Guest post by Erica from Hoof Beat Collective.
If you are anything like me, you got into the horse lifestyle because you love them, love the time spent together, and love all the memories made.
The relationship you have with your horse is important to you. But, like any relationship, it’s important that it is joyful, based on trust and mutual connection- not a fight, a dread, worrisome, overwhelming, fear-based or a or lacking trust.
“Building a connection and trust-based bond with horses is the foundation to everything you want to do and achieve” – Erica Ash
To build a foundation and gain your horse’s trust, focus on the big things first – the core elements that make your horse function.
When you build a foundation based on trust, it’s a lot like having a piggy-bank you can constantly pull from in the future. Each time you make a “deposit” that bank is getting bigger and bigger. So in training or a sticky situation you have that “currency” to back and withdraw from.
Instead of rattling off a list of do’s and don’ts, I’m going to share the underlying secrets behind strengthening the trust with your horse within 3 simple and easy exercises you can try today.
Put these tactics into place, and you’ll be rewarded with the lasting connection, genuine trust and energizing willingness both you and your horse crave.
3 Exercises for Gaining Trust
Now that you understand why it’s so important to gain your horse’s trust and respect, let’s talk about how to actually do it. Here are the three secrets that will set you on the right path.
#1: Be Predictable
Horses don’t automatically come into this world equipped with the skills and abilities to understand humans. Much less live, survive and thrive in the human world. The number one trust builder is to be predictable by being consistent.
Be consistent with your energy level, emotions, and how you show up around your horse. Stay consistent with your communication, always sending and receiving messages in the same way – a way that both you and your horse clearly understand.
Predictability is comforting. It grows confidence and allows for richer learning moments.
That’s all great, but how does that work into what you DO with your horse every time?
The best place to start is to find clarity from the inside out. Taking a good hard look at your energy level, emotions and thoughts, both every day and every time you are around your horse.
Become aware of what thoughts pop into your head when you drive up to the barn, grab the halter and open the stall door.
Are you judging your thoughts and feelings?
Are you worrying about whether or not you need to do laundry when you get home…or what you’ll order at Starbucks tomorrow? 🙂
Are you thinking about what you should/shouldn’t be doing, is your timing off, what’s next…?”
We often add other thoughts to a thought, which only make the emotion and energy level on the other side more and more muddled.
Your horse is trying to read (predict) our intentions, energy level and body language. They simply want to know what we are “saying”.
If there is a disconnect; essentially we are saying and doing things we don’t really mean or believe. Your horse picks up on the disconnect clearly and are confused.
Plus, if you are unpredictable in your day-to-day emotions…you are making yourself that much more challenging to trust.
Let your body say and feel what we naturally are without being quick to add our judgments, doubts or trailing thoughts on top. Your horse will thank you.
“A trusting equine partner is worth more than anything words or numbers can describe” – Erica Ash
#2: Be a Good Listener in Every Moment
Humans are verbal communicators.
Talking is our natural go-to. But, not so with horses. They communicate primarily through body language and eye, ear, and muzzle expression. This subtle language can be overlooked if you aren’t paying close attention.
When you slow down your talking and simply allow the horse to “speak,” you’ll begin to see a shift in her demeanor. Quickly, your horse will notice that you are understanding them, tuning in to what they are saying, and respecting set boundaries.
Simply spend quality time with them…Listening: Free of expectations, allowing choices, listening to them, grooming, or going for a long walk together. Often times it’s in these moments where I develop a deeper understanding of who my horse is. Increase your awareness of your horse’s language, how she thinks, reacts, learns — and what motivates her to act.
To be clear, this is time spent *not* training. It’s important to have time with our horses free of agendas, to-do’s, tasks for how, when, where the horse should act, be and do.
Figure out what motivates them- and do more of it! If you have a horse who loves the big arena ball or running over little jumps, trotting in the field with you, do that! Do this at liberty (i.e. loose where the horse has freedom of choice).
Begin to ask to the horse: how do you feel? Do you like that?
The horse’s confidence and clarity with communication is sparked and they start telling you more!
# 3: Curiosity is Key
Curiosity opens more possibilities than anything else.
Curiosity is a sign of confidence. A curious horse is seeking…seeking answers, experience the world around them, or seeking new insight to learn about something new.
We want to “train” our horses…which means we want them to try, learn, then do things they’ve never done before.
So what better way to teach or introduce them to something new than with their own, internally fueled curiosity?
When a horse tries new things on their own…they are exploring and testing. This leads to a motivated and invested horse, full of confidence!
Sounds dreamy doesn’t it?
Here’s a secret on how to change low value questions into high value ones to help your horse build curiosity > confidence > trust:
Low Value: Why can’t I do this?
High Value: What can I do different to get this to work?
How else can I try this?
What else do I need to do differently?
Sparking curiosity as it relates to trust is about a balance of messages, observing your horse’s feelings and reactions and channeling it to keep it fun, but also keep it safe.
It takes more than just good training to create a relationship full of trust with a horse. Regardless of what experience level you and your horse are at, and no matter what style of riding you prefer…
Slowing down to join the horse in their world. Because there is no better life than that with a horse…where a great horse + human relationship is built on connection, trust and understanding.
Want more ideas and instruction? Check out my free resource download about the Top 10 Exercises to Easily Strengthen the Bond with Your Horse.
Erica is an Oregon native, adventure seeker with big ol’ dreams, coffee craving gal who loves a good story. She, like many of us, caught the “horse-crazy” bug early in life and never looked back. Many horses are to thank for crafting who she is as a horsewoman today. Through in-person workshops and online resources like a blog, ebook, and courses, her focus is on building a trust-based bond and lasting connection with our horses so every moment is nothing short of amazing!
Connect with Erica Creator of Hoofbeat Collective:
Free Download: 10 Easy Exercises to Strengthen the Bond with Your Horse https://go.bucketpages.com/sf/0c2fd275