Horse and rider establish a very close relationship and influence each other. For this reason we need to know what to do to gain the trust of the horse.
Ascertaining the extent to which rider and horse influence each other both mentally and physically is truly wonderful. All of us have at least once watched in amazement at how a horse changes its attitude when a rider is different from usual. Its attitude may change for the better or for the worse. After the first few minutes of apprehension when the horse tries to understand who is in the saddle, it can quickly relax and become calm and collaborative or become nervous and tense. This difference depends on the type of communication that develops between horse and rider, and, in particular, on how the rider is with the horse: if he or she is available and willing to listen and understand the horse or whether they try to impose their will by all means and in a ‘deaf’ manner.
The horse is affected by and reflects our moods, our good or bad actions, our good or bad behaviour. The horse is our mirror.
If, for example, we are worried and tense, the horse perceives our tensions and in turn also becomes tense. If we are rigid, it stiffens; if instead we are soft and relaxed, it in turn loosens up and relaxes.
This happens in any kind of relationship, both when we are riding it and when we are managing it from the ground and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in connection with it.
When we are in the presence of our horse, before embarking on any relationship with it, we must carefully consider our mental and physical state. It is important to be free from any constraint related to fear, resentment and tension. We must, in short, be ourselves and have the right balance between our energy, our actions, behaviours, thoughts and emotions. If emotions, fear or anger dominate us, it becomes impossible to establish communication with the horse in a language that is understandable to it. Having a positive attitude means being able to approach the horse with our mind completely free and focused only on the 'here and now'. Without concentration on the present moment, on the relationship that we live in that moment between us and our horse, we are unable to perceive the feelings, the emotions and the reactions of the horse, to which we must instead pay close attention if we are to enter into harmony with it. When we are with our horse, walking or riding, we must therefore always try to have an open mind. When we spend time with our horse when we ride it, we should breathe deeply and relax. The goal of those who have a real passion for horses and who want to understand them is to be able to listen to and to better interpret their needs. Usually all that is required is to observe what mental and physical state the horse is in: the man/horse relationship is the same that takes place between people: it is difficult to remain calm when confronted by an angry person. So if we are angry, our horse will also assume this mood.
Both in the saddle and on the ground, we should treat the horse with kindness, serenity, confidence and discretion but at the same time with firmness.
In nature the horse is prey and man is a predator. This law of nature never changes, even if millennia have passed knowing each other. In order to coexist and collaborate, the horse must therefore trust the man and have confidence in him, considering him pack leader. The confidence of the horse is first and foremost obtained from the ground, in the daily relationship that is established. When we are still a few meters away, the horse already receives many messages from the way we move, by the sound of our steps, by the tone of our voice, our gestures ... Horses perceive the energy that emanates from our body.
This extreme sensitivity exposes the horse to the risks resulting from our behaviour. For this reason we must always act calmly, with reflection and observing its reactions when we approach. We should speak to it with a gentle and quiet tone of voice to then approach it carefully, touching it gently and stroking it. The more the experiences are positive, the more favourable the reactions of the horse will be and will become consolidated over time. This is a rule that applies to all horses, even to those that are mistakenly judged ‘difficult’. 'Difficult' horses, in fact, do not exist in nature, they are the consequence of a negative relationship with man, of fears acquired and which have become rooted. Horses have a very good memory! If from the start we can establish a relationship based on trust from the ground, the same trust will resurface when we are in the saddle; it will then be up to us to maintain it and to nurture it through good riding.
In general, problems are solved with calmness, gentleness and reflection. With horses violence always comes back like a boomerang. This is where the wisdom of a horse rider comes into play. If a horse does not walk relaxed and confident when we are leading it how can we imagine that it would therefore, for example, want to get into the van? It is correct progression, in every sector both from the ground and while being ridden, that results in the horse trusting man and ensuring that it always trusts him and follows him everywhere. Accustom the horse to walking beside us with halter and lead rope, take it to graze grass and spend time beside during moments of relaxation, guide it into taking a hurdle on the ground with it walking next to us being hand-led ... it will gradually become trustful and will follow us everywhere.