Regaining Your Horses Trust
Do you and your horse have trust issues?
What do you do when there is a break in the relationship of your once trusted partner in the arena?
I presume like any human relationship, there was a breakdown in the communication. But unlike a human relationship, you can't just go your separate ways. You chose this animal and you dont want to give up on your dreams of achieving greatness do you?
I personally have been wrestling with these questions and feelings, and this a concern that is personal to me. My horse recently, bolted after a trail ride, and I was unable to regain control. He ran for what seemed like a mile, as I tried to stop him. As all this was happening, my thought process and actions seemed to unfold in the slow motion. Mentally, I was running cause and and effect senarios with every skill that I had ever learned to try and slow him down. As he decelerated I felt as if I had I caught a break and was of sound mind to be able to steer him toward a gate high enough he wouldn't be able to jump over. Needless to say, I was traumatized. It knocked my confidence level to zero, and left me wondering...When did my horse loose his trust in me? What signs did he try and tell me that I overlooked?
Looking at the factors.
Hindsight is always 20/20. There were probably a few factors that that played a part in the change in his behavior.
For the first 3 years I owned him he was kept in a pasture. Free to run 12+ acres with small herd. Now he resides in a stall. (Due to the reduction of pasture space at my stable) Too much pent up energy. The transition from stall to pasture is an easier transition than pasture to stall. (this theory is up for debate) I think some horses are better in pasture.
I dont ride enough. Where I live in California, in the winter months it gets dark by 5pm. During this time I can only ride on the weekends due to the time change. (I work an hour away from my stable so by the time I get off work at 5:30pm its dark and we only have a generator and no indoor arena. To account for this I have a leaser that rides him 3 days a week and a trainer that uses him in her lessons for her advanced riders. He is also turned out, but possibly this isn't enough?)
Addressing the Solutions.
What I can tell you, is that for me, it has been a struggle. Sometimes I get anxiety thinking about being in the saddle and I know this translates through to my horse. Which he uses as an opportunity to be naughty and test me! with that said, this is a horse that is 17h. I can't afford to have him acting out. So what am I going to do?
Back-to-basics! It all started with groundwork so that is where I'll have to start again. "Groundwork" is our "communication". Sure, I am disappointed that we weren't able to rebound faster after this experience. But I've been given a second chance, and I won't take it for granted. Every weekend we start with hand walking and then we move into the round pen. This time we spend longeing and moving through Pirelli games is our 1/1 time together. He hears my voice, he learns to listen to my commands, and this works as quality time between him and I, that he is obviously feels is lacking.
Take it slow. There is no rush. This time-out on the ground won't be forever. In fact winter months are the perfect time to do refreshers on groundwork or clearing up any bad habits a horse might have picked up while training. I will have this horse for the foreseeable future. I take solace in the fact that once the spring and summer months are upon us it will be better for us both. I will be able to spend more time with him and can ride afterwork. He will get the consistency with me that he needs, which will again build the trust we once had together.
Looking toward to the future.
I can't put into words what it felt like not be in control of a half ton animal running at what seemed like 50 mph. What I can say is jockeys have to be a bit nuts to do what they do! and I appreciate the skill they have as professionals! For the future, I am looking ahead and moving forward with my training. I've set new goals and hope to take part in at least one competition this summer. I'm not giving up and I know our future will be great!
Tell me...Have you had any trust issues with your horse?