’ll know when you’re doing it right, as your horse will give you feedback. in the right place with the right touch and your horse will be happy!
Your horse may want to groom you instead. some are very tame and careful, others are not. If your horse wants to groom itself and you don’t want to be groomed, you can hang a towel over a railing or stall door and encourage your horse to groom instead.
Taking care of the sweet spots can have many practical benefits. you can use it as a way to show appreciation to your horse and as a reward for any type of training activity.
2. try positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement or clicker training is a wonderful way to interact with our horses. allows faster learning since we can mark very precisely when the horse has done the right thing.
It can be applied to any activity with our horses, whether it is playing on the ground, walking, handling on a daily basis, training or riding.
It also opens up your world to understand the difference between positive and negative reinforcement.
3. go for a walk
walking your horse instead of riding adds a different dimension to your relationship. you will learn to trust each other and it is great exercise for you and your horse.
Walking also establishes ground manners beyond the schooling environment. It’s an opportunity for you and your horse to have some special one-to-one time.
It’s important to remember that you may encounter things on your travels that worry your horse. these are training opportunities. when you come across scary things, they will either be things you can pick up or not.
If it’s a lightweight, portable item that can be moved, pick it up and walk around with it. your horse will notice that the object hasn’t eaten you and that you don’t mind carrying it.
Your horse will reevaluate and go from scared to curious. once your horse gets curious, he’ll want to see what it is, very tentatively at first.
When you reach this stage, you can stop moving away with the object and move on to a gradual approach and retreat. this is when he allows his horse to sniff it and then takes it away. taking it off gives your horse time to reflect.
then you can get closer with the object and let it smell it for a longer time. reward your horse’s bravery.
once your horse is comfortable with his nose on the object, simply return the object to where you found it.
For objects you cannot move, stand between the object and your horse. it’s the safest place to be, as frightened horses don’t tend to run towards what frightens them.
Keep your energy low and reassure your horse by speaking softly and slowly. show your horse that it is safe to interact with the object, for example by touching it. your horse will eventually realize that he hasn’t eaten you and will be curious.
some objects can be replicated in the school before leaving so you can help your horse overcome fears.
equipment for your horse you need a well-fitting halter, halter or bridle, ideally the ones you bury your horse with. make sure you have a properly functioning guide rope. if you’re going to hit the road, high visibility is essential.
equipment for you you will need footwear with good grip and don’t forget a pair of gloves to protect your hands. a helmet is wise. you’ll need high visibility, especially if you’re going on the road.
If you’re going to venture out, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. the minimum is third party insurance.
4. play with your horse
The game is a great way to encourage your horse to think. horses are very capable of processing, solving problems and thinking things through.
Play is great for spook busting and bomb-proofing your horse. From practising spook-busting games as a partnership, you and your horse will have tools and strategies in dealing with scary situations.
playing with your horse can take many forms, be it interacting with objects and toys or overcoming different obstacles that you set up at school.
5. try agility with your horse
you can extend the game to horse agility. if you have space, try setting up different challenges in your stadium or paddock.
This might be different pole exercises, walking through channelled areas or weaving around barrels.
find out more about horse agility at www.thehorseagilityclub.com
horses love to relax with each other. why not spend time enjoying the company of your horse or the herd?
With our fast-paced lives, simply relaxing with the horses gives us the opportunity to slow down, relax, get out of the rat race, and connect with nature.
There is nothing better than being in the sun on a warm sunny day while your horse grazes nearby.
You don’t have to stop in winter either. bundle up and find a sheltered spot that gives your horse access to hay and water.
The key to success here is to actively practice relaxation.
horses are attracted to relaxed and peaceful people, and relaxation allows for higher achievement and better communication.
7. try to show online
Whether you travel or not, there’s an online demo class for you.
There are many different types of classes, from the traditional, to fun and themed, so something to appeal to everyone.
You choose the time to record your entry, whether it’s a photo or video entry. it’s cheaper than going to a local show as there are no transport costs.
If you win or get set, rosettes will drop through the gate.
learn more about the unridden equine association at www.thenonriddenequineassociationuk.org
join the facebook group of the unmounted equine association