How to get a better bond with my horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 12:16 AM Thread Starter
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How to get a better bond with my horse

Hey
I have owned my mare for 7 months and I feel like we have very little to no bond. I have been trying to spend more time with her and it seemed to be working until I tried to bridle her. She is very stubborn and wont open her mouth for the bit even with molasses. The session ended with me being very frustrated and she had pulled back so much that she ripped the bailing twine that I use to tie her up. After this i felt like all the bond we did have had vanished.
How long will it take for me to bond with her?
How did you bond with your new horse?

Thanks in advance

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horses ears.
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post #2 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 12:26 AM
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This is a training issue. Bonding really has nothing to do with it. How old is the horse and do you have a trainer?


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post #3 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 01:42 AM
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Is putting on the bridle the only time you have an issue with her? I have only had my horse for four months so I'm a beginner but a couple of thoughts. Have you had her teeth checked? Is there a possibility that her mouth hurts? What bit are you using? When I got my mare (Lulu) she came from five hours away and arrived with a saddle and bridle. Getting the bridle on her was exhausting. It took a lot of effort and the help of my daughter to get the bridle on. My husband had a friend that has decades of experience with horses and he had a terrible time getting Lulu to take the bit.

My husband got an email from Lulu's previous owner. He said, "We sent you the wrong bit. Don't use that one, use a snaffle." So, with the help of a friend, I purchased a French link snaffle. The first time I went to put the bridle on her with the new bit she just opened her mouth. No issue at all! Lulu is away with our trainer right now and the trainer is using a different snaffle but there are no issues putting on the bridle.
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post #4 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 02:01 AM
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She seems still very nervous I feel like this isn't just the bond try taking your training back a couple steps and try putting the bridle on without the bit first. Remember to be patient with her and good luck.
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post #5 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 03:04 AM Thread Starter
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I have been sorting out the bridle problem and im now looking more into tips and tricks for bonding with her / gaining her trust.
I use a snaffle bit
I haven't got her teeth checked yet but i know that they are not to long as they were done not very long ago

I did use to have a different problem with her were she would refuse to walk in a certain direction but be fine going the other way, this was not pain related, simply a behavioral issue but I have retrained her and she doesnt do this anymore

Also i forgot the mention that she is a OTTB and is 14 years old
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post #6 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 06:51 AM
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For Pony, I found out what he liked to do and then did it with him; generally this involved just hanging out in the pasture with him while he eats. Talk to him or touch him occasionally. When I got him, I would spend hours at a time doing that. It starts off boring, but then you sort of sink into it and it becomes very calming. Plus you can look around at everyone else and get lots of time observing them (very useful). If a horse liked to be groomed, then spend lots of time grooming it. If he likes to be loved on, do that.

For Teddy, who had emotional issues and anxiety, we built our bond in a more difficult way: after spending a lot of time with him in the pasture so he got to know me, I would figure out what made him anxious, then ask him to do small amounts of that, usually with some sort of food reward and me present, at a time. Build up to longer times and less food, build up to food not coming until later, build up to no food, build up to me disappearing for a few minutes, etc. Our bond was strengthened by me asking him to do things he didn't think he could do, but making it easy for him, so that he came to believe in himself and to associate me with that.

My daughter's mare Moonshine couldn't really care less about spending time together, especially at first (she would just trot away from us in the field). One thing my daughter did to help bonding (and also make Moonshine feel like my daughter was a good leader) was to put little caches of food and hay here and there, and then lead the mare to them (sometimes on a lead rope, sometimes not). My daughter felt Moonshine really responded to this. Plus it was fun for both of them!
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post #7 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 07:31 AM
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Some horses take a very long time to bond. I have had my mare for three years now, and she is finally really coming around in terms of wanting to be near people. My trimmer was here with her apprentice a few days ago, and couldn't believe the change in her. She now comes up to people and puts her head near them for scratches. You still have to be very slow and gentle with her, but she is a totally different horse from the terrified, skittish horse I bought (and who promptly dumped me on the ground twice within the first two weeks).

