Horse as Teacher
Horse as Teacher
Horse As Teacher

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Does your horse trust you (Part 2 of 2)

Improving Your Horse’s Balance
As a prey animal, your horse will feel uncomfortable unless he knows that he can move quickly and efficiently to escape from predators, regardless of the fact that he no longer lives in the wild. You can help your horse feel safe by helping his body stay supple and balanced over all four feet. For instance, take the time to correct your horse when he tries to push you around while you are on the ground, or when he leans around a corner under saddle. The indications may be subtle, but these small moments of being off balance can actually cause your horse to feel uncomfortable and unsafe. You can help your horse feel safe and secure with proper ground work and exercises under saddle that teach him to use his body in the balanced way. Eventually, your horse will begin to associate these good feelings with you, and will be well on his way to trusting you.

Controlling the Fight or Flight Instinct
Horses are easily frightened. If your horse becomes frightened and you allow his fear to escalate unchecked, he can easily become a danger to himself or others. A horse’s natural fear response is to raise his head, drop his back, and tense his muscles in preparation for flight. In a natural setting, he would then run until he was out of danger, and then relax and resume grazing. You can actually use the last step of this instinctive sequence to diffuse your horse’s fear response. When your horse becomes fearful, simply encourage him to lower his head. When a horse lowers his head and assumes the grazing posture, he automatically relaxes. With practice, you can teach your horse to lower his head on cue. More importantly, your horse will begin to associate you with this feeling of relaxation, another piece in the foundation of trust that you want to build with your horse.

The Foundation of Trust 
Training and riding skills are very important in working with horses, but at the end of the day nothing is more important than trust. It’s important to spend time with your horse and get to know the different facets of his personality. However, time alone will not create trust. Unless you establish and continuously establish your position as leader, protector, and comforter, the time you spend with your horse will not necessarily result in trust. Ultimately, nothing is more important to the relationship than how your horse feels when he is with you.

About the Author

Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy. Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinay Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. She has authored several books and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Holistic Horsekeeping.”

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