How to approach your horse

This article was co-authored by Kate Jutagir. Kate Jutagir is an Equestrian Specialist, Hunter/Jumper Trainer, and the Owner of Blackhound Equestrian, a premier training barn located on 65 acres in Castro Valley, California. Originally designed to be a riding school used as a springboard for dedicated students into careers in the sport, Blackhound Equestrian has grown into a hunter/jumper training program for all levels focusing on providing a solid foundation needed for personal advancement in the sport. Kate has over 25 years of equestrian instruction and training experience. Her focus on developing horse and rider partnerships provides a complete equestrian education for both beginners and advanced riders alike.

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Horses are intelligent, hard-working animals that make great companions. However, it’s easy to forget that they are also large, powerful animals that can be dangerous if they’re startled or provoked. By obeying a few simple rules of horse safety, it’s easy to show care and respect for your animal without too much extra effort.

Note: If you are inexperienced with horses, work with a horse expert. Don’t approach an unfamiliar horse without asking its owner first. [1] X Expert Source

How to approach your horse

Kate Jutagir
Equestrian Specialist & Trainer Expert Interview. 31 March 2020. Look for the following signs:

    Comfortable signs (if you see these, proceed): Having relaxed, “soft” eyes that aren’t staring at you Turning his head or front quarters toward you Licking his lips Ears pricked towards you. [3] X Expert Source

Kate Jutagir
Equestrian Specialist & Trainer Expert Interview. 31 March 2020. Having a peaceful, relaxed overall body position
Uncomfortable signs (if you see these, back off and do not approach): Moving or running away from you as you approach Having intense, wide eyes or eyes that are staring at you [4] X Expert Source

Jessica Rude
Equine Expert Expert Interview. 18 September 2020. Pinning his ears (moving them back against his head) [5] X Expert Source

Jessica Rude
Equine Expert Expert Interview. 18 September 2020. Tense muscles [6] X Expert Source

Jessica Rude
Equine Expert Expert Interview. 18 September 2020. Bearing his teeth or trying to nip at you [7] X Expert Source

Jessica Rude
Equine Expert Expert Interview. 18 September 2020. Rearing up on his legs or kicking [8] X Expert Source

Jessica Rude
Equine Expert Expert Interview. 18 September 2020. Flicking tail repeatedly in aggressive fashion, often with back legs stomping.

How to approach your horse

How to approach your horse

How to approach your horse

How to approach your horse

How to approach your horse

How to approach your horse

How to approach your horse

Jessica Rude
Equine Expert Expert Interview. 18 September 2020.

  • Bloat can be created by several factors, some of which include even small amounts of foods that horse is not used to eating, foods that the horse could be allergic to, or, foods that are eaten at the wrong times. A few processed foods, or even some wild plants growing in the area, can be poisonous to horses too. Another consideration is that the owner may have the horse on a specialty diet or medications, and some treats can interfere with with absorption of certain medications or supplements. These are all good and valid reasons to check with the owner before giving their horses a treat.
  • Offer your treat to the horse by placing it in your palm, keeping your fingers completely flat. This keeps the horse from accidentally biting your fingers.
  • Let the horse take the treat from you. Don’t insist on giving it the treat if it doesn’t seem to want it.
  • Note that treats make some horses snappy – some will become rude very fast if they get treats for no reason, it has to be given immediately after a desirable behaviour AND accompanied by the verbal cue to eat it. It can also lead to horse’s refusing to go with you unless you have a treat, not great.
  • Small amounts of many common fruits and vegetables make great treats for horses. For example, most horses will enjoy a carrot or a few apple slices. [12] X Research source
  • When you go to get your horse, what does he usually do? Stoically stand still while you approach him? Ignore you? Look toward you? Look away from you?

    How to approach your horse

    By: Anne Gage | April 25, 2016

    When you go to get your horse, what does he usually do? Stoically stand still while you approach him? Ignore you? Look toward you? Look away from you? Walk away from you? If you would like to have the kind of partnership with your horse where he comes to you as soon as he sees you, relaxed and happy, changing how you approach him can make a positive difference.

    Have you ever paid attention – I mean really paid close attention – to your horse’s body language when you approach him? Your horse tells you how he’s feeling in every moment if you’re watching for the subtle cues.

    How You May Be Inadvertently Stressing Your Horse

    Walking directly towards his head: It’s human nature to take a direct line to what we are focusing on. But when horses approach each other, they come in on a slight angle – unless they are behaving aggressively.

    Instead: Approach your horse on a slight angle walking towards his shoulder rather than directly to his head. Keep your eyes softly focused on your horse as you walk in an arc instead of a straight line.

    Aiming any part of your body into his ‘bubble’: Horses respect the bubble (personal space) around the head and neck of other horses (see the March/April issue of Horse Canada for more on the bubble). And, because horses communicate through the movement, direction and energy of their bodies, your horse reads the same elements from your body. A hip (whether it’s yours or another horse’s) aimed towards him is seen as a threat to kick. In the same way, the physical energy from your core, hip or arm, for example, directed towards his head or neck can be seen as a threat or a signal to move away from you.

    Instead: Aim your eyes, core and hips away from your horse’s head or neck. When you are near his bubble and facing him, soften your core (imagine your belly button being pulled back towards your spine) and shift your weight to just behind the balls of your feet. When you’re standing beside him, avoid resting your weight on the leg nearest him. Instead, shifting your weight to your leg farthest from him softens and opens your opposite hip.

    Moving slowly or quickly: Your horse may feel unsettled if you approach him slowly – because you look like a predator creeping up on him – or quickly – because it feels aggressive like a predator pursuing or another horse threatening him.

    Instead: Walk in a calm, easygoing and confident manner towards your horse. Have the same posture and level of energy that you have when greeting a friend you see regularly; or that makes you feel most comfortable when someone you don’t know well approaches you.

    Strong, powerful posture: When your energy and posture are very strong – shoulder’s back, chest out like a soldier, pelvis tipped forward – your horse perceives it the same as you would if someone was walking towards you in that manner – get out of my way. A passive horse will leave, feeling intimated. A confident horse or one that has learned that leaving ends in punishment (such as chasing him down) may stoically stay put but feel tense. An assertive horse will likely push back.

    Instead: Develop awareness for your normal relaxed posture and physical energy. To approach your horse with casual posture and energy, stand tall and straight, but soften (without collapsing) your core, chest and shoulders.

    Experimenting with this approach exercise can help you improve how you understand and communicated with your horse:

    Step 1: Walk directly toward his head watching for any subtle signs of tension – e.g. slightly elevating his neck, not blinking, tightening his mouth, swishing his tail or looking or turning even slightly away from you.

    Stop as soon as you notice any sign of tension. Take a few steps backwards and notice any changes – e.g. exhaling, relaxing his neck, softening his eye, licking his lips or looking toward you.

    Step 2: Approach your horse by walking on a slight arc towards his shoulder. Picture the bubble around his head and neck that you want to go around not through. Don’t burst this bubble. Be aware of your posture and energy as you approach your horse keeping it casual, calm and confident.

    If you notice any signs of tension, stop and back up a few step. Exhale – you may have been holding your breath. Drop your eyes – you may have been staring. Adjust your approach slightly until you notice your horse is not exhibiting any signs of tension, but is showing signs of relaxation.

    When you consistently approach your horse being respectful of his bubble, paying attention to your own posture and energy, and adjusting when you notice any subtle signs of tension, you’ll build a more trusting and positive partnership with your horse. And he just might get easier to catch!

    Personal space is the region surrounding a person or animal which they regard as psychologically theirs. They may feel discomfort, anger or anxiety when their personal space is encroached.

    Learn how to approach a horse the right way in this step-by-step tutorial.

    Do you ever wonder why a horse is fine being approached by one person, but not with someone else? Many times when we are approaching, we have the intent on “catching” them to halter or ride.

    • This is important because horses read our emotions and intentions – They can feel that you want to “catch” them and are designed by nature not to be caught!

    How to approach your horse

    As you can see from the picture, this cute guy is finishing up his breakfast. He isn’t offering to approach me at all which is important.

    • He’s telling me at this point I don’t have his permission or acknowlegdement to enter his space.

    How to approach your horse

    • Now you can see him with me making an approach. Notice how I am not directly in front of him.

    Note: People normally walk straight up to horses, which for some of them can be unsettling. Try and walk in an arc instead of a straight line.

    • See my eyes? They are not looking directly at him right now. What is he doing? He’s got two eyes and ears looking right at me.
    • By doing this he has given me permission to approach him.

    How to approach your horse

    • Now I’ve walked up to his side, I offered the back of my hand for him to smell first, and am petting him.
    • Now he is ready to be haltered or loved on

    Here are some other tips to help you:

    • Don’t always go in to catch him only to ride or work.

    Mix it up and don’t catch him at all. Sometimes and just offer a treat or scratch. Add some of that into your routine, be it some hand grazing or a good grooming session.

    • Think about what he may want to do once he is caught vs. what you want to do. Try to add in more about what he likes, and soon your partner may catch you instead!

    Head back to the beginner’s page where you can learn how to lead, saddle, and more essential skills.

    Created by Horse enthusiasts for Horse enthusiasts

    Approaching a horse refers to making the initial contact with it. There are different types of horses regarding their reaction to the person approaching them; some might get very anxious and disturbed while others cannot get frightened that easily. A horse’s reaction to a person approaching could manifest either in kicking, biting, or running away. It’s not hard to maintain a good connection with a horse if you do it the right way.

    Let Him Know You’re There

    It’s always a bad idea to approach a horse from behind. Its reaction to a person sneaking upon could be critical; it could instinctively kick out or run away in a frightened manner. While walking towards a horse, it’s the best idea to refer to it in a calm and soft voice. It’s recommended that the horse be able to both hear and see you while you are approaching him. In any case, you must not approach the horse from behind. If there’s no other way to walk to it but from the rear side, make sure that the horse can hear you approaching.

    Avoid Loud Noises

    Being prey animals, horses generally react adversely to loud and scary noises. Any disturbing sound, whether it’s screaming, yelling or shouting or just loud uttering, can make horses very nervous and restless. It’s important to be calm and controlled while walking towards horse as well as while handling it. It takes patience and time until the horse gets used to your presence as well as loud sounds you may make.

    Let the Horse Smell You

    While making your first contact with a particular horse, it’s advisable to calmly reach your hands towards it to let him smell your fingers if needed. Horses are wired in such a manner of being able to feel and distinguish possible dangers from food while using their smell sense. In such case, it’s recommended to offer the horse some food and what’s even more important is to let him eat it from your hand. While doing so, put the food on your palm and keep your fingers entirely flat and together in order to avoid any potential biting. Caress the horse gently on its muzzle, neck and sideways after it has smelled your scent. If the horse doesn’t reject you petting him, you are most likely looking at developing a good connection as it has accepted you being near.

