Earning a horse's trust? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 10-05-2014, 12:11 PM Thread Starter
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Question Earning a horse's trust?

Hey,
I've been doing riding lessons for about a month now and before that I did a week of riding camp at the same barn. I have been riding the same horse and I really like him and we work well together in the arena. My problem is that I don't know/think that he likes/trusts me back. I always give him treats after lessons, talk to him and give him pats when he's been good. I was wondering if anyone has any other tips for earn a horse's trust. Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 10 Old 10-05-2014, 12:33 PM
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Why do you think this?

Stop with the treats and with babying.

Be a quiet strong leader. Some horses and people click, some don't. A lesson horse has many different people riding him. Just be quiet and steady and he will start to respond to you. Give him love in a way he understands. No babying but spend lots of time grooming him and just spending time with him.
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post #3 of 10 Old 10-05-2014, 12:33 PM
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You earn a horse's trust the same way you earn a person's trust: by being honest and fair with them.

Treats may be appreciated, but they don't built trust. I don't think any horse really enjoys pats which may feel like a gentle -- or not so gentle the way I sometimes see them applied -- striking. I'm sure a horse would much more appreciate a rub or a scratch as a reward.
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post #4 of 10 Old 10-05-2014, 02:13 PM
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A horse is not a dog. They love snacks, but they don't see that as affection. They don't understand pats either (I really hate it at the racetrack when people are all SMACK SMACK SMACK on the winner, as if the horse understands he did something good from that?). They will not respond like a dog or cat would. They're a prey animal.

If you're limited to riding him in lessons, you're going to have a more difficult time building any kind of relationship with him, because of the situation. For my horse, I spend a lot of time with him walking around, grooming, playing and just doing "stuff" that doesn't involve riding but is still interesting and fun. I took him to new places, took him to obstacle courses and we learned how to tackle new and scary things together. He learned how I am as leader and became comfortable with my 'way'. I learned how he is as follower, and became comfortable with his 'way'. Don't get me wrong - we still ride very regularly. Our visits are just not all about riding though.
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post #5 of 10 Old 10-05-2014, 02:13 PM
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it's not realistic to expect too much of a "relationship" with a school horse. they have many different people ride them and have to do the same thing day in and day out. for self preservation they tend to become a bit "shut down", so maybe it feels like you aren't getting much response from her/him.

Just be fair to him, and focus on learning what you can from him, but don't expect him to be a good friend. he is doing his job, . . . let him.
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post #6 of 10 Old 10-05-2014, 02:36 PM
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While I agree I have seen my share of kids "POOKIE LOVES ME!!!" that all but run screaming down the barn and poor Pookie all but putting his head in the corner and cringing. I have also seen horses that do genuinely like their riders. A very good example is a horse with mounting issues, particularly by large adults where this particular very tall *quiet and gentle* lady can get on him with no assistance and no worries from anyone and he stands like a rock as he trusts her.

They DO respond to someone with the right attitude. I agree you should not expect to be friends with them. I also don't think you should be disappointed if they don't respond to you. But if you have the right attitude they might. At the least they will appreciate it.

IME the more treats someone gives a horse the less they respond to you. You become a food machine. I also really hate it when somenpeople treat the lesson horses. Treats are either neutral or bad in this situation.

If someone said "can I spend some extra time brushing so and so then hang out outside their stall for a bit" I would think that was fantastic (assuming the schedule allowed for it). If they are off the "OMG POOKIE" kind the horse has plenty of room to avoid them as they aren't allowed within the stall" and if the horse wants to come visit they may :) Just hanging out is great and it's only the people who actually care who do this.

Leasing a horse may help. I know out school program has different "levels" of leases. Some just mean you ride a little more and maybe on a specific horse if you so choose others mean you basically own the horse.
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post #7 of 10 Old 10-06-2014, 07:19 AM
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Calm and consistent handling, low voice and motions and low energy. Soft hands, and steady cues.

Trust is not something that is needed as much as good horsemanship is.
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post #8 of 10 Old 10-06-2014, 09:24 AM
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To earn a horse's trust is not the same thing necessarily as earning his respect. But regarding the trust thing, BE FAIR and BE CONSISTENT. That's about as trustworthy as you can get as a human.

To be fair includes lots of things, like not losing your temper, using escalating forms of pressure until you get what you're looking for (starting with the least to the most) and then immediately releasing the pressure, realizing if your horse isn't doing what you want it's likely your fault due to poor communication, not asking more than your horse is capable of doing, not over-doing the training in one session, not asking for too much at once, and many other things.

To be consistent is to always ask for things the same way, or, if you are going to change how you ask, don't expect your horse to read your mind about that. You have to re-train to the new signal. Keep your moods out of horse-riding and training. Your horse does not deserve to be treated poorly because you're feeling poorly - always have a cool head. Always expect respect and good behavior; if you let your horse get away with things one day, don't expect him to understand the next day will be different. That's consistency, along with lots of other things I can't think of right now. :)

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ” ~ William Shakespeare
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post #9 of 10 Old 10-10-2014, 08:46 AM
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^^Nothing to add, all said above!

...well, except Palo, guess it depends who's perspective you're looking at when you say trust isn't needed. I think it's incredibly important... and it's good horsemanship that gets you there, IMO
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post #10 of 10 Old 10-10-2014, 12:10 PM
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Trust and respect are built slowly over time. But just be fair and honest with him. Slowly he will trust you more, and spend a lot of time grooming and if you can I love hand grazing my mare or just sitting in her field with her while she grazes around me. Spending time doing simple things like that will slowly create the bond over time :)
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