Finally the time has come, a new season in your life that has allowed you to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning your very own horse. Your new equine companion has been purchased and is settling in while you check off your list of everything a responsible new horse owner must get squared away upon the arrival of their new horse. Now the fun begins but wait, your horse seems standoffish, he doesn’t know you, maybe he’s missing his previous owner. Trepidation settles in threatening your fantasy of peaceful, long days in the saddle, a solid partner to enjoy that’d carry you mile after mile in the coming years. Don’t worry; everything you’d hoped for can all be yours. In fact, this journey you’re embarking on may become more fulfilling then you ever even could’ve imagined.

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Dig in, knowledge is power. The absolute greatest thing you can do for yourself and your horse is to educate yourself and commit to continuously learning for the rest of your horse owning experience. As you set out to do this, it may be daunting and overwhelming at first, as the plethora of information available to navigate through is vast and in many cases contradicting. Any information that uses the horse as its guide, considers the horse’s nature and puts this ahead of the human agenda would be worth looking into and filing away as useful information. It is imperative that you begin to understand your horse for what it is and how to communicate with it on that level. This is where it all begins, an in depth study and understanding of What Matters To Horses.

Support is also a key factor. Surround yourself with competent people who have harmonious relationships with their own horses and are concerned with the horse’s mental engagement rather than focusing solely on physical engagement. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people you trust. Working with the right trainer (someone who not only trains horses, but also emphasizes the value of instructing owners during the process) can also be of great benefit. See How To Find The Right Trainer for more information regarding this.

Respect, it works both ways. Once you begin to understand horses and their nature, you’ll know how to establish a positive relationship that’s filled with respect between you and your horse. You’ll have to be consistent with your new horse so he has the opportunity to learn what you expect. Working on Space and Boundaries and how well you get these things working for you on the ground will set the tone for the relationship you will have. You’ll have to learn what it means to be a fair, effective leader for your horse. Correcting your horse (when necessary) to show him what you expect is something you’ll have to familiarize yourself with.  Your corrections should always be made with patience. Your emotions should always be kept under control. Correction should not be confused with punishment. Punishment has no place in good horsemanship.2

Take the time it takes to get to know your horse. Accept him for his unique personality. Just like no two people are alike, no two horses are alike either. When setting goals for yourself and your equine friend, let his character be your guide. Some horses learn fast, some learn slower, some like to be busy while other would rather take it easy. Try to avoid ‘time’ being the sole factor in reaching your goals. Instead, allow your horse the time it takes to make progress on his own in response to what you set up for him to learn and experience. You’ll gain more confidence this way too, knowing you can be a good an effective leader for your horse.

Discover your horse’s sweet spots. Find out the way your horse likes to be scratched and rubbed and the way he doesn’t. Although your horse should be tolerant to allow you to handle him anywhere, find the way your horse likes to be rubbed and scratched when you’re taking a moment to be affectionate toward him. Some horses really love to be scratched along their back where they may be itchy from flies, some like a good scratch on the wither, some under the mane and along the neck, while still others enjoy a good scratch at the base of their neck and chest. Some horses like to be scratched vigorously while others not so much. Allow your horse to tell you by his expression what he enjoys; this is a sure way to make a lifelong friend. The horse realizes you are giving something, not just taking.

“Put your heart in your hand and rub your horse.” – Tom Dorrance

KATIE N IYou can’t pet your horse enough. Petting is important for encouraging, praising, and reassuring your horse. However, it’s all about the timing you choose to pet him that counts the most. Don’t pet your horse if he’s being pushy and is in need of correction (pushing into your space or displaying other rude behaviors), but at any other time, rub away!

Offer your horse treats. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, even feeding him out of your hand! Do however; be conscientious in your pattern of offering your horse teats. Mix it up, be sporadic. You never want to teach your horse to assume anything especially that you’re bringing treats, as this leads to pushy rude behavior that would be easier to avoid. Surprise your horse on occasion with a yummy well done, but don’t make it a regular occasion. In all honesty your horse will enjoy a good rub just as much.

If you can get all of these things working for you, you will have a friend for life. Chances are you’ll learn a lot about yourself too in the process, and that’s what might be the most exciting thing of all.

© The Horse Match Maker