    Problem Behavior

    Due to many circumstances, particular horses are very hard to approach and thus likely very dangerous. In any case, you must not chase a horse while it tries to run away. If the horse behaves in the manner of pinning its ears, bearing its teeth, kicking or rearing, you should immediately stop whatever you’re doing and move away from it. Such behavior signal that an intervention by a professional trainer is required to maintain the safety of every person nearby. You should never go into the stall or pasture with a horse you haven’t established a connection with unless you get permission from a professional trainer to do so under their supervision.

    Image source: Flickr’s Creative Commons

    Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

    I have just read a book by notable dog trainer, Harrison Forbes called ‘Dog Talk‘, and I liked his perspective on training methods so much I wanted to share it.

    In quoting Harrison – I’ve put ‘horse’ in brackets to help you visualise better.

    “Instead of watching their dogs (horses), I find people are watching a particular training method or watching the results a trainer gets with one particular dog (horse). They don’t think about how that might apply it to their own dog (horse), and they end up setting the bar too high and setting themselves up for failure.
    When that failure comes they don’t say, “lets wipe the slate clean and start over with a different approach”. They say, “Well, that training stuff obviously doesn’t work,” and they give up.

    It’s like somebody saying, “I’m going to buy a bunch of clothes for my husband, but I’m not going to take into account how big he is, or whether he likes to wear suits or shorts and T-shirts or a tuxedo. I’m going to just go buy some clothes and hope they fit him and that he likes them.”

    You always start by assessing your dog (horse), and the more detailed your observations, the better you are going to be able to match the training to your pet (horse).
    There are a lot of trainers out there who have developed a training method and now say, ‘This is ‘the’ method, and if it doesn’t work on your dog (horse) it’s because you are doing it wrong. That’s something I’ve been battling against my whole career, because I believe there’s no one method that’s right for every dog (horse).

    If I limit my training to one set of techniques, then I’m saying one size fits all and you are obligated to do everything that one way. But the truth is that approach just doesn’t work. Any single method may be great for a couple of dogs (horses), or even most of them, but there’s always going to be a big percentage for whom that approach doesn’t work.

    My training method is the anti-training method. You need to be open to every method and throw your preconceived notions out the window. Understanding dogs (horses) and their behaviour is a never-ending process. It’s like building a library: If you want to teach a dog to sit, there are twenty different ways to to get there and each way will work on at least one dog (horse) you’re likely to meet. And when somebody shows you the twenty-first way, you’ve got to be open-minded and stick it on your library shelf, because you may need to pull it out one day. To me, that’s what a good dog (horse) trainer does.”

    How to approach your horse Teaching young horses at liberty is easier if you understand learning theory.

    Training systems can be a useful guide, but many have a ‘cookie-cutter approach which turns out horses that look like robots, not really enjoying their ‘play’ because it wasn’t really a game for them – but more for their human. Some systems, such as Parelli, offer a good general road map (from foundation to finesse) for the human to learn, with hopefully their mind and eyes open to how their horse feels. Combined with positive reinforcement, understanding and respect fro the horse, its a system that teaches people solid techniques for horse handling and riding, whatever their chosen discipline.

    So when looking for a system to follow, go with what feels right for you and your horse at the time, but don’t be afraid to question anything that doesn’t sit well with you. Be brave enough to explore other ideas and be sure to learn the horse’s ethogram (how they operate in nature) along with understanding Learning Theory and the principles of training before you embark on an equine educational journey.

    Above all, put yourself in your horse’s hooves and keep it fun.

    If you want to know how to learn better horsemanship read this page which has my current recommendations for online study programs.

    Everything you need to know about creating that heart warming feeling every time you walk up to your horse, knowing he feels the same about you!

    You know that deep, heartwarming, “butterflies-in-your-tummy”, connected feeling you can get when you walk up to a horse?

    Who wants that?

    Would you like to know how to read if your horse is truly happy to be with you?

    How about having tools to change the conversation if your horse is saying: “Please do not touch me!”, or “Do not come near me!”, or “Please slow down!”

    How would it feel to know you can influence how your horse feels about you by reading his body language and adjusting your responses accordingly?

    This mini-course gives you the tools to do those things! You will learn how to read your horse intimately as you are approaching him. You will develop the “feel” to know how fast you can walk up to your horse, how close he really wants you to get, from where he would like you to walk up.

    You will learn how to respond to your horse when he walks away or looks away, or just stands stock-still without engaging with you.

    This course if for you:

    If you have been struggling a little to catch your horse.

    If you are catching your horse’s body but you feel you don’t really have his heart.

    If your horse looks away or walks away when you come into the paddock, or turns his bum on you when you walk into the stable.

    If you feel your horse is “tolerating” you but is not quite engaged.

    If you want to develop a better relationship with your horse, this is a great place to start!

    A Special Soft Moment with Stanley!

    “. I have seen a huge change in myself. I am teaching differently, too. I am reading the horse more and seeing when they want to be with us and when they are saying “no, not today”. With this beautiful approach, I am witnessing a change in the horse within 5 minutes of being with them. “

    Jenn Wagstaff, Healthy Hooves and Horsemanship, Australia

    Course Curriculum

    Your Instructor

    Brought up in Caracas, Venezuela, Monica developed her love of horses in a natural, free and spontaneous environment of the family’s weekend home in rustic countryside. She went on to study Veterinary Medicine at University for three years before leaving to start her family. The love of horses never left her, nor did the desire to find the most compassionate and effective way to care for them and to train them.

    With family grown up, Monica went back to the equine world, qualifying as a Riding Instructor in Germany and an Equine Body Worker in the UK, where she also competed successfully in affiliated dressage and eventing. Monica’s next career stop was to represent an Australian horsemanship program in the UK, a role that took her to Australia various times to study horses. This was followed by complementing her coaching skill by qualifying as an EFL Coach.

    With her broad spectrum of life and experiences, her love of horses and passion to find the best way to work with them, Monica has created and now runs her own Softness Training Programme, helping people to learn how to read their horses, connect with them and create trusting partnerships.

    Monica lives in Andalucía, Spain with her partner Ian, running Finca Las Posadas, home to a very happy herd of 15 horses. From there, she offers Riding Holidays and teaches her Softness Training Program. She also travels to teach and does online coaching. You can find out more about her work by visiting Softness Training and The Pony Academy , the website of her very special riding school in Surrey, dedicated to teaching soft horsemanship and sharing the joy of ponies with children from the age of 4.

    How to approach your horse

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    How to approach your horse

    Not being able to catch your horse is really frustrating. Chasing your horse down, or tricking it before you start each ride, is not a positive way to begin your time together.

    It’s worth spending a little time teaching your horse to be safely caught. There may be a time when you absolutely must catch your horse—such as for visits from farriers and vets, or even something extreme, like an evacuation order.

    Consider a Halter

    Generally, horses shouldn’t be turned out with halters on. However, during this retraining period, you may want to keep a leather crowned halter on your horse, even in the pasture. Horses can become entangled when trying to scratch an ear with a hindfoot or can hook a halter on a gate latch and get hung up. Leather halters or halters with breakaway crowns are safer if the horse becomes entangled.

    Create Positive Experiences for the Horse

    If you want to be able to catch your horse, you will have to convince it that being caught doesn’t always lead to discomfort or work. You’ll do this by spending time with your horse that doesn’t involve any of what it perceives as negative experiences.

    Start by visiting in the pasture or paddock. Clean up manure, check for fences; do anything but approach your horse. If your horse approaches you, don’t reach out and try to catch it. Just let it approach, perhaps sniff at you, and then you walk away. Don’t let your horse walk away from you. You always want to be the final decision-maker in any exchange with your horse. Several brief visits a day will be more effective than the occasional long visit.

    Approach the Horse Cautiously

    When trying to approach your horse, don’t march up to it full of purpose and intent. Instead, soften your body language and walk slowly toward your horse. Don’t make direct eye contact. Don’t approach head-on (or tail on). Use your peripheral vision and approach at the neck or shoulder.

    If the horse allows you to get near enough to catch it, spend a little time doing something enjoyable like scratching, massaging, or grooming. Use your knowledge of what your horse likes.

    When you are done, don’t let your horse conclude the exchange. Decide when you are done, unhook the lead rope, make the horse stand, and then walk away from the horse.

    Train the Horse in an Enclosed Area

    If your horse will absolutely not allow you to get near enough to catch it, you’ll have to carve out some free, open-ended time and have your horse in a small paddock or yard. A round pen is too small, and a large pasture will work only if you don’t mind walking for miles.

    • When you approach your horse, and you know it will run away from you, keep it moving. Use a lunge whip as an extension of your arm to cue the horse to move forward. At the beginning your horse may act like this is fun—and gallop, buck, and kick. It may even try to approach you at some point. However, don’t let the horse make those decisions. If the horse tries to stop, tell it clearly and firmly to trot.
    • Ask your horse to halt—or “whoa,” or whatever term you use consistently—after you see that it is beginning to pay attention to you. It may start looking toward you, flicking its ears, or lowering its head.
    • When it does as you ask, praise the horse and send it on its way. Do this a few times so you know you are getting a consistent reaction to your command.
    • When you see that the horse is halting obediently on command, drop your whip and approach. If the horse stands quietly praise, scratch or pat it and walk away. Send it out at a trot again. Repeat the process until you know the horse will stand and wait for you.
    • Only after you know the horse will stand should you attempt to catch the horse. If it ducks away from you send it on its way and repeat the process.
    • Make sure there is a reward at the end of the lesson if it does stand for you. Put a lead rope on it and lead it to a treat in a bucket, do a little grooming, or give a massage. And then turn it loose in its pasture.
    • The next time you have a moment, visit the horse in the pasture or paddock. Let it learn that your appearance does not mean it has to go to work or suffer discomfort.

    Problems and Proofing Behavior

    If your horse only runs away when it sees you coming with a halter and lead rope, then always approach it with a halter and lead over your shoulder. You have to teach your horse that the appearance of the halter and lead does not mean you are going to lead it into work.

    Bribing your horse with treats is only a short-term solution to your problem. You want to be able to catch your horse without carrying out a bucket or a carrot every time. And it may cause confusion among your other horses, who notice you coming with treats and want to see what’s in it for them.

