Trust and Team Building with Your Horse

A foundation of trust and team building is important when learning how to bond with your horse.

  • Starting sooner in life rather than later helps when building trust with your horse.
    Photo by Gregory Johnston
  • Building trust with your horse takes time and patience.
    Photo by Fotolia/iLight photo
  • Establish trust with your horse by being predictable when tacking up.
    Photo by Ingelhart
  • Gritty is establishing trust with his equine friend.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson
  • Bath time is one of the ways to bond with your horse.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Training your horse doesn't always involve you being in the saddle. Sometimes a walk helps for bonding with your horse.
    Photo by Yuri Arcurs
  • Spending time and giving treats helps when building trust with your horse.
    Photo by Kelsey Smith Photography

Almost all horse lovers share one thing in common: We dream of riding like Annie Oakley, galloping over rolling hills, or dashing through forests on our fearless mounts in perfect harmony with our horse and the world. Unfortunately, these dreams sometimes go unrealized, instead turning into nightmares. As our horses behave instinctively like prey animals, we lose confidence, desire, and sadly sometimes our health in pursuit of our dreams. This can be the result of failing to build a trusting relationship that is the bedrock on which the bond between you and your horse rests. Only a horse that trusts its rider can make the dream a reality.

Why it’s important

Why should I want my equine partner to trust me? If having your dream realized isn’t enough, there are plenty of other good reasons to want a trusting horse. A trusting partner will easily load into a trailer. He will stand to saddle, clip, bathe and mount. A trusting horse is less likely to damage property, and requires minimal tack and gadgets. He is also more relaxed, and therefore healthier overall. This all means you save time, energy and money.

How do you build trust with your equine partner? Here are four keys to building that foundation of trust.

Slow down

Scratch your head, and scratch his belly. Take time to think for yourself, and allow your horse to think. The first time I tried to mount my horse, Poncho, he would not stand still. Rather than do an awkward dance with him every time I wanted to get on, I simply slowed down. I separated the mounting process into its smallest components and repeated them until Poncho had sufficient time to process the actions and came to expect them.

I started by merely lifting my leg and putting it down repeatedly until he had no reaction. Then I progressed to jumping up and down beside him. Once he stood still, I advanced to placing one foot into the stirrup. Next, I mounted halfway, but without swinging my leg over. Finally, I could swing my leg over and just sit.

I made sure to give him time to consider and accept each step in the progression, ensuring a smooth flowing process in the end. The first day I worked with him, it took about an hour to complete the process. The second day, about 10 minutes. The next 10 years and hundreds of mounts, about 5 seconds. Once you commit to taking the time to do it right, it’s amazing the time you save in the long run. Besides, it’s pretty cool to have a horse that wants to come and pick you up for a ride.

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