Reconnect with your horse
How do I reconnect with my horse?
For horses that have closed themselves off, who prefer to avoid humans, "energy savers" and runaways
For people who want to get to know their horses again, outside the 'must' and training schedules, without coercion and in freedom.
Does your horse come to you when you want to take him out of the pasture?
Does your horse stay with you when you are loose in the arena?
Or does he turn away? Is he ignoring you? Or even run from you?
What does your horse actually think of you? Are you interesting? Are you pleasant? Do you bring an advantage? Or are you just the harbinger of work and ‘must’ and tension and stress?
What do we really want from a horse? And is this fair to ask?
What does he get out of it?
We all would like the horses to follow us and stay with us freely. Not as if he must do so, or that it is a trick or that he will be punished otherwise (e.g. with running in circles), but because it's nice and safe with us, because we form a mini-herd, because the horse always looks to us for connection. Because he can be who he is, doesn't have to do anything and still gets something: togetherness.
When a horse can freely and willingly join a human being, it creates good feelings, harmony and connection - for both.
That's what we and the horses want.
And a horse will only join if you can offer him that, too. Reliability, predictability, freedom of choice, safety, respect and care.
Horses are highly social creatures. To be so, they use complex communication and roles within the herd. They constantly communicate with each other, form friendships and take care of each other. They respect each other, follow and lead each other and share resources with each other. The extent to which they do this is partly determined by the environment, scarcity or abundance, stability of the herd, space, age, hormones, gender, season and weather, but also the harmony and balance, assurance and reliability of the individuals within the herd.
A horse will always try to avoid stress and pain, it will also avoid wasting energy, but will use it to defend its resources. For horses, the first priority is always to survive and to maintain health and harmony. Everything the horse does, therefore, underlies this motivation.
Ask yourself, why is the horse leaving me?
What can I offer the horse?
First of all, there are no exercises needed. You will not find any tricks in this article.
Let's start with the basics: how does the horse live? What does it need? And what can I offer him, that he, as he is, without having to do anything, is happy and in balance?
It starts with housing. Because a horse, despite its domestication, is still a flight and fight animal. A horse has to do two things in a day: move a lot, at a calm, regular pace (walk) and be able to eat with his head down. Grazing is part of a horse's natural posture and serves necessary mechanisms. Only by continuously breaking down cellulose does the digestive system remain healthy. Long eating breaks cause serious internal problems in the short and long term. Standing for a long time damages the musculoskeletal system and blood flow.
Of the 24 hours, a horse sleeps a maximum of 4-6 hours, the rest of the time is intended for food intake through grazing (and thus walking, because grass, herbs, twigs and minerals are not all found in one place).
It is also important that the horse can actually go into deep sleep while resting. This is only possible if the horse lies down, with its head on the ground, extended for a long time. Many horses need a sheltered place and a soft surface for this, just like a stable herd or a (semi) closed space to offer enough safety.
If your horse never lies down, there is a chance that he never sleeps deeply (REM phase) and you will have an exhausted horse in front of you, which sooner or later cause healht problems.
So what are good housing options?
A place where your horse is outside in groups, at least during the day (12 hours, also in the winter!), with sufficient space and shelter, always unlimited forage in several places and fresh, clean water.
A box is not acceptable for some horses and some need it to get enough rest at night. Here's a black and white view in the wrong place. Always look at the individual horse and its character and health.
But the above requirements are the minimum. Limited forage, 12 hours in a box and solitary confinement are a no-go for any horse.
When you can offer this to your horse, you have taken the first step towards a balanced, happy horse. Your horse will be able to live out all its natural needs, at its own pace and preference.
Now you can start making contact.
Ask yourself, why would the horse choose me?
In his paddock, your horse has everything he needs: food, water, freedom and his herd. Then why would he want to go with you anyway?
A horse also sees humans as a social being - he knows that we are not horses, but he can still see that we can also communicate with our body and intention. Interaction between different species is not impossible - in fact, it is very common and usually beneficial in nature. Because even though we are very different, we all have the 'social brain' as the basis of our development.
A healthy and happy horse, without trauma, naturally shows an interest in its environment and therefore sees humans as an interaction partner. But any experience with humans will further determine whether and to what extent a horse engages in conversation with humans.
If the horse learns that his communication is good for us and that we can even respond to it correctly, the horse will also quickly learn what we are saying and try to understand us. This creates a 'conversation' and horse and human increasingly try to find a common consensus. “I learn from you and you learn from me”.
If the horse learns that humans do not respond to him, ignore his signals or even act threatening or confusing, scare him and go against his will, the horse will turn away or protest. Then the relationship becomes a struggle, like two people talking past each other or even yelling. The more and the longer the horse feels unheard, the louder it may start to 'talk' - or shut itself off completely from interaction with humans. This creates 'naughty', 'problem horses' or 'lazy horses' - or also 'bombproof horses' that let everything do with them without any expression in their eyes.
What you should be able to offer your horse in the first instance is: a listening ear. Or more so, a seeing eye. Perceiving and being there is the basis.
A horse always is. All we humans always want to do. Horses are.
To start with, I can wholeheartedly recommend: be there with your horse. Nothing else.
It may sound a bit boring, but at the same time it is also a good exercise as an antidote for our performance-oriented thinking in modern society and it helps you to find some peace in your head.
Patience is a virtue.
So if you stand there - just be, and see. What do you see? What does your horse say?
Can you read the fine signals that your horse continuously sends out?
'Horse whispering' is nothing more but the knowledge and ability of the body language of horses, to be able to see and understand - and to be able to answer in a way that a horse understands that, too.
And that does not only take place in the arena or under the saddle. It starts with how you look at your horse, how you approach him, how you think about him.
Thanks to their specialized vision, horses perceive every tiny signal in your face, breathing and muscle tension and know before you know what is happening inside you.
Are you honest and sincere? Are you scared or angry? Are you in your head somewhere else and confused?
If horses could talk, we wouldn't need therapists anymore, because they know so much about us that we couldn't know it better about ourselves.
But horses can't talk, so you have to do the work. The work of self reflection and emotional growth to become a balanced, authentic and sincere leader for your horse.
If you can be that, not wanting anything at all, standing alone in the meadow, then you are already offering your horse something. A nice, safe atmosphere and the knowledge that he can rely on you. This is the first step for your horse to want to be with you - without you having to do anything to your horse. After all, this is one of the basic needs of a horse and a human: belonging.