I'm taking my first English lesson in 30 years tomorrow! I've been reading tons, have been glued to YouTube videos, etc. My question is what kind of human behavior is best for horses? What can I do to begin to have a bond with my lesson horse? I'm very calm and "at home" around horses, even though I haven't ridden in years, I hung around at the barn where my daughter wrote when she was little. I guess I'd like to show my appreciation for whatever horse I ride and switch things up a little by my attitude; the poor lesson horses must get bored to death!
You should realize that horses are individuals. Bonding with a horse is much like bonding with a human. By this, I mean that you should pay attention to the individual to learn what the particular horse likes and dislikes.
Some horses are more transparent that others. Some horses – especially some lesson horses – have learned that it is best to remain “neutral” and simply go through the motions.
Much depends on the facility and attitude of the people there, both professionals and clients. Some facilities make riding a very formal interaction between horses and humans. A student comes, mounts, rides while responding to the instructor, dismounts, and leaves. It is difficult – though not impossible – for students and horses to establish much of a true relationship under such circumstances.
Facilities that encourage students to spend time with the horses, both before and after the formal lessons, provide much more opportunity for students to develop deeper relationships with the horses. Such an atmosphere also provides greater opportunity for individuals to learn more about horses in general.
It is interesting to note that Alois Podhajsky (director of the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna for many years) wrote that riders sometimes had more intimate bonds with horses than the grooms who fed and cared for them. Why would this be?
Relationships are more than “what” you do with others. Relationships involve “how”. Good relationships involve empathy, listening as well as speaking, and displays of appreciation. How these elements develop depends on the individuals involved. Put somewhat scientifically, the development of relationships involves experimenting with one’s approach to another, observing the response, appropriately modifying the approach, and trying again. At the same time, one must realize that relationships are not constant. Situations change and the individual must be able to adjust to new responses to the same approach.