    Friendly horses in your paddocks might help you out, however. If they will walk up to you for pats and scratches, ​your hard-to-catch horse will see their behavior and may imitate them.

    Continue to visit your horse occasionally, so that it doesn’t decide your appearance means unpleasant work.


    This is a sheet about safety in handling horses. It has been prepared for the first-time, as well as the experienced-horse owner. No matter how experienced one is in handling horses or how well one knows his/her horse, one must remember that in handling a large animal which weighs 1,000 pounds precaution and safety should be practiced at all times.

    Horses tend to be excitable and can be frightened by the most unexpected circumstances. If one is not prepared for such an emergency he/she may find him/herself dragged, crowded, or stepped on; all of which lead to the possibility of serious injury.

    This sheet discusses proper approach to and the catching and haltering of horses.


    Always approach a horse from the left and from the front, if possible. Speak softly when approaching, especially from behind, to let it know of your presence. Always approach at an angle, never directly from the rear. Horses have monocular vision which leaves them with a blind spot in front of their nose, under their head and directly behind them. Sudden sounds or movements, particularly within these spots, tend to frighten horses. When you are within reach, touch the horse first by gently stroking the shoulder or rump (if approaching from the rear) and moving calmly to the head.

    Don’t walk up from behind and slap its rear end or suddenly lunge for its head.


    Carry a lead rope attached to the bottom noseband ring of a halter when you go to catch the horse. Once beside the horses shoulder, slip the rope around its neck and secure it by holding both sides in the same hand. This enables you to exert control in the event the horse starts to walk away. Do not tie the rope around its neck! Grasp the horses nose with your right hand, slide the halter up over its nose with your left hand and place the crownpiece behind its ears. Do not drag the halter over its nose. Some horses are tickled by the nosepiece when it bends the large hairs on the nose and face. This can cause them to raise their head or try to move away from the halter.

    Make sure the halter is fitted properly. The chin strap should be short enough to keep a foot from getting caught or prevent it from slipping over the nose, yet allow the horse to breath comfortably while standing or galloping. The noseband should be loose enough to allow two fingers between the nose and the noseband. This allows the horse to open its mouth while limiting the space at which an object can become tangled. The cheekpiece should be long enough to allow two fingers between the noseband and the cheekbone.

    The horse owner has the option of turning horses out with or without a halter. Some feel that leaving a halter on the horse in the stall or paddock presents a potential hazard in the horses getting caught on something. On the other hand, a haltered horse is much easier to catch in an emergency situation.

    Once your horse has been properly fitted with the halter, it is ready to be led.

    This document is apart of a series from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Publication date: . Publication date: November 1988.

    Dawn M. Richard, Graduate Assistant, Department of Animal Sciences, Department of Animal Sciences, and Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D., Specialist in Horse Management, Department of Animal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, PO Box 231, New Brunswick, NJ 08903-0231.

    How to approach your horse

    Approaching jumps correctly with your horse is an important part of making sure you go clear. Here, show jumper Geoff Luckett explains a simple exercise to perfect your position on your approach to a jump.

    This exercise really helps to keep your horse central, so you can concentrate on your approach and position before attempting more difficult fences.

    “A good approach is key and will help you get in the right position over the jump,” explains Geoff. “Your horse needs to have an even, bouncy canter as this will give him the power to propel himself over the fence.

    How to approach your horse

    Geoff explains the perfect position for approaching fences

    “A common mistake many riders make is to lean forwards too much and throw everything out the front,” says Geoff. “Instead you need to sit up until the last minute. You want a little bit of contact at the take-off point, pushing your horse between your hand and leg.

    “This will give your horse the confidence and belief that you’re going over the fence.”

    How to set up the exercise

    Place a canter pole in front of your fence to encourage your horse to think about the jump and power off the floor, giving you a positive take off.

    The distance of the canter pole from the fence will depend on the stride of your horse, but 3m away is a good place to start.

    How to ride the exercise


    Your approach is key to how well you’ll tackle the jump. Sit up straight and push from your set.


    Collect your horse’s canter and keep an even rhythm – don’t let him rush you. By collecting the canter, you bring more of his weight and power into his hindquarters, allowing him to push off the floor and over the fence.


    At the point of take off, keep a little bit of contact with your hands to give your horse confidence, and encourage him with your leg.

    Don’t throw yourself forward as he’ll lose the support from you and may lack the courage to jump.


    Fold forward over the fence with a fluid movement so you’re sat up again in time for landing, with enough contact ready to go for the next jump.

    Posted on Last updated: 10/20/2021

    This post may contain affiliate links, we may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Horses are social animals and generally enjoy being in the presence of others. They often form close bonds with their owners.

    After spending time together, your horse will often show fondness for you. There are many different ways to tell if a horse likes you.

    Here are 8 Signs a Horse Likes and Trusts You

    1. They Come Up to Greet You

    If a horse likes you, they will often come up to greet you when they hear you coming. They may run up to the pasture fence or be eagerly waiting for you at their stall door.

    If a horse is eager to greet you, that is their way of showing they like you. When they come up to greet you they are excited to spend time with you.

    2. They Nicker or Whinny For You

    Horses often nicker and whinny towards people they are familiar to. They often vocalize with a whinny or nicker when they are trying to get the attention of other horses or people.

    When your horse nickers when they hear you coming, they are eager to see you. Nickering is a way for them to greet you as someone they care about.

    3. They Rest Their Head on You

    When a horse rests their head on you, it’s a sign of trust. They feel comfortable around you and like you enough to rest their head on you.

    When a horse rests its head on you, it’s a way for them to bond with you and show their affection. They are letting you know they enjoy being in your presence. It’s like their way of giving a hug.

    4. They Nudge You

    Though nudging can mean other things, it is often associated with a horse that is showing affection towards you. Nudging can be the equivalent of a horse giving you a hug or kiss.

    If a horse likes you, they will often nudge you to seek out your attention. Gently nudges can be a way for a horse to show their love for you. They mean even lick or lip at you in addition to their nudge.

    How to approach your horse

    5. They Are Relaxed Around You

    When a horse is relaxed around you, it is a sign that they like and trust you. When you see your horse is relaxed when with you, it is a way of them saying they feel safe with you.

    Signs your horse is relaxed around you is that they will be doing things such as licking and chewing, lowering their head, letting out a sigh and cocking a back leg.

    A horse that trusts you will be comfortable enough to relax around you.

    When a horse lets you come up to them while they are lying down, that is a true sign of trust. Horses are vulnerable when they are lying down, so when they let you come up to them while they are lying down they have lots of trust and love for you.

    6. They Groom You Back

    Grooming is one of the best ways to bond with your horse. When your horse grooms you back, they see you as a friend.

    Horses groom each other in the wild not only because it feels good to them, but also because it is a way to show affection towards one another. They will nibble at each other’s withers, backs and necks.

    If your horse nibbles on your shoulder or head, it is their way of grooming you. This is a way they can show you they like you.

    Also, see our guide on the best horse grooming kits.

    7. They Show You Respect

    In horses, respect is a sign of trust. If your horse likes and trusts you, they will respect you.

    A horse that trusts you will see you as a leader. They will respect your space and commands. A horse that likes you is willing to follow your lead, which is also a sign of respect.

    Some horses will even follow their owners around. When a horse follows you, they trust you to take care of them. This is a way that they will show their respect for you.

    8. They Breathe on Your Face

    If a horse comes up and takes a breath on your face, it is an ultimate sign of respect and trust. Horses will show affection by gently blowing air on each other through their nostrils.

    When a horse blows on your face, it is a sign they see you as a trusty companion. Horses will breathe in your face if they see you as part of their family.

    It is one of the top ways horses show affection to the ones they love.

    Friday 29th of April 2022

    Thank you for all the stories with your horses. I lived on a cattle ranch in Northeastern NM but left after HS to attend University because I got bored listening to the wind blow and watching the grass grow. Now that I am retired I mostly recall days like when one time while on horseback checking cattle after a big rainfall I rode up to a shallow pond with ducks resting on it. The ducks rose off the pond and I watched them circle behind and return to land. I heard a loud whistling sound and watched a hawk fall from the sky and drop to hit the last duck landing only to send it tumbling on the water. This stayed as one of the most vivid memories of my past, complete with seeing my horse keeping his ears pointed on the scene.

    Monday 28th of March 2022

    Thank you This all happened to me today Strange horses that are not mine And I’m in tears Love horses I needed to know

    Saturday 8th of January 2022

    What does it mean if a horse walks overto me

    Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

    My horse is a Happy horse and shows so much of her affection in all those ways mentioned. She is my Unicorn. She lets me hug her and seems to love kisses all over her face. She does a lot of nickiring and licking and chewing! She walks with me and stands beside me when I stand. I can’t describe how much I love her!

    Thursday 21st of October 2021

    My gelding shows all these traits. My new pony has only been here 2 weeks and was very stressed it’s taking time he is showing a couple them.

    Introduction: How to Groom Your Horse

    Learning how to properly groom your horse is crucial for proper horse maintenance as well as promoting a bonding relationship between the rider and horse. It is important to groom your horse regularly and thoroughly to promote a healthy and durable coat. These instructions include the basic steps necessary to groom your horse and are meant to serve as a checklist for each time you groom your horse.

    Supplies (pictured above)
    You will need a lead rope, curry comb, hard (stiff) brush, soft brush, mane and tail brush, hoofpick, cloth/washcloth, and fly spray.

    Step 1: Use a Lead Rope to Secure Your Horse

    Before beginning to groom your horse, you must properly secure the horse using a quick release knot. After making sure the horse is secured, you can then begin to groom your horse.

    Step 2: Use the Curry Comb to Loosen Excess Dirt and Mud

    Begin using the rubber curry comb in small (about the size of your palm) circular motions to loosen excess dirt and mud. Start at the neck and work your way down each side of the horse. Avoid using the curry comb on the face, spine, and legs of your horse as these areas are sensitive.

    *Metal curry combs are available but do not use them. They are harsh and can injure the horse.

    Step 3: Use a Hard/stiff Brush to Remove Dirt and Mud

    Start at the neck of the horse and work your way towards the rear of the horse with the hard/stiff brush. Use short, brisk strokes to remove the excess dirt and mud that was loosened with the curry comb. Avoid using the hard brush on sensitive areas of the horse including the face, ears, and legs as this can cause discomfort and irritation to the horse.

    Step 4: Use a Soft Brush to Remove Any Remaining Dust and to Groom Sensitive Areas

    Use the soft brush to remove the last layer of dust from your horse’s body. Also, use this brush to groom sensitive areas such as the face and legs. Gently brush the face with a soft brush (smaller soft brushes can be purchased to aid in brushing the face). Next, brush the horse’s entire body with this brush, beginning at the head and working back towards the rump on both sides of the horse.

