Are you on a tight schedule? Are you having challenges finding time for your horse?
There is a solution.
When I was focusing more on riding than bonding I found I often didn’t have the time to groom, tack up, ride, cool down, untack and groom again. I often chose to do nothing rather than interact with my horse. Then I would feel guilty because I wasn’t riding my horse often enough and I would give myself a hard time over it. There was so much pressure from other riders and from myself to keep my horse working regularly.
However, riding isn’t always the best solution for training and it definitely isn’t the best solution for bonding. You can ride your horse as a method of training and it can compliment your relationship, but there are better ways to build a relationship that will also serve your riding.
In an ideal world you would spend hours just hanging out and practicing friendship and bonding exercises with your horse daily. You would also ride for exercise. However, most of us have to work or raise families so that’s not possible.
However, there are things that you can do for as little as 15 minutes which will alter your relationship and training over time. If you free yourself to spend short increments with your horse, but also commit yourself to doing this regularly you will notice big shifts in your horse’s behaviour. Short bonding/training sessions can actually even improve your situation quicker because horses enjoy the short time slots.
Things you can start doing now in as little as 15 minutes to build the bond:
- Sit with your horse and simply hang out reading a book
- Take your horse out on the lead rope to graze (only do this if you can influence your horse around grass. If they are rude forget this one)
- Spend some time to find your horse’s favourite itchy spots and have a scratching session
- Just groom and put your horse away (Only do this if your horse likes grooming. My Thoroughbred is not a fan so we keep the brushing to a minimum)
- Take your horse for a walk around the property or explore an area that your horse doesn’t usually get to experience like the back yard or a different paddock (My horse, Extra, loves this because she’s very nosy)
- Go out on a treasure hunt where you hide carrots or apples around the property or near obstacles in the ring and take your horse on a tour to find them
- Practice your leadership by moving your horse around the paddock from hay pile to hay pile or move them out in the field (You can watch my video for how to do this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHTfacIuSAA)
- Wander around in your horse’s paddock and explore the space with genuine interest. (My horses usually come join me and walk with me after awhile)
- Give your horse a massage
- Practice some light stretches with your horse (There are lots of websites and books that demonstrate stretches for horses)
- Pick a few ground exercises to try or improve on. (You can practice anything from simply halting on a lead, lunging, to learning shoulder-in in hand if you are advanced)
- Take your horse to a sandy area or a spot with woodchips and let them have a good roll.
Not every training session needs to be EPIC. Sometimes the best interactions happen out of spontaneous little short sessions.
Let me know how this goes for you or if you have another suggestion to add to the list.