Bond­ing

In­crease your horse’s con­fi­dence Should you be his leader or his friend? Un­der­stand­ing equine body lan­guage

Your Horse (UK) - - CONTENTS - Fiona Chip­ping, Northamp­ton Sarah Clark says...

QMy four-year-old geld­ing is very at­tached to the horses he lives with. He cries when oth­ers leave the field or if I take him away. How can I make him less de­pen­dent?

Sarah says...

When your geld­ing calls out, he could be show­ing con­fi­dent, ter­ri­to­rial be­hav­iour, or anx­i­ety about leav­ing a field buddy. As herd an­i­mals, horses are highly so­cia­ble, so his be­hav­iour is quite nat­u­ral. The good news is there's a lot you can do to help him and also deepen the bond you share with him at the same time. From what you’ve said, it sounds as though your horse is whin­ny­ing. This is a loud, long call that be­gins high and ends in a low fre­quency. All calls are so­cial be­hav­iour and the whinny roughly trans­lates as “I’m here, where are you?” As with peo­ple, ev­ery horse is dif­fer­ent. Some are nat­u­rally self-con­fi­dent, some get as­sur­ance from be­ing with oth­ers. As a herd an­i­mal, just be­ing within sight of other equines can give a horse se­cu­rity. When they’re with us in­stead, we can give our horses the con­fi­dence they need by us­ing pos­i­tive han­dling tech­niques.

How to in­crease con­fi­dence

Find out which par­tic­u­lar field-mate your horse is keen to stay with. If it’s safe and prac­ti­cal to do so, bring them in at the same time to de­crease any anx­i­ety your horse is feel­ing. Give your horse con­fi­dence by lead­ing him shoul­der to shoul­der, so that your shoul­der is in line with his. When you turn a cor­ner, put your­self on the out­side. By lead­ing him for­wards pos­i­tively this way, you’re putting your­self in a nat­u­ral driv­ing po­si­tion, just like an­other con­fi­dent horse would. Es­sen­tially, you’re mim­ick­ing his in­nate body lan­guage. When you’re lead­ing, make plenty of walk-halt and halt-walk tran­si­tions, wig­gly lines and changes of di­rec­tion to make things in­ter­est­ing and keep your horse’s fo­cus on you. If you are still con­cerned, it would be safest to seek ex­pert ad­vice. Find a lo­cal SEBC pro­fes­sional at so­ci­ety­ofe­quine be­haviour­con­sul­tants.org.uk.

Be­ing left out in the field with no com­pany can be up­set­ting for many horses

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