    Step 5: Use a Sponge or Washcloth to Clean Your Horse’s Face

    Gently clean around your horse’s eyes and nose with a wet/damp sponge or washcloth. A different sponge or washcloth can be used to clean around the dock area (around the tail) of the horse. It is important to note that if you will be grooming multiple horses, make sure you do not use the same sponge/washcloth. Each horse should have his or her own sponge/washcloth to prevent spreading germs or infection.

    *You can also use a separate sponge or cloth to clean the dock area of the horse. Do NOT use the same sponge on the face and the dock.

    Step 6: Use a Wide-tooth Comb or Mane and Tail Brush to Brush Out the Mane and Tail

    Warning: When performing this step, DO NOT STAND DIRECTLY BEHIND the horse!

    First, run your fingers through your horse’s mane and tail to work through any large knots. Take a fist-full of the horse’s mane in one hand and use the other to gently comb through it. When combing out the tail, stand to the side of the horse (NOT DIRECTLY BEHIND the horse) and try to keep a hand or arm touching
    the horse so that they know that you are there.

    *If needed, detangling spray for horses is available and can be used to aid in detangling a particularly knotted mane or tail. These sprays also make the horse’s mane and tail shine and can be used for special occasions.

    *Some professional groomers do not use combs in their horse’s hair because the comb sometimes pulls hair out.

    Step 7: Use a Hoofpick to Clean Your Horse’s Hooves

    First, you must lift your horse’s hoof. Most horses will lift their hooves after you run your hand down the back of their legs. If your horse does not lift it’s hoof then you can GENTLY squeeze the tendon on the back of the leg. It is important to not squeeze this tendon too hard as it can lead to lameness. After lifting the hoof, use the hoofpick to scrape from the heel of the hoof towards the toe to remove any rocks, dirt, mud, or other foreign objects from your horse’s hoof. Be very careful to avoid scraping the frog of
    the hoof with the hoofpick. The frog is a very sensitive V-shaped area of the hoof and if scraped could lead to lameness.

    *It is very important that you clean your horse’s hooves out before and after riding to prevent injury.

    Step 8: Use Fly Spray When Necessary to Protect Your Horse

    During the months of the year when flies are present, spraying your horse with fly spray (formulated for horses) at the end of your grooming session can help protect him or her from these pesky insects. Avoid spraying the horse in the face with fly spray and follow the instructions on the bottle for proper use.

    *To give your horse’s coat extra shine, you can spray your horse with ShowSheen.

    *In the picture above, it looks like the fly spray is directed at the horse’s face, but he actually just turned his head so that he could watch me spray the rest of his body.

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    How to approach your horse

    Written By: The Irongate Equine Team

    All horse holders are not created equal. While the job may seem easy, veterinary appointments are very stressful for most animals. All of their senses kick in to tell them that this guy is not someone they want to be around. They see a truck pull up, hear the other horses becoming agitated, smell the other horses on the veterinarian, and more. Despite all of this, a good veterinarian has a calm demeanor and a lot of experience handling horses – they can keep the patient calm during a visit. However, since we’re working with large, strong animals that have a strong flight instinct, we always exercise caution when working with them. An important part of that caution and keeping everyone safe is ensuring that the person holding the horse (trainer, veterinary assistant, owner, student, etc.) knows how to best hold and handle the horse during treatment. Here are FIVE simple things that make a visit easier for your veterinarian (or farrier!) as well as your horse.

    Holding the lead

    When holding the horse, keep your hands about 6-8″ from a horse’s head. This gives them a little room to move their head around without giving them too much freedom. If you’re too restrictive, your horse will become anxious and agitated. Give them a little space to stretch, snort and scratch without compromising your safety.

    The remaining length of the lead rope should be laid in your hand. Under no circumstances should you wrap a lead rope around your hand – and that goes for every day, as well as during a veterinary visit. A strong, nervous horse is a very dangerous horse. If your horse decides to leave that scary situation, and you have the lead rope wrapped around your hand, you’ll injure your hand, shoulder, or more. If your horse really wants to leave, he’ll probably be able to. Don’t let him take your hand with it.

    Positioning around your horse

    Stand near your horse’s shoulder. Again, this applies to every day life as well as during a veterinary or farrier visit. Standing near the shoulder or the end of the neck gives you enough control over both ends of the body.

    Stand on the same side of horse as the veterinarian. There are two ways this will help. One, if a horse gets jittery, you then have the power to move the horse’s back end (the dangerous one!) away from the veterinarian or farrier. Two, if your horse does decide to leave, you don’t have make him choose between running you over and running your veterinarian over. If a horse is so spooked that he decides to get out of there, he will, one way or another. Give him a safe option or getting out without crushing someone along the way.

    Pay attention!

    Pay attention to your horse’s demeanor. In the video below, you can see that our equine model, Crooks, is a little distracted. She isn’t fearful so much as misbehaving. At this point, she had been standing around for quite some time making videos! During an actual veterinary visit, you’ll want to keep your eyes on your horse’s lips, legs, skin, ears, etc., to determine if she’s agitated or distracted. You know your horse best, so keep your eyes on her and make sure her state of mind is calm. If she does need correction, make sure to warn the veterinarian before you do so. If she is starting to move, tell them. If she is spooking, give a calm, quiet “whoa”. Your veterinarian will know what that means.

    Hope that helps make your next visit run a little more smoothly!

    News from Trafalgar Square Books, the Leading Publisher of Equestrian Books & Videos

    How to approach your horse

    How do you greet someone for the first time? Depending on which part of the world you are from, perhaps it is no more than a nod and a smile of acknowledgment, a small bow, or it could be a kiss on one cheek or two. Of course, the greeting many of us are most familiar with is the handshake.

    The handshake dates back to Ancient Greece. It is believed that by shaking hands, rather than bowing or curtseying, two individuals proved they were equals. It also demonstrated that they felt comfortable enough together to be unarmed.

    Have you ever thought about the fact that horses have a similar system in place? A way to show when they are on equal footing and not a threat to one another? Of course we’ve all seen the horse-to-horse sniff, stomp, and squeal, but have we ever really considered what it all means…and what it means when it comes to the way we greet our horses?

    “The Greeting Ritual is the basic platform I have created to teach humans how Conversations with horses can exist,” says Sharon Wilsie of Wilsie Way Horsemanship in HORSE SPEAK, the book she wrote with fellow horsewoman Gretchen Vogel. “The Greeting Ritual consists of three separate moments in which horses that are meeting touch noses on the Greeting Button (located on the front of the muzzle). The speed at which they may perform these three touches varies from lightning-fast to very slow. The reason for three official touches is simple: there is much to say in a first, formal greeting, and it takes two subsequent touches to sort it all out.”

    HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

    Here’s a very simple way to start a real Conversation with your horse, the way he’d like you to, beginning with “Hello”:

    1 Use a Knuckle Touch (your hand in a soft fist, knuckles up) to the horse’s Greeting Button to say, “Hello,” followed by an obvious turn to one side. Do this to see if the horse will copy your movement (an offer to follow you).

    2 Add a second Knuckle Touch to say, “Getting to know you!” and once more turn to the side to confirm the horse will offer to follow you.

    3 End with a third Knuckle Touch to say, “What’s next?” as you breathe in and out softly. This could lead to you going somewhere together, grooming (some form of touch), or separating peacefully. The third touch is where the next level of Conversation begins.

    “Horses must be bilingual,” says Wilsie. “They must speak ‘horse language’ to horses (although if they have been isolated, they may not be effective communicators with other horses). In addition, horses need to speak ‘human.’ We use words and inflections to indicate our many levels of feelings, needs, and replies to each other. Humans don’t need to rely on subtle visual messages. We express less with our bodies than we do with words. We make so many random movements around our horses that they can be at a loss trying to understand us.

    “HORSE SPEAK is meant to help both sides of the coin: humans and horses. Just like learning a foreign language, you will first learn distinct movements that are the horse’s individual words. You’ll learn how to mirror his words visually, in a way he will understand. Eventually, you will be able to combine these gestures in sequences and pose questions to horses. When a horse replies with his own movements, you will understand what he is saying and be able to respond logically. Fluency comes with the flexibility to have a conversation automatically, calibrated with appropriate intensity. And giving you the means to become fluent is my goal.”

    Watch the book trailer here:


    HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

    CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

    Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

    Published: Feb 7, 2016 · Modified: Aug 13, 2020 by ihearthorses · This post may contain affiliate links · Leave a Comment

    Like humans, horses can become nervous. When interacting with an anxious horse, being able to calm them down again can help to prevent serious blowups, and being able to calm a nervous horse is an important and valuable skill to have as a rider. Consider using these seven techniques to help calm down a nervous horse.

    How to approach your horse

    Talk to the Horse

    Your voice can be reassuring to a nervous horse, and speaking has an added benefit – it forces you to breathe and relax, even just a little bit. If you’re in the saddle while your horse gets anxious, then it’s so important that you relax as much as possible. When you do speak to your horse, do so in low, soft, soothing tones.

    Move Slowly

    If you’re on the ground and a horse starts to get nervous, it may be tempting to try to get to the horse as quickly as possible, or to try to grab at the halter to untie the horse. Moving quickly can make these situations much worse, and may cause the horse to overreact. Instead, take a breath and focus on moving at a normal pace.

    Try to relax your arms and shoulders – horses are masters at picking up on tension in our own bodies. Keep yourself in a safe position when you approach a nervous horse.How to approach your horse

    Ask the Horse to Lower Its Head

    Asking your horse to lower his head when he’s nervous can help to relieve some of his stress and can change his focus back to you. It’s important that you teach your horse a cue to lower his head ahead of time, and that you practice the cue regularly in order for the horse to respond when he’s anxious.

    Let the Horse Inspect the Frightening Issue

    If your horse is nervous about a particular issue, such as the presence of an umbrella or other object, then let him inspect the object for himself. Your horse can discover that the object is not harmful, and you can then refocus him on whatever you were doing before he got nervous.

    How to approach your horse


    Remember to keep yourself breathing when your horse is tense. Riders and handlers often hold their breath when horses get nervous, but that only conveys tension to the horse. Instead, keep yourself breathing and try to physically relax your body.

    Don’t Make It Into a Big Deal

    If, every time a horse gets nervous, you make the issue into a big deal, then you’re justifying the fact that the horse was right to get anxious and tense. On the other hand, if you let these nervous episodes roll off your shoulder without acknowledging the horse’s fear, you’re teaching him that there was nothing to be afraid of.