And I know people say that some horses just don't like to hang around people, and I'm sure that's true. But the sellers said that about my mare - that she was aloof, that she'd never greet you at the gate or be an easy one to catch. I wish they could see her now, lol. She's the easiest one to handle all the ground of my three horses. When I got her, she was extremely head-shy. The only way I could catch her was by cornering her in her stall. Now she puts her nose in the halter for me. I can touch her ears, nose, eyes, mouth, and she doesn't move. She half-closes her eyes in pleasure when I stroke her head. Maybe some horses just don't like people, but maybe the people they met in their lives were jerks too, and they had reason not to like them. Horses are gregarious animals, and can bond with animals of other species. Why not humans? You just have to put in the time and the work to learn to communicate.

How did I create a bond with my mare? I know some here have heard this many times, and are probably tired of hearing it, but I spent months doing an online liberty training course with her and it changed our relationship completely. I spent hours and hours with her, just learning to "speak" her language. Often, people and horses just aren't speaking the same language, and you just need the time it takes to get on the same page. Doing it from the ground, as opposed to doing it in the saddle, puts you in less of a dominating position. Doing it at liberty means the horse doesn't feel trapped. It can leave at any time. What amazed me is that by following each step of this course meticulously, I got a horse that didn't WANT to leave my side. I can ask her to leave, but she always wants to come back. I then did a groundwork course by the same trainer, and same thing - it is amazing.

In terms of bridling, I'm dealing with that now with my new horse. He's only 6 and is still green. When you try to bridle him, he throws his head up in the air and backs up. I was using a bitless bridle because I thought his teeth might be bothering him, but we just got those done so there are no more excuses. I just started using clicker training to get him out of that habit. First I teach him a head down command, and do that for a few sessions. Once it's reliable (he now just puts his nose to the ground as soon as we start a session, lol), I start making the motions I would make to put on a bridle. I put the bridle over his ears and just hold it there (first, I just put it on his forehead). The next step was to put the bit in front of his mouth, but not in it. As soon as he keeps his head still, in a good position (not up in the air), and keeps it there for a few seconds, I click and reward, and we're done. I treat and walk away. I want him to take the bit in his mouth himself, which he's already starting to do. I expect by this time next week he'll be doing it easily. Tiny, tiny steps are key. Don't just bridle him when you want to ride either, put it on, take it off, reward. Or do ground work, hand-walk, etc. You want to stop the session before it gets too hard/frustrating for the horse. Teach him that bridling is not a big deal, and will sometimes result in doing something fun, not just working.
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post #8 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mysticalgirrafffe View Post
Hey
even with molasses.
Whatever she did when you gave her molasses, that's the behavior you rewarded (if she likes molasses). She'll do more of that to get more molasses.

In any case, it sounds as though she does not feel as though you have the right to tell her what to do. It's a leadership issue, in my opinion. What to do about it? Intentional groundwork where you provide guidance for her (not simply boss her around - that's not leadership) and reward her for cooperation. What does that look like? Unfortunately, that's too complex a topic to go into in a little forum posting. There is a lot that can be done, and what and how it's done depends on the horse in front of you.

I quite liked Clinton Anderson's video series "Training a Rescue Horse". He establishes a "bond" with a mare he never met, before training her. Don't follow CA blindly, but do listen to his general principles. I hear good things about Warwick Schiller, and one of these days I will check him out, too - I will! I only know his "Why it's important to let the horse win" video, but it doesn't really apply to your situation.
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post #9 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 07:58 AM
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You say she pulled back while tied when you tried to bridle her? Any time you're doing something that a horse REALLY objects to, don't have them tied. It makes them feel trapped and it always makes things worse -- and dangerous for you both. Hold the lead or have someone hold it -- NOT tightly. You need slack in it and to treat it like it's not there unless you need it.

Bridling issues don't have to be a big fight. Give this a watch.

Edit: I see now you said you've mostly resolved the bridling thing. Give this a watch though anyhow, as you can apply the general principle to absolutely ANYTHING in training your horse.



Last edited by SteadyOn; 03-26-2019 at 08:06 AM.
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post #10 of 22 Old 03-26-2019, 08:00 AM
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Here's another Schiller one on bridling:

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