Horse wears watch

Build a bond with your horse in 15 minute Increments

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
  • daybeezho / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
  • 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
  • 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.



Comments 37

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  1. my horse has started bolting and bucking
    Would bonding with him help me and what else can I do to help stop this

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      Hello. Bonding with your horse will help almost any problem that you are having, but the full solution may require further action.

      Did anything change when he started the behaviour? For example did his work get more challenging or did he change tack or environments?

      When does he specifically buck and bolt?

      Has he been checked out by a vet, chiropractor or massage therapist? He could have started bucking and bolting due to pain. It’s always good to have your saddle fit checked too.

      If a bond is in place with your horse you have a better chance of him willingly responding to your cues and also a better chance of understanding when he’s tense or likely to have an episode of bucking and bolting. Bucking is usually a sign of a horse that isn’t willing to go forward under saddle. I’ve often seen them bolt for the same reason when the bucking doesn’t work. Both behaviours are a way for your horse to completely eliminate the exercise you were working on and change the topic. but you need to rule out pain and discomfort as a cause.

  2. Hi,
    I absolutely LOVE your ideas. I feel as if on weekdays I only really have time to catch my horse, feed him and then put him back in the paddock. and on weekends my focus is mainly on riding. I will definitely try to find the time to fit in these short exercises 🙂 Thanks for the ideas! 🙂

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  3. My daughter (13) has just started to loan her first pony after riding school ponys for six yrs. she is very keen to spend time with her but other than a quick groom, tacking up and riding she hasn’t done anything else. How can she best start bonding. I have no experience of horses myself and am very wary so I’m not much help to her!

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      The best thing that she can do is to just start spending time with her horse, either reading a book or journaling or doing her homework.

  4. This is so great! I am having difficulties finding time with my horse because of college, and I miss the connection we used to have. You give amazing and fun tips, and I am so excited to try them out!

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      Thanks! Good luck with your horse and feel free to tell me about your results. You can also join the Facebook group “Liberty Horse Lovers” and share your thoughts there too.

  5. I’m loving the idea of a treasure hunt! But I’m not sure how to set it up.. My pasture doesn’t have many places to put things and my yard has to many places that I could forget about! I could be over thinking it all though lol any suggestions?

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      I would suggest using pylons or cups or buckets to hide things under in the pasture. You can move them around to change up the game and you won’t forget where they are. 🙂

  6. I had to leave my horse for 6 months now he won’t even look at me.
    What do I do? I’ve tried feeding him and playing with him but he don’t wanna know.

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      If I’ve been away then I go back to doing small things like I’ve mentioned in this post until my horse starts showing interest in me. Sorry it’s been so long since I commented. How are things going now?

  7. HI! I was wondering how to stop my horse from grieving after the loss of a horse friend. We have 2 horses Tinsel and Scout. We are getting rid of Scout and I don’t want Tinsel to start to grieve! I have had a Standared bred and after the loss of her friend she started to grieve. Please help! Thx! (:

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      This will depend on your situation. Will Tinsel have another horse companion once Scout is gone? Most horses need a horsey friend to feel safe and content. It will also depend on the depth of the bond between Scout and Tinsel. Some horses are extremely bonded and others could take or leave each other. Your standardbred was strongly bonded to the horse she lost, but Tinsel and Scout may not be as good of companions. Explain to both Tinsel and Scout that a separation is coming and explain why. Horses understand more than we think. Once Scout is gone spend extra time with Tinsel and let Tinsel know that you are there and a friend. You can’t prevent whether or not Tinsel grieves anymore than someone can stop you grieving from losing your friend. All you can do is BE a friend.

  8. Thank you I will definitely try most of them. I always tried spending as much time with my horse as possible but
    It doesn’t work out as in the week I only ride him and have a lot of homework. ( we have two houses one on the country side and one in the city, my horse is in the countryside).
    Thanks for this advice😃

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  9. Hi
    I have only had my horse 4 months he’s 8yrs old . He had bucked me off the 3 times I have been on him and bolted twice.i have tried the m.r. join up which worked once after perseverance. The second time round he was for non of it and actually tried to come into my space which I wasn’t happy about.he is a big strong horse who is the boss with my cousins other 2 . Also my cousin I’d more experienced than me and she blankly refuses to go on him.her daughter who is highly experienced got on him and because he couldn’t buck her off he reared instead and nearly fell on top of her.weve had his back checked out and all is ok with him now (he had a sore back) but he’s still the same and I’m beginning to wonder … I’m at a loss as he cost quiet a bit of money .

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      He was reacting out of pain when he had a sore back and now he may still be trying to protect his back, afraid that pain might come. He likely doesn’t have the training to know how to behave differently on the ground and under saddle. Where are you located? I suspect he needs a lot of groundwork to help him find his confidence and balance again and also to build up the muscle that he needs to carry a rider.