    Did you like this article? Then pin it!

    Minimize the danger of bringing your horse in from the pasture.

    Q. My horse is turned out with seven other horses. Sometimes when I go to bring him in, the other horses are all gathered around the gate. It makes me nervous to walk him past them and try to get him out of the field without letting other horses out by mistake or, even worse, getting kicked or knocked over. Do you have any suggestions for doing this safely?


    A. This is one of the most dangerous situations horse people face, because horse-to-horse interactions can be so unpredictable. Horses rarely hurt humans intentionally, but they don’t understand how much smaller and more vulnerable we are than them. So when they interact with one another, we can easily get caught in the crossfire—with potentially serious consequences. In this gate scenario, not only are you at risk of getting kicked or trampled, but you could also suffer from rope burns or an arm injury if your horse suddenly pulls away from you to avoid another horse lunging at him.

    Several factors make the gate area particularly dangerous. Horses see humans as a resource, so when we enter a pasture they tend to gather around to see if we have grain or treats—or just to beg for a scratch on the neck. Grain is an especially big motivator. If someone feeds horses grain in the pasture one day, they’ll expect it the next day, too. How interested they are in you also depends on the pasture size and quality. If they’re in a relatively small paddock with very little grass and less to do, they’ll probably pay more attention to you than they would in a large field with lush grass.

    Another major factor is herd dynamics. Horses compete with one another for resources with varying degrees of aggressiveness. If your horse tends to be submissive toward others—if, for example, they frequently push him away from hay, grain, shelter, etc.—he’s going to be far more nervous walking past them with you. No matter how well-mannered he is on the lead line, he’ll be less worried about you than about being bitten or kicked by the other horses. On the other hand, if your horse is one of the more dominant ones in the crowd, he’ll be much calmer in these circumstances, knowing that the others will likely leave him alone.

    Either way, there are several things you can do to minimize the danger. First, make it an absolute rule to not feed other horses in the pasture, so they never associate you with food. If your horse is hard to catch, it’s OK to feed him treats—just try to do it in a subtle way that doesn’t attract the other horses’ attention.

    Second, if at all possible, ask an experienced horse person to help you through the process for a while, until you grow more confident. Have her shoo the other horses away and stand guard in front of them while you take the time to negotiate the gate carefully with your horse. Never rush him through the gate. Doing so can make him even more nervous and difficult to manage, especially if you accidentally bop him on the rump with the gate once or twice.

    If you don’t have the luxury of a helper, use a shooing gesture with your free arm to disperse the herd as you approach the gate. Avoid raising your voice, as this could upset your own horse. Carry a crop or dressage whip and be prepared to tap any harassers on the chest if they crowd you. (Normally I don’t advocate punishing horses with whips, but your safety is paramount in these moments and a well-timed tap can be highly effective.)

    Keep a close eye on all of the horses around you. More often than not, dominant horses will threaten submissive horses with bites rather than kicks. To stay on the safe side, though, if any horse turns his tail toward you, immediately back your horse away and approach the gate from a different direction.

    If there is one particularly difficult horse in the herd, another solution is to remove that horse from the pasture first and put him in an empty paddock or stall temporarily while you retrieve your horse. Although time-consuming, this can alleviate much of the danger and stress at the gate.

    If leading your horse out of the pasture continues to be challenging, consider asking the barn owner if she might be open to adding a second gate elsewhere along the fence line, away from where the horses tend to congregate. Another solution is to build a “catch pen”—a small pen attached to the entrance of the pasture, which can safely contain any horses who sneak through the gate. This makes the process safer and less nerve-wracking for everyone involved.

    It can take hours to catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught. If you have been around horses for some time, at some point you probably encountered a horse that just didn’t want to leave the pasture and kept running away from you. I did as well of course.

    It was so frustrating!

    I tried to follow my horse around the pasture with a halter in my hand, waiting for him to stop and let me put it on.

    It felt like a complete waste of time.

    How to approach your horse

    Pin this article on your Pinterest!

    You might know the feeling…

    The problem is that when you are trying to catch your horse like this, you always have a disadvantage. Your horse goes wherever he wants, and he is always faster than you are. It feels as if you had no way to get him to stand still so you can put the halter on.

    Your horse realizes that, and he might be using it to his advantage. Some horses will more than others. It is a game, where your horse has everything under control. You can “catch him” only after he gets bored of playing.

    So how do you catch a horse?

    But you are here because you want a solution. Here is what I do.

    When you work with your horse in a round pen, you keep asking him to do some basic things. You ask him to stop, to turn around, to trot, or to canter. You ask him to change direction. In general, you just want your horse to be going away from you in the direction that you chose.

    Only allow your horse to move towards a corner

    You can use this principle in the pasture. You are of course not going to be asking your horse to go away from you. But if he does, use it to your advantage and try to steer him into the corner. Use your body position and the fact that he goes away from you to steer him into a corner of the pasture.

    Pay attention, make sure he doesn’t slip by

    Pay full attention to your horse and make sure he doesn’t slip by. If he tries to slip by, react immediately and block him so he keeps moving towards the corner of the pasture.

    Do not try to catch him immediately

    As soon as you get your horse into the corner don’t try to catch him immediately. Stand by and just keep him in the corner. Watch him closely and react immediately when he tries to slip by. Don’t try to catch him right in the beginning, just get him to stand in the corner.

    As soon as your horse is in the corner, all of a sudden you are the one in the better position. Now you are the one who sets the rules.You no longer just keep chasing him around the pasture, but you are using your body position to keep him in the corner.

    Basically, you are telling him “You can’t go right, and you can’t go left. You can stand still or you can let me approach you”

    When you want to gain respect in the round pen, you ask your horse to go left or to go right or to change direction.How to approach your horse

    When you want to gain respect in the pasture while trying to catch your horse, you just let him go to the corner and then you tell him “you can’t go left and you can’t go right, you can stand still or let me approach you”

    It is a training, not a waste of time!

    A lot of people consider the time they spend catching their horse wasted. But in fact what it really should be is just training. The time you spend catching your horse can help you to gain respect just like “real ground work” in a round pen.

    If you enjoyed this article, claim my free video series by clicking over here

    How to approach your horse

    When you get a new horse it is natural that you want to bond with it. Hopefully, your new horse means the start of a new and exciting relationship. Your horse won’t automatically fall in love with you like you likely will with it, as relationships can take time. Here are ways to help create a bond between you and your new horse.

    Firm, Fair and Consistent

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    Jeff R Clow Moment Open / Getty Images

    Just like with children, you should be firm, fair and consistent. At all times, you should be firm in your leadership. Communicate clearly and firmly your expectations regarding your horse’s manners and behavior. If you ask your horse to step over five steps, and your horse knows how to do that, don’t let away with five steps over and three steps back.

    But be fair. Don’t expect a horse to do anything it is not trained or physically able to do. And be consistent. When you ask your horse to back up, do it, in the same way, every time. Feed it at the same time. Use the same aids and cues each time you work with your horse. Horses are creatures of habit and like predictability.

    Don’t Just Show Up for “Work Times”

    How to approach your horse

    Showing up just for riding or driving time can be a temptation given the busy schedule most of us have. But try to take time just to visit. Simple things like hand grazing in a bit of lush grass they normally can’t get to, scratching bellies or necks and just hanging out together is a relaxing way to bond.

    Bring Treats

    How to approach your horse

    There are horse people out there who are against feeding treats. But horses exist solely for our pleasure, and most of us like to see our horses enjoy a treat. The key to feeding treats is to be sure you are consistent in feeding your treats safely.

    Understand Body Language

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    The Spruce Pets / K. Blocksdorf

    Understanding your horse’s body language and shaping your body language will help you communicate with your horse and create a closer bond. This has to be done with consistency, however. Something like “join up” or other behaviors you have taught won’t be permanent if your horse never knows what to expect next from you. Learn to understand what your horse is thinking by observing their facial expressions (yes, horses do have them), ears, tail, and posture.


    How to approach your horse

    Allogrooming is a common behavior seen in horses. Allogrooming is when two horses nibble along each other’s crest and back, mutually ‘grooming’ and scratching each other (humans allogroom too, like when two girls do each other’s hair). Grooming your horse is a pleasant way to bond. Your horse will appreciate it when you can brush areas it can’t get to, like its chest, belly and between the legs.


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    Arnold Media / Getty Images

    Respect that your horse is a horse, not a human or a big dog. While your horse will learn to enjoy spending time with you, it will also need the companionship of other horses. Horses don’t care about the same things we do–color-coordinated gear, winning prizes, or perfectly kept stalls. They want shelter from bad weather, good pasture, water, and companionship and leadership from someone they can trust.

    Massage and Other Comforts

    How to approach your horse

    Learning the basics of equine massage or other therapeutic touches can help you bond with your horse. If your horse knows he can rely on you for relaxation, it will enjoy time with you. Not only will your horse enjoy it, but it may also enhance his or her performance. Many horses learn to lean into the pressure of massage or even chiropractic work, indicating where they need work.

    Experience Things Together

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    Al Belo / Getty Images

    Just like a shared experience between people can bring them closer together, so can sharing experiences with your horse. The more you train, ride or drive your horse, the more you and your horse will learn to understand each other. You might here competitors claim their horse looked after them during a competition, even though they didn’t feel at the top of their game. Their bond with their horse developed based on mutual trust in sometimes difficult conditions.

    How do you approach a saddle on a horse?

    To saddle a horse, approach it with a saddle in hand and hold “DPAD UP” to put it on. You can only have one saddle, and therefore one main horse, at a time. To remove a saddle you must approach the horse and hold “L2” to lock on and hold “DPAD UP” to remove.

    Where should your saddle sit on a horse?

    The saddle needs to be in the right position on the horse’s back in order to judge its fit, and to allow the horse correct movement.

    • The saddle needs to sit 2-3 fingers behind the shoulderblade and its muscles (see picture below).
    • The saddle must nowhere touch the spinal processes, or the dorsal ligament system.

    How do I approach the saddle on my horse in Red Dead Redemption?

    To saddle a Horse, approach it with a saddle in hand and hold D-pad up to put it on. You can only have one saddle and therefore one main Horse, at a time. To remove a saddle you must approach and hold L2 to lock on and hold D-pad up to remove.

    How do you call Arthur’s horse?

    It’s quite easy to get separated from your trusty steed, but you can call them back to you by pressing up on the d-pad. Your horse will not always come to you though. Depending on the level of horse bonding that you’ve completed with your horse, it will respond from different distances.

