Five Things Your Horse Really Wants
As we are drawing closer to that festive time of year filled with mistletoe and carols, it is also a time for reflection. I know so many people like to buy their horse a new blanket or treats in the form of bucket loads of carrots or hot barn mashes with candy canes, but when we’re honest, who is that really for? Ok, most horses won’t turn down a bucket load of carrots, but let’s think about what your horse really wants from you.
1. An Unwavering Sense of Safety
The horse’s priority in life is to be a horse. Graze, follow the herd, and stay alive. In a herd they rely on each to stand guard and watch for predators while the others can sleep. They feel safe because they know their herd mate has their back. When you take them out to interact, do they trust you to look out for their well-being? Once they trust you, then you can begin to think about teaching them something.
2. Your Mindful Presence
Genuinely being with your horse means not on your phone or thinking about all the other things you need to do this week. If you are thinking about your grocery list or the 100 emails sitting in the inbox, your horse knows he can’t trust you to be in the moment looking out for him. You also have to do it 100% of the time. We expect our horses to be reliable, but yet we don’t always act reliably for them. It also means treating each day, and ride as a fresh day. You are riding today’s horse, not yesterday’s or tomorrow.
If your horse is young, wait for him to grow in mind and body. When teaching a new skill, lavishly reward the smallest try for those small tries build motivation forever. Let the horse be in charge of his schedule, don’t let your human expectations tarnish his confidence. For your older partner, give his body time. A little more walk and stretchy warm up trot never hurt anybody.
Horses value space. Firstly, space to roam and graze. Next is personal space. While some horses enjoy a good scratch or cuddle, others would rather have their personal space. We need to think “horse” for a minute and while hugging your horse may feel good to the human it may make your horse uncomfortable because you’re impeding his way out if danger happens.
5. Your Constant Pursuit Knowledge
When you take on horse ownership, what you really do is open Pandora's
box. Good horse people know that you will never know everything about horses and riding, but you must always stay in quest of learning more. Learn more about horse care and science, things often change, and you’ll need to stay current on best practices. Find out everything you can about how horses think, move and how you fit into that. When you bring a horse into your life and you have expectations that he perform for you in a reliable way and learn new things for you, you owe it to him to become the best teacher, coach, and friend you can be.