Emotionally Unavailable Horse? Help!

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Emotionally Unavailable Horse? Help!

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  • He's warm but emotionally closed

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    06-08-2011, 07:23 PM
Unhappy Emotionally Unavailable Horse? Help!

I've recently started leasing a new horse (Simon) for the summer. Naturally, I want to bond with him so we can enjoy our time together as a team.


Simon is an athletic powerhouse used to being handled by my barn's extremely experienced trainer. This horse is talented beyond belief but an emotional ZOMBIE. He greets petting and cooing with glares and pinned ears.

It's my personal belief that he's been treated as a business tool and a blue ribbon slave his whole life.

So, how can I warm up this icy equine? Any suggestions? (And believe me, I've tried the daily carrots and apples, yet Simon remains unimpressed)
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    06-08-2011, 07:29 PM
Green Broke
You could try Join Up. Also ground work to get his respect, I personally love Monty Roberts and Clinton Anderson.
    06-08-2011, 07:33 PM
Some horses just aren't affectionate - you can't put human emotions onto a horse. I doubt he's thinking "I don't want to bond with that girl," he's more likely thinking "I wanna get back to my food."
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    06-08-2011, 07:34 PM
My advice is hand grazing! Every time after you ride too. Not sure how busy your barn is but if you can get into an arena with him and let him loose so just the two of you can goof around he might start thinking of you as a one of his herd a little more. How long have you been working with him?
    06-08-2011, 07:41 PM
I've been riding him consistently for about two months. I've tried hand grazing because he doesn't get turned out often (he's a pasture bully), but he never seems to notice I'm making an effort for his benefit.

Do you do anything special with your horse that he/she enjoys? :/
    06-08-2011, 07:46 PM
I agree with Ray about Join up. I have a similar 'problem' with my mare and Join up has helped me a lot. I would also start getting her out not just to work, but maybe just for grooming or lead walking. This way he would not just associate you with work. I am also starting with Parelli's 7 games, that somebody suggested in a different thread. I found them here The Seven (7) Games of Parelli Natural Horsemanship
Hope it helps!
    06-08-2011, 07:52 PM
Horses do not understand the "efforts we make" for them.
I have only shared a truly special bond with three out of the - uh, MANY - horses I've worked with.
Horses are not humans. You can get in a lot of trouble thinking they will act in one way or another due to some sort of emotion. I am not saying horses can't bond with humans - I'm saying don't fret if it doesn't happen. They don't think like us, they don't make emotional associations, and I don't think you can accurately describe a horse as "emotionally unavailable" as it is horridly anthromorphising (erm, sorry no spell check on my phone! I'm 99% sure I spelled that incorrectly) them.
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    06-08-2011, 07:53 PM
I think the Parelli approach will further bore/irritate a talented horse that simply doesn't care much for people.
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    06-08-2011, 07:57 PM
Horses are not supposed to be "emotionally available" to us. That's anthropomorphization, projecting human characteristics and needs onto an animal. If he is talented and well trained, that tells me his trainer was sympathetic, skilled and treated him like a horse. Mostly that's a good thing.

That said, I've had horses that disliked being groomed, and disliked human interaction, period, that were, none the less, capable and high performing. You can struggle with this (I had a groom that bought out several tack stores trying to find tools and a grooming routine that would soothe a TB of mine.) or you can accept that it's their nature and their choice. I highly recommend the latter route.

Of my current two horses, one is an affectionate, totally socialized to people, in your pocket cuddle bunny. The other is an aloof, standoffish individual that only enjoys my company when we're out riding; nothing that happens on the ground is interesting or engaging to him. Both are very good horses. I love the fact that the one whinnys at me when he sees me, and comes when I call. But I'm wary of calling that a "bond"; since they're both well trained (frankly, the aloof one is *better* trained); I just accept their individual personalities.

Since you're leasing this horse, learn all you can from him for now. If part of your pleasure in riding is feeling an emotional connection to the horse (you have lots of company in this desire), when you're ready to buy something for your own, absolutely do take that into consideration and find a horse that gratifies you by responding to grooming, affection and treats.
    06-08-2011, 07:59 PM
I was going to say much the same things...

"Emotionally Unavailable" is kind of an odd way to decribe a horse.

Rather, I would guess that he is bored. Maybe tired of being "fussed over" with petting...especially if it is getting in the way of his food.

How is he when you ride? Is he more responsive when things are "new" or ore interesting?

behavior, bonding, groundwork, horse and rider

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