    What was Arthur old horse name?

    How do you call a horse to you?

    Call your horse, put the halter on while he is eating, run a rubber curry comb over his body, then lead him a few steps before letting him back in the pasture to finish eating. Start taking an empty bucket to the field, call your horse, and when he comes up to you just spend a few minutes grooming him.

    How old is a 13 year old horse in human years?

    The first two horse years are equal to 6.5 human years. This means when a horse is 2 years old, it’s the equivalent of a 13-year-old human….Here is a horse years into human year chart:

    Horse Years Human Years
    11 38
    12 40.5
    13 43
    14 45.5

    How do you get your new horse to like you?

    Here, she’s come up with seven ways to spend time with your horse.

    1. Try mutual grooming with your horse. There are many things you can learn by watching your horse.
    2. Try positive Reinforcement.
    3. Go for a walk.
    4. Play with your horse.
    5. Try agility with your horse.
    6. Chill out.
    7. Try online showing.

    How often should you wash a horse?

    Determining how often you should bathe your horse is often based upon personal preference and need, or even industry practice. If you run a racing stable, you’re probably giving your horse a soapy bath after every ride, but if you’re managing a hunter/jumper barn, it’s more likely to be once a week.

    Is it good to lunge a horse?

    Lunging is a useful exercise for both horse and handler. It is a way to let your horse safely burn off extra energy without you riding it and can help when teaching horse obedience. And, lunging can be done to help a rider learn skills without having to worry about controlling the horse.

    Lying down with my horses is something I’ve done since I got my first horse at age 8. Some foals especially love to snuggle (others, not so much) – here’s a photo of my friend Kesia with little Firefly:

    How to approach your horse

    Of course, I didn’t realize how unusual or ‘special’ this was until I got older and out into the ‘horse world’. In fact, people were so taken by images of James French lying down with horses that this video went viral on Facebook (over 3.5 million views):

    But it doesn’t change the fact that if your horse trusts you and feels peace in your presence, then your horse will enjoy resting or napping with you. Just like your dog or cat would.

    Of course, if your horse is boarded at a busy stable or some other environment where peace is hard to come by, then that would make it pretty difficult to carve out a place to lounge around with your equine. But not impossible. You could either come really late at night, or super early in the morning – when people and activity will be at a minimum. Or, you can learn James French’s Trust Technique.

    I purchased a membership to his online course (video tutorials) because I was curious to see how his technique differed from meditation. I would say the main difference between doing Trust Technique in the presence of your horse, and meditating, is the intention you set. When I meditate, my default intention (that I don’t consciously think about) is to descend into stillness, peace, and connection – with the Divine, earth, prana/chi.

    With Trust Technique, the intention is to be fully in the present moment and to create a space where the animal can be fully present. The theory being that past trauma, abuse, etc. existed back then, but does not exist in the present. So if you can exist and the horse can exist fully in the present, then that is a healing space, where the past trauma can be released. And the way you do that is:

    • Sit down in a place and position in which your body can be absolutely still and sit without moving, only breathing, for a couple of minutes.
    • Then, focus your eyes on something near the horse, but not the horse’s body. Keep your eyes on that spot and let them go soft-focus (like when you stare off into space, or daydream). Do this for a couple minutes, along with remaining absolutely still in your body.
    • Next, keep doing the body stillness and eye-focus, and now choose a sound to also focus on. It could be the wind, or a clock ticking, or birds chirping, etc. And focus only on that sound. Stay like this for as long as you can: your body absolutely still, your eyes soft-focus on a point or object, listening only for the sound you chose.

    So you are not watching for your horse or his/her reaction and your horse may even walk away from you. Don’t worry about it, just keep practicing the technique until you can become fluent with it. And you may need to come out and do the Trust Technique with your horse numerous times before you are able to hold the present moment strongly enough, or your horse is ready to join you there.

    I think the salient point to keep in mind here is that if you want to experience deeper intimacy and trust with your horse, rather than focusing on your horse, or working on your horse, you should focus on yourself. If you are a frantic energy, or stressed-out person, then horses aren’t going to want to come close to you – no matter how much time you spend sitting in their field.

    Remember that horses are extremely sensitive to energy. So sitting quietly is not enough. You have to actually BE quiet – in your mind and your soul.

    A trainer once told me about a woman who brought her mare in to be worked on. The woman had spent 6 months sitting in the mare’s field, waiting for the mare to come over and make contact, or connect with her in any way. Finally, she gave up and brought the horse in for natural horsemanship (pressure-release) training. The trainer’s point was that this horse was never going to choose to connect with the woman, so for some horses, force or pressure is needed.

    Well, let me tell you, I boarded at the same facility as this woman for a few months and she was pretty frantic (energetically). A really nice, friendly woman, but her nervous system was cranked on high all the time. She was really stressful to be around! No wonder the horse didn’t want to come near her.

    However, if this woman had learned how to meditate; how to down-regulate her own nervous system, release her stress, and begin to heal some of her own trauma, I’m pretty sure her mare would have connected to her in that field.

    So if you find yourself in a similar situation. Pick a meditation technique, or use Trust Technique (get their online video course if you need more guidance and to see the process really broken down, step-by-step, along with interesting case studies), and go do it in your horse’s paddock or field. Forget about your horse and just learn how to enter stillness yourself. When you become – in your core – a grounded, peaceful person, your horse will trust you more and your relationship will naturally deepen and strengthen.

    How to approach your horse

    How to approach your horse TIP: When sitting on wet or cold ground, put some hay underneath you – it’s amazing how warm and comfy it keeps you. Now I know why horses lie down on top of their hay! Note how one horse always stands guard while the others rest.

    Also, note that when natural, empowered horses lie down – like the formerly semi-feral herd in these pictures – they do not lie close together, or touching each other. This is a family herd (same father) so they are very bonded, but they know that if a pack of coyotes, or a bobcat, comes out of the woods, they need to get up fast and they need space to rock and leap to their feet.

    So then why would they enjoy a human lying on them, or smushed up against them? Some of mine don’t mind me being close, but unless I’m scratching their itchy bits, they are often more comfortable if I get my own spot and rest with them like a normal member of the herd. At times they have shown me the ultimate trust – by the entire herd lying down flat out in R.E.M. sleep, while I am entrusted to stay alert to keep the herd safe, and alert them to any danger. I take that trust very seriously.

    So again, techniques and tools are good and can be fun, or interesting, but nothing beats simply listening to your horse! Each horse is different, with different likes and differing sensitivity levels – tune in and listen to your horse for their individual cues. If you ignore their cues, or you put the technique before the horse, you may end up with some problems like this woman.

    How to approach your horse

    Math is involved at a fast pace when jumping a horse. An average a horse’s stride is 12 feet long, and a rider must figure out during the approach to a jump how to influence the horse’s stride to make the distance to the jump perfect. Do you need to lengthen or shorten your horse’s stride, or is it already right on?

    Have you ever watched a show jumping competition? Before the class, all the competitors have a chance to walk the course. This gives them time to plan and memorize the route they will take – and to do some math.

    The riders count their steps, each step equaling 3 feet or .9 m, and from that they calculate how many strides their horse will take between jumps and the angles they will ride to approach each jump.

    1. How many human strides equal 1 horse stride?

    When you are young, your own stride may be shorter than 3 feet. Say you’ve measured your stride and found it to be 2 feet.

    2. How many of your strides would equal 1 horse stride?

    3. Would you expect the average stride length of a pony to be the same as the average stride length of a horse? If not, do you think it would be shorter or longer?

    Here is a video showing the basics on walking a show jumping course:

    1. How many human strides equal 1 horse stride?
    Answer: 12 ÷ 3 = 4. 4 Human strides equal 1 horse stride.

    2. How many of your strides would equal 1 horse stride?
    Answer: 12 ÷ 2 = 6. 6 of your strides would equal 1 horse stride.

    3. Would you expect the average stride length of a pony to be the same as the average stride length of a horse? If not, do you think it would be shorter or longer?
    Answer: Pony’s strides are shorter than horse’s strides because their legs are shorter.

    How do you catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught? We all know how frustrating it can be to chase a horse around the pasture for an hour while he runs in circles. Would you love to have a horse that actually approaches you when you walk into the pasture? It’s easier than you may think.

    Quick note: If you’re having trouble catching your horse, then there’s a high likelihood that you’re dealing with other problems too. I’m doing a free online training on the top 8 ways to screw up your horse where I’ll cover what most people do that hinders their horse’s confidence, willingness, and ability to learn. Highly recommended!

    Gimmicks People Use To Catch A Horse

    One crutch people often use is to have a bucket full of feed in tow to entice the horse to come close enough to snag him. But what if your horse gets loose out in the open and you don’t have any feed nearby? What if he totally ignores you and takes off into parts unknown. It’s a nightmare we’ve all had.

    Another gimmick is to try and sneak up on the horse like a predator and quickly toss the lead rope around his neck before he bolts away. This can be dangerous and is detrimental to establishing trust and respect.

    Key Concept For Catching A Horse

    Convince your horse that his evasion of being caught is unpleasant while simultaneously, your horse that being caught is a good feeling.

    First, Prepare Your Horse To Be Caught

    The place to actually start this process does not even involve catching your horse. Instead, it’s all about preparing your horse to be caught.

    This begins by being particular about the way you approach the horse. If you approach from the front, and not from the back or side, he’ll feel less threatened.

    As you approach from the front where they can see you with both eyes, watch for subtle changes in the horse. If he shows signs of feeling the need to run off, back up a step. Being able to ‘read’ the horse will make this go much faster.

    If there are other horses in the pasture, ignore those and try to get them away from the one you want to catch. As you approach the horse from the front, if he turns his attention towards you, turn around and walk off. This decrease of pressure is his reward. You must be willing to walk away when he has a positive change.

    If he turns tail and tries to run past you, be sure to step out in front of him and block his path. If he gets past you, keep the pressure on until he makes a change by attempting to stop and give you back his attention.

    The Approach Continues

    Approach the horse again, but don’t try to catch him. When he is not looking at you, keep walking towards him (pressure). When he turns to look at you, turn your back to him and walk a few steps away (reward). Gradually approach closer and closer using this same process. Never get so close that his instinct to run off kicks in. With good timing of your approach and retreat, the horse will realize that the way to decrease the pressure of your approach is to accept you. When he makes a change, you make a change. Any time he gets unsure, use your retreat as a reward for him to remain stationary.

    Will He Follow?