  10. Hi,
    I had a relatively strong (and constantly growing) bond with my mare about 5 months ago, but recently she has been acting quite strange (especially around me). Around 5 months ago she started walking off as soon as I took the halter off, and avoiding me when I tried to catch her as if she was afraid of me (I have never hit her or done anything nasty). Ever since then she has been acting strange. Eg. Pinning her ears back when I come up to pat her, ignoring my ground work ques, generally just looking kind of miserable. I did rescue a pony 6 months ago (my mare and him have been sharing a paddock since then) and I do believe she became quite jealous even though I wasn’t negelecting her at all. I’ve stopped riding her the past 2 months to focus on rekindling the bond we had by mainly just spending as much time in her paddock as I can (just reading or wandering around , as you mentioned). She does come up to me eventually, but she loses interested quickly; even though I reward her with excitement and pats when she comes over to me. I groomed her today and It probably sounds stupid, but I can feel something missing between us. We used to to liberty work (she would listen to all my signals and follow me around), but now I can hardly get near her without sensing that she doesn’t want me there. Do you have any idea what I can do/what happened? I’m going to try doing more things with her to show her it’s nice to be around me rather than giving her the choice to ignore me, which sounds quite harsh seeing as she doesn’t want to be around me, but knowing her she would rather eat than do anything else unless she’s kind of ushered to it. So, any ideas what I could do/what could have happened ?
    – thank you!

  11. Does a horses age matter wether or no it will bond with you because I have a 20 year old horse that I have had about 6 monthes and she runs away and when i am on her she ignores everything I say or command her to do

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      Any horse of any age can bond with you, but the horse’s past experiences will influence how quickly they are willing to give you their friendship and trust. If a horse has spent the majority of her life in unpleasant circumstances then it’s going to take longer for her to decide that it’s worth it for her to be a willing partner.

  12. Hi!

    My horse is 5. She is a horse that needs to be worked all the time. I am 12 and never have time. When there is snow I never have anywhere to ride. I was thinking to just lead her around and talk but. She is pushy and at any time she wants she will just prance and buck and rear. I am scared of her now and I hate that. How do I make her stop with out putting myself in complete danger? Please answer me ASAP!! I really want the bond we used to have!! Thanks!

  13. Hello!

    I want to have a great bond with her but it seems like she is always mad at me. When ever I lead her she is a brat and knows she can boss me around because I am small. When ever I try to show her who is boss she is always rearing,bucking, and it seems like she is intentionally trying to hurt me. But then my dad leads her around and she is a puppy dog. I get so mad and I want to be the she is a puppy dog for. I just need to know some answers of how I can join up with her? And also, why is she so good for men and not for women?? My mom is experienced with horses and she knows how to do things with horses, but my horse is still horrible for her too…. Why? Please answer me ASAP!!!!!!


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      Hello! This is a scenario where I would need to actually see what is happening between you and your mare in the situations that she is acting out. You will need an experienced instructor to help you in person for safety reasons. Your dad is likely very calm, grounded and clear in his signals and your mare is responding to his energy by also being calm. Once you start feeling afraid of your mare (and it’s understandable that you do) then your energy and behaviour will also spike and your mare will get worse. You can practice very basic ground manners and practice staying very calm and clear in situations that she is unlikely to act out and then gradually expand the areas you work in. Work on your patience and start by asking for tiny things.

      1. OK Thank You so much!! I will definitely try that!! I will let you know of my results when I feel we have made progress. Should I make sure my dad is there with me???

  14. Hello! I have been having some problems with my 5 yr old mare. We bring our horses in and out to their paddock everyday. Lately we have been bringing her back in the night time and its been pretty windy too. She is a nightmare! Even with my dad. But any other night that we bring her in and it isn’t windy and its not quite night time, she is fine. Why is she so afraid of the wind? Also when I was out riding awhile ago I was riding and my dog came out of nowhere. It scared her so much that we almost fell over. We have cattle so our dogs are aggressive towards any livestock. How can I get her used to my dogs without hurting anybody. And at night with the wind and the dog, she is worse. Help me!! Thanks!

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      Horses are more afraid of wind and it’s believed that it has to do with the fact they can’t smell or hear as well the dangers around them. Also things are more likely to move abruptly in the wind and it’s hard for them to know what’s dangerous and what isn’t. The night is also scarier for the horses because that is when predators hunt. With the dog just spending time with both of them in the same area gradually is going to help.

  15. Hello! I am Daniel and I have been being more careful when I am leading my mare in and I make sure she knows that I am in charge. I know we have made serious progress! I have been riding too! It is so nice to be riding! She loves to be worked, when we are riding everyday… We have the greatest bond we have ever had! She is the horse I have always wanted when she is worked! Why?

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      It’s good to hear things are going better with you both. When you are working your mare consistently a few things are happening. She’s getting more accustomed to your language and relationship in those moments so she finds it easier to understand you. She is also getting more exercise and mental stimulation so she’s not as likely to be as high energy.

  16. I don’t know if you still read these comments but I need help. I have three horses and I am getting a new one in about two weeks, one of them is almost completely fine with everything(plastic bags, long ropes swinging around, Pillow case over her eyes(for more trust)) but when I take off the leadrope and try to do it again the other horse spooks because of the noise so then she spooks too, how do I fix this??? The boy who spooked the other horse by getting spooked is having a lot of bucking problems, if you lay your arm on his back he does a sharp turn and bucks and kicks at you, he is fine with saddling though and the vet said it isn’t pain, I don’t know what to do about this PLEASE HELP ME!!!

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