My boys will be three years old in May, it is time to explore the world with them. So far they have spent their lives in the herd and at home. So going away from home will be totally new for them and they will be without the other horses so we need to build trust and confidence in each other. For a herd animal leaving the group just isn’t natural. So how much they trust me is important, that will give them a feeling they are not alone but we are together. Confidence will build if we set it up for success, taking small steps to gradually expand their comfort zones.
My principles always come down to the connection I share with my horses so it is important to me that they learn to feel Safe with me where ever I take them. They can rely on me, and to keep everything positive I take notion of their feelings and I aim to help, if they need assistance.
Onix has a big mouth and displays a lot of temperament when he is at home, but he is always hiding behind his mother. He followed me like a brave horse, but his outher bearing revealed to me how much he was tensed and stressed. He was sweating and his respiration rate went up. To help him relax, I had to remind him that he was not alone. To keep the feeling of connection I practised stopping and going. And I use food rewards with my horses this does help them to focus on me. As well do I lett them graze to have a good purpose for our trip. One thing to be really aware of is the timing they can graze or get a food reward. You do not want to reinforce stress or spooky behaviours.
I walk with my horse on a long rope so they can walk on their ‘own’ legs so to say. And I use a light weight dressage whip. Onix his attention was going far away when he was scanning his surroundings, he could find lots of things to be worried about even in the far distance. I had to remind him and keep his attention with us, I used light touch of the whip to bring him back. When walking I could simply reach back with my arm to touch his ribs. It became a really soft way of keeping connection. He responded by bending around me again, and taking notice if me. And I could talk to him or give a goody. My energy was super relaxed grounded and friendly, that was my part of the job to assist him to feel better. As we kept our walk close to home I did not overface him on his second time away from home. And I will continue to walk this small loop untill he starts to relax. Only then it will be time to take the next step and build duration and distance.
Every horse is different, so we need to act depending the situation. Ramon his attention was so much with me, almost the opposite of Onix his behaviour. Ramon felt more relaxed if he could stay as close as possible to me. Only this is not a safe way of leading him for me. This has nothing to do with dominance people I will explain that soon in another blog. So with Ramon I used my whip to help create a better habit of more distance between the two of us. I moved the whip in my bubble if he came too close he would run into the moving whip. Important note, my energy is not different when I move the whip, it stays gentle and calmly grounded. The whip is no way to punish, it is a boundary! And I avoid looking at my horse. So I had to develop the feel on the rope to know how close he was walking and the whip just happened to be there like the tail of another horse. We also practised stopping and going, with extra attention on keeping at safe distance when I came to a halt. The overall experience with Ramon was positive, he enjoyed the walk I could tell. He had a few spooks but they were no surprise. I always bring two little doggies who are running in and out the ditch, and in and out the bushes, they are literally coming from everywhere. I love my dogs they help me despook the horses. Because soon the horses knows when they hear something or see something moving, it must be one of the dogs. Nothing to be scared about…. This creates calmness as a result.
Ramon stayed at the paddock gate when we got home, looking over the fence he was really intrigued by the discovery of a world outside the pasture that was clear by his whole bearing. In the afternoon I found him again looking in the distance. While Onix showed no further interest anymore to the world outside once we were back home.
Let the horse be with you,
What are your experiences with young horses, how do you build trust and confidence?