    At this point, you can move your body position right and left and see if the horse will follow you with his head. If he looks at anything else, make a gesture to bring his attention back to you. When he begins relaxing you could now step to him and pet him on the head. Don’t try to catch the horse yet. Pet him and back away. Gradually increase this process as well, adding in some rubbing of his face. At this time, you may have a small amount of control of his head and can use that advantage to keep him focused.

    Do Not Catch Your Horse

    Now when you walk away a few steps, he will likely follow you. Reward all positive changes. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t try to sneak the lead rope or halter on his neck to trap him. Continue petting and rubbing the head, keeping his attention on you. Now when you walk off, he will probably follow you in a relaxed manner.

    What Now?

    The next time you go out to catch him, the process should be much faster. When you can skip all the other stepsand go straight to the approach, you know he’s finally ready to be caught.

    Carson James’ background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they’re easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.

    How to approach your horse

    Most domesticated dogs will come when called by their owner. However, that’s not the case for horses. Though you’ve often seen horses responding to a call in the movies, not many horses in real life know this trick. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn it though. With a little bit of patience and persistence, you can teach your horse to come when called, so long as you mind a few discouraging behaviors.

    While this is a cool trick for any horse to learn, it’s also extremely useful for horses that are difficult to pull from the pasture. If you have a very large pasture, having your horses respond to your call can save you from a lot of walking!

    What You Need to Do

    The training is going to be split into two parts. Each part will contain many rounds of training divided into several sessions. Depending on how comfortable your horse is now with you approaching, especially if you’re holding a halter or something similar, you might have more or less work to do.

    For your first part of training, the basic premise is that you want to condition your horse to believe that nothing bad will ever happen when you approach them. That way, it always feels comfortable with you approaching. You even want your horse to think that something good could possibly happen when you approach.

    During the second part of training, you’ll slowly start teaching the horse to come to you when you call it. Unless your horse is already very comfortable with you approaching, you should spend plenty of time on part one before moving on to part two.

    How to approach your horse

    Image Credit: JonVallejoPhotography, Shutterstock

    What Not to Do

    The entire goal here is to make your horse comfortable with you approaching, and eventually, approaching you. This means that you can’t ever call your horse and then make it do something awful. For instance, calling your horse over and then making it do a long, grueling workout or giving it shots is a surefire way to make it very wary of approaching you when you call the next time.

    Before You Start

    Understand before you start that this is going to require considerable patience. You’re going to be doing repetitive training. Repetition is key here. Each step may need to be repeated many times before moving onto the next step, which might be only slightly different.

    At no point during training can you lose your patience or get angry with your horse. It could undo the training you’ve worked so hard at and bring you right back to square one.

    The Training

    If you can easily walk up to your horse in a wide-open pasture and put its halter on without any issue, then you can start with the second phase of training, skipping phase one. But for most people and horses, it’s recommended that you start with phase one and get your horse completely at ease with you approaching and haltering it.

    Phase 1: Conditioning

    How to approach your horse

    Image Credit: Lucky Business, Shutterstock

    During the conditioning phase of training, you have three steps to follow. Advance, retreat, and repeat.

    For the first training session, leave all equipment outside the pasture and walk in empty-handed.

    Advance towards your horse, paying careful attention to its body language. Make sure you’re relaxed and at ease yourself.

    Retreat the very moment you see his body language change or muscles start to tighten. Before your horse can turn or walk away, you must turn the other way and leave first.

    Repeat over and over until you can walk right up to him without him even considering leaving. Between each repetition, walk at least 15-20 feet from your horse for maximal impact.

    Once you can walk up to your horse and it doesn’t get nervous or turn to leave, you should leave the pasture for 15-20 minutes before returning to repeat it again. Repeat again the next day as well.

    Now it’s time to start adding in variations on this basic conditioning drill, altering things each time.

    How much thought do you give your approach to a jump? Jonty Evans was keen to stress the importance of riding a straight, accurate line to a fence to the riders he taught at an arena cross-country clinic which took place at Lincomb Equestrian Centre in Worcestershire earlier this month.

    “Every single fence is on a line, it may be a dodgy line and it could be short, long or angled, but it’s a line and the line you take is very important,” explained the Irish Olympic event rider. “The line you take to a fence is the rider’s own choice, the horse is not responsible for the line you have taken, make sure you bear that in mind when you are jumping.”

    Throughout the session, Jonty ensured his pupils jumped cross-country fences on various different lines, highlighting the following key points:

    1. A rider’s job is to choose the line, the horse’s job is to jump the fence

    The rider should decide when to turn on or off the line and how accurate the line is. Don’t let the horse dictate how you get to the fence and the line you take to get over it.

    2. Don’t be late getting onto your line

    Turn onto your line as early as possible and once on it focus on nothing changing. There should be no wobbles, just a straight approach.

    3. Be accurate

    Remember you are in charge of where you are jumping and how you approach the fence. Skinny fences shouldn’t be a problem if you are always accurate in your training. There may be less of the fence to jump, but if the horse is used to jumping over the middle of the jump, it shouldn’t matter.

    4. Look straight ahead

    Find something beyond the jump to look at and aim towards it. Doing this will help you stay on your line and ride straight.

    5. Focus

    Focusing on an object directly beyond the jump will also mean you are less likely to miss your stride as you are concentrating on what’s ahead rather than whether or not you have the right stride. While every fence is on a line, not every fence is on a stride.

    6. Aim

    Aiming your hands and legs at the jump will help you to approach it in a straight line.

    Article continues below…

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    Submitted by member: Allison

    I have recently purchased a mare that hates contact. She’ll travel very nicely with a loose rein but when I begin to take more contact and apply more leg, she attempts to evade this by lifting her head (and hollowing out) or dropping her head below the vertical and increasingly on the forehand. I am working diligently to move her into the bit by applying leg pressure and attempting to get her to accept the contact. I am trying to avoid training devices such as draw reins but I’m getting exhausted with the fight!

    Answer by Bernie

    I will give you some advice on this rather common issue, however it would be beneficial to have a bit more information about your horse. For instance, what breed is she, how old and how green? What has this mare done in the past and in what bit? Has she ever had her teeth addressed by a “Dentist?” What bit are you currently riding her in? All of the above would be helpful to know, but I’ll give it my best shot.

    First, I would have her teeth looked at by a top equine dentist to eliminate or take care of any pain she may be experiencing. Next, you will need to experiment with a few of the classical snaffles to find the one she is most comfortable with. All of them will come in various diameters, some fatter than others. She will tell you the one she likes best by her willingness to accept your contact or not. The width of the bit should fit her perfectly. Not too tight against the corners of her mouth so that there is no slide from side to side and not too wide that there is too much slide. My normal progression is to start with a rubber D snaffle and move along in the following order (and I would start with the fatter ones first in heavy stainless before I tried the different flavored bits like copper or brass).

    1. Rubber D snaffle
    2. Stainless steel single jointed loose ring snaffle
    3. Stainless steel french link loose ring snaffle
    4. Stainless steel fat egg but snaffle
    5. Stainless steel fat D ring snaffle

    Understanding that there is a difference between riding on a light, soft contact and riding fully on the bit, lets just speak about riding on soft contact which, at this stage, would be ideal to achieve.

    Once you have addressed the teeth and hopefully found from the list above a bit that she likes, we can address her acceptance of your “elastic following arm” starting at the walk. We have to go back to basics!

    First it is leg to hand, not hand to leg. I would like to see her walk in a nice forward rhythm on a loose rein with her nose in front of the vertical, producing a forward and back swinging neck gesture. Hold your reins between your thumb and index finger in what we know as the “driving rein” and carefully sneak up on the soft contact without disturbing the forward regularity of the gait. Take great care that you follow the oscillating movements of her neck with your arms, rather than a fixed hand which will constantly bump her in the mouth. This comes primarily from your shoulder joint allowing your arms to move with her neck with soft contact.

    For her there are only two ways to walk. On a loose rein or as described above. Spend lots of time on this, developing her acceptance of your light contact with her nose out, over the next few weeks in the walk. The driving rein lightens the contact and is a great tool to develop good hands as well.

    Once she has accepted your contact with a following arm in the walk, hold the reins normally.

    In the trot gait let her go in a natural frame, nose out and don’t think about too much leg. The more leg you use, the more comes out in your hand and she is not ready for that yet. Ride with just enough leg to keep her regular in the trot gait and be happy with soft contact.

    In the canter gait, rise up in your half seat and see if she will accept a light contact with her mouth, nose out. You must follow her natural neck swing, as she does in the walk, with your arms. A fixed hand and especially a hand against her natural neck movement will just irritate her.

    You asked about draw reins and expressed being exhausted with the fight. “Fight?” This should not be a fight! Forget the draw reins, take your time, address all the suggestions mentioned above and contact me in three months and let me know how you’re progressing!

    Relaxation is basic to everything we do with our horses. It can be both a mental and a physical challenge, something riders must constantly work at achieving in both themselves and their horses. In the moment when a horse’s muscles tense and he feels like he wants to run or buck, most riders unconsciously join the horse by tensing their muscles, too. The reverse situation occurs when a tense rider makes the horse uncomfortable and tense.

    How to approach your horse

    So relaxation is a chicken and egg thing. It does not really matter ‘who started it.’ In order to break the feedback loop, someone has to be the grownup. Goldie oldie school horses take on this role for beginning riders but most horses are not goldie oldies. As riders progress they must become responsible for establishing and maintaining relaxation in their partnership with the horse. They must learn how to break the feedback loop by staying relaxed and inviting a tense horse to join them there.

    It helps to have a tool kit to reach into when relaxation just is not happening. The suggestions for creating relaxation listed here can guide you in developing a personal program that works for you and your horse. Work up a short groundwork program that helps you relax before you greet your horse or mount up. Choose another set of under saddle tools that can help your horse warm up and develop relaxation before you go to work that day. Choose a program suited to whatever training and fitness levels each of you have achieved. And remember that horses are different from day to day and so are riders. Plan those adjustments into your program.

    Relaxing the Tense Horse from the Ground

    Relaxing the Tense Horse Under Saddle

    Relaxing the Rider From the Ground

    Relaxing the Rider Under Saddle

    Ron Meredith talks about making yourself the safest place for your horse to be. In the horse’s mind, a place where he can feel relaxed is a safe place. Working on relaxation begins the moment you open the horse’s stall door and continues until you put him away after your ride. When you develop routines to help yourself stay relaxed and to help your horse stay relaxed, you become a safe place. You become the place where the horse wants to be.

