Touch with your hands.
This is actually the easiest to start with. It goes as follows:
○ Let the horse stand still with a hanging rope. When the horse wants to move away from you, then accept that, wait a while and try again.
○ Before you touch the horse, see if the horse wants to come to you and touch your hand with its nose (you can see this as a way of greeting. Like we shake hands with others).
○ Start on one side of the horse and stand next to the horse’s shoulder
○ Stroke gently over the horse’s shoulder and neck with your hand
○ Look while you touch the horse or relax the horse -> Pay attention to a soft expression in the eyes, blinking eyes (when a horse is not blinking, it is uncertain / anxious), a low or even hanging head, no tension in the horse, regular breathing and possibly a sigh or a horse that chews and licks its lips.
○ Stroke your hand over the back, entire torso, abdomen, legs and hindquarters. If the horse responds with tension to a certain area (so he loses the relaxed position), then go back with your hand to the previous area and try again slowly.
○ Finally, try to touch your horse everywhere, even under its tail, in the mouth etc. and on both sides.
○ It is very normal if the horse cannot be touched everywhere in one go. Some areas require a lot of patience. Remember how far you have been able to go and try to go further each time
Pay attention to both sides of the horse, it can happen that the horse on one side of its body is fine, but on the other side is much more anxious
A short example of how you can do it you see in the video below.
Me and my horse Noa (23 year old cross KWPN/Trakhener.
Touch with stick or whip
○ In addition to touching with your hands, it is very easy if the horse also accepts touch with a whip or “stick”. The whip or stick is often used as an aid in the further exercises and development of your horse
○ Use the above steps just like touching your hands, but now use the whip or stick.
○ If the horse shows fear of the whip or stick, do not continue, but move the whip away from the horse.
○ When the horse cannot stand still, this is often a sign that the horse is anxious.
○ While holding the whip in front of you, walk backwards yourself and take the horse with you on the rope while moving backwards
Does the touch go well and do you use a “stick with a string”? Then try whether you can throw the string over the horse’s neck and body
○ Be careful not to behave sneaky or to not scare your horse. That brings tension and can set your horse off. It is better to move normally and to trust that the horse will respond well. Otherwise when it does’nt you have to deal with this.
○ It is not a problem if the horse becomes a bit anxious, by being able to solve the fear properly you increase your own self-confidence.
In this video I would like to show you how the exercise can work in practice if it goes well.
Learning to accept a saddle and accepting people in the position of a rider on the horse his back is also part of building trust. You can also let your horse get used to covers or pads, your saddle and YOURSELF on the back of the horse. Even though your horse has been under saddle for years, it is a good thing to keep checking whether your horse thinks it is really okay to put a saddle on it and sit on it.
In the video below you see me with training horse Beau and a cone. This is the first time I have practiced with Beau and the cone.
It is good to keep using this exercise. You can use this to relax yourself and the horse at the start of your training, for example. Also, conscious regular touch is very good because you can also feel abnormalities such as swellings or tense muscles.
During a training you can also use this exercise as a moment of relaxation / break or a moment of reflection for yourself if you have to think for yourself how you want to proceed.
Doing nothing or asking the horse anything at all and just “being relaxed” together is also a form of “friendship”.