    These lists are by no means exhaustive. Talk to your coach or instructor for other suggestions and for ways to create a program that works for you and your horse. Keep searching for the most appropriate ‘reset’ buttons to help both you and your horse become and stay relaxed throughout any ride. When your ride starts with a short relaxation routine, that becomes a ‘safe place’ you can return to any time things start going south during your ride.

    Your turn! Let us know how you achieve relaxation in yourself and your horse in the comments below.

    Meredith Manor is an equestrian career college dedicated to preparing students for hands-on, equestrian careers as trainers, instructors, equine massage therapists, stable managers, farriers and more. If you want a career with horses and are considering attending Meredith Manor, request an information packet to learn more.

    If your horse isn’t picking up his feet, the first thing to figure out is why. Reasons include lack of, or improper training, fear, pain or discomfort.

    How to approach your horse

    By: Anne Gage | February 27, 2018

    My horse really doesn’t like to pick up his hind feet. What can I do to make it easier to pick his hooves out?

    If your horse isn’t picking up his feet, the first thing to figure out is why. The most common reasons I see when working with horses are lack of, or improper training, fear, pain or discomfort.

    It’s important to remember that as prey/flight animals, horses are naturally worried about having their feet restrained in any way. So, all training requires patience and empathy that builds trust and allows the horse feel safe.

    If your horse used to willingly pick up his hind feet and not lifting them up easily is a change in behaviour, it’s possible that he recently had a negative or painful experience. Or picking up his feet has become uncomfortable or painful due to joint, muscle or foot pain. If this is the case, eliminate any possible sources of pain or discomfort before beginning to re-train your horse to pick up his feet.

    In all training, patience and consistency are key for long-term success and building a positive partnership with your horse. Avoid looking for quick fixes or using aversive methods. Instead, establish these foundations:

    1. Safety and comfort. Both you and your horse need to feel calm. Work with him in a place where he is relaxed, so that he can stand quietly and you won’t be distracted.

    If you tie your horse, use a quick release clip or knot and allow him to stand (poll level with withers).

    2. Balance. In order to lift a foot easily, your horse must be standing balanced with his weight evenly distributed on all four feet, his shoulders and hips aligned with each other. Practice this posture every time you groom him. Calmly re-establish this level, balanced frame whenever he changes it. Encourage him to lower his neck without force (no pulling or pushing) by gently rocking his head side to side (to loosen his poll) with a slight downward pressure on the cross-ties, lead rope or directly on the check pieces of his halter.

    If your horse is very anxious or excited, he may not be able to maintain this posture for longer than a few seconds.

    3. Comfort with touch. Pay attention for signs of tension as you gently stroke your horse all over his body. Big signs include ear pinning, air biting, clamped or swishing tail, high head, head bobbing quickly up and down, threatening to kick. Subtler signs include holding his breath, not blinking, tight mouth, tense muscles and moving away from you. As soon as you notice any of these signs, stop touching him, encourage him back into a calm frame, then start gently stroking him again where he was most comfortable with being touched going more slowly into a new area. Always return to where he is most comfortable at any sign of tension.

    Handling The Foot

    Rather than thinking of “picking up” your horse’s foot, think of asking him to lift it so that you can then support it. He gives you the foot rather than you taking it.

    Stand beside your horse (facing toward his tail) at a slight angle to him so that you’re neither facing directly toward him nor perpendicular to him. Place your nearest hand at the top of his leg then gently slide it down the back of his leg and around to the inside until your hand is at his pastern. Keep a consistent, light pressure. No gripping.

    As your hand moves down his leg, bend your knees and keep balanced over both feet with slightly more weight on your back foot. This stance protects your back from strain, allows you to move quickly out of the way if necessary, and avoids pulling on the leg.

    If, once your hand is at his pastern, your horse does not shift his weight off his foot, use the fingernails of the same hand to gently scrape upwards along the inside of the cannon bone.

    Do not try to lift his foot. Wait for him to lift his foot on his own. You may only get a weight shift at first. Reward this effort by releasing his leg and offering a scratch or treat.

    Repeat several times if necessary. If your horse still does not shift his weight or pick up his foot, gently rock your shoulder into his upper leg – rocking on and off.

    When your horse lifts his foot, hold and support the fetlock and hoof with both hands. Do not attempt to lift his leg up. Simply support it an inch or so off the ground, keeping the natural alignment of the leg so the joints are not stressed.

    After a second or two, lower the foot and gently place it on the ground. Do not drop it. Reward your horse.

    Gradually increase the height and the length of time you hold the foot up, paying attention to your horse’s comfort level.

    How do you know if your horse is happy? Here equine behaviour expert Dr Debbie Marsden explains the 13 signs you can look out for to check how your horse is feeling.

    How to read your horse’s body language

    1. His nostrils

    Your horse’s nostrils should be relaxed, soft and round. If he’s unhappy, they’ll become tight, thin and drawn.

    2. His lip line

    Your horse’s lip line should curl down slightly in a relaxed, soft manner. If he’s feeling tense, he’ll be tight and drawn in this area.

    3. His lower jaw

    Your horse’s lower jaw should be loose when he’s feeling happy. His lower mouth may hang down and you might also see him dribbling.

    4. His tail

    Your horse’s tail will be fairly loose and swinging freely and evenly when he moves. In the absence of any injuries that affect where his tail hangs, it should be straight.

    5. His ears

    Your horse’s ears are generally not something you should determine happiness from as he’ll normally point them in the direction of where he’s feeling tense. If they’re pointing forward or back, he’s probably concentrating on something in that direction

    How to read your horse’s behaviour in his field

    6. Rearing and pawing

    It may look as though your horse is fighting, but rearing up with his front legs at another horse or pawing the ground are often signs he’s enjoying himself. Horses generally won’t play with each other unless they’re happy. If he’s galloping along the fence line, this may well be an indication he’s stressed and unhappy.

    7. Looking relaxed

    Your horse should look physically relaxed while grazing and alert to his environment.

    8. Mutual grooming

    Mutual grooming in the field is also a sign your horse is relaxed, healthy and bonding with another horse.

    How to read your horse’s behaviour in his stable

    9. Regular droppings

    Your horse’s droppings should be regular and of a normal amount. When horses are stressed, they may not defecate, which is an indication he’s not happy.

    10. Sharing a haynet

    If your horse shares a haynet with a stable mate while they’re tied up in the yard, it’s a sign he’s happy.

    11. A smooth bed

    Your horse’s bedding should remain largely in place, as happy horses aren’t restless in their stable. A stressed horse may pace around.

    12. Stable vices

    Stable vices, such as crib-biting and box walking, are not something your horse will do only if he’s stressed – they also release endorphins that make him feel happy, so vice-like behaviour could be a sign he’s feeling excited.

    How to read your horse’s behaviour when you ride

    13. Breathing out

    When your horse breathes out through his nostrils and makes a soft snorting sound, it’s a sign that your horse is relaxed in his diaphragm while he’s being ridden and feeling happy in himself.

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    How to approach your horse

    Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our Sports Betting 101 Section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced sports betting strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.

    A small percentage of sports bettors only get involved in horse racing during the Triple Crown races. However, the amount of money wagered on horse racing each year suggests there are “regulars” who bet races year-round. Whether you are an infrequent bettor making a wager from an online account or an avid bettor showing up in person at the racetrack often, all of us can benefit from some form of betting advice.

    In this article, we discuss five tips and strategies to help become a more successful horse racing bettor.

    Dissect the Racing Program

    With other sports, many bettors will rely on the eye test when making wagers. These bettors argue they have seen teams play many times, and can, therefore, predict the outcomes of their next games.

    In horse racing, witnessing every horse’s prior races is nearly impossible. There are too many horses in too many locations to be confident in comparing horses around the country. Thus, racing programs should be viewed as a bettor’s Holy Grail and the source of all relevant information.

    Whether you are watching live at a racetrack or betting from home, one should completely dissect the racing program for each race. The program contains all pertinent information like recent racing history, speeds, and times at various lengths and other invaluable race information. Thus, bettors that may not know anything about a horse coming into the day can quickly formulate an opinion of a horse from these statistics.

    One of the things I look at first is the amount of recent top-three finishes. If a horse is not consistently “hitting the board”, they are not a reliable bet in most cases.

    Identify Your Main Races

    This idea goes hand-in-hand with dissecting the racing program for pertinent information. Set aside enough time to scour all the races in a program for the day. You do not want to miss out on a race you would feel most confident in just because the post time is later in the day.

    Thus, keep a log in order of confidence for each of your races. If you do not have the time to stick around the racetrack or go back to your mobile betting account, later on, you can always place your wagers for future races earlier in the day.

    Vary Your Bets

    Every bettor should have a realistic goal in mind when they begin a day of horse racing betting. “Realistic” is the keyword here. Many bettors will tell you they are looking to make a big score. However, one only stands to win so much by betting $2 on a horse to win each race.

    In accordance with identifying your most confident races, there is an opportunity to vary your bets and cash in on some better odds. For example, suppose of all races you are most confident of the #7 horse to win the fourth race. In this case, one could look into pairing this horse with other horses and betting an exacta or trifecta. Conversely, if there is a favorite in another race that looks vulnerable, that is a great opportunity to find more of a longshot to win and return a decent payout.

    For my money, I avoid “place” and “show” bets. Though these bets are safer, they do not return enough money, in the long run, to make them worth it. If I am betting a single horse, it will always be to win. However, I will always have a good mix of “exotic” bets on my card as well.

    Stick to Your Betting Plan

    You have read the entire racing program and identified the races you are most confident in. Now, the hardest part is sticking to your original plan.

    Suppose the races you were most confident in early in the day did not go your way. Do not be tempted to chase your lost money and bet bigger on races you are not as confident about.

    Likewise, do not blow all of your early winnings in bets that you would not have made if you were not already ahead. Every bettor needs to adhere to a strict budget. There are many bettors who are confident in a later race but cannot wager on it because they have lost all their money beforehand.

    You Do Not Have to Bet Every Race

    If you have ever attended a track in person, you know there is a lot of downtime between races. Often times, there can be as many as 30 minutes from the time one race ends until the next begins. Thus, a lot of bettors get themselves into trouble by curing their boredom with off-track betting (OTB). They do not have the time to adequately research an OTB race, and will just place a bet based on odds.

    Do not place a wager on a race you have not studied. Even if you are not tempted by OTB, it is more than fine to sit out a race at your local track. Stick to what you are confident in and have the patience to wait for your races. An exercise that can be helpful is to place a hypothetical bet on a race you are sitting out. Keep a log of these bets, and maybe you can learn something from the races you sit out and apply those strategies to the races you wager on.

    Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.