Trust is a Two Way Street
Trust = the horse trusting you and you trusting the horse The foundation for trust is understanding
Secret #1 Make it easier
Horses are capable of linear thinking, that is, one thing leads to the next, but are not generally capable of skipping several steps along the way and making leaps of reasoning. If you reach a point where your horse is refusing to do something, try making it easier.
You can do this by removing scary elements as much as possible, and by breaking a complicated task into smaller pieces
Entering a dark space which they cannot see into.
Walking under something overhead
Walking on a surface that makes noise, feels different, and may even move under their feet.
Walking into a small space from which they cannot turn around and flee
Walking up a ramp , or
Stepping up on a step
If they have ridden in a trailer before add:
Vibration and instability of the trailer
Repeated balance challenges
Constant loud noise In some trailers,
Seeing large, scary, noisy things approaching them at high speed, and not being able to flee
You can make it easier by doing the following things:
Find the most spacious trailer you can afford. If it is not big enough for your horse, he has every right to refuse to get in.
Open the windows in front
Open the escape door,
Make sure that the trailer is solidly blocked so that it doesn’t move as the horse walks in,
Buy a trailer that feels solid when you ride in it
Back the trailer up to a gentle slant so that horses do not have a large step up make
Be sure your trailer has good shock absorption,
Make sure that the ramp is solid and steady.
When you make it easier for your horse, you show him that you are a leader who can be trusted.
Secret # 2 Break It Down
This is really a way of making it easier and is the best method for pre-training your horse for trailering or any complex goal. What ever the task you want the horse to do, see how many smaller “pieces” there are that really make up the task. In order to break it down, you would create challenges which would teach the horse to be comfortable with each “piece” separately before combining all of them into walking onto the trailer.
Start by teaching the horse to walk over a piece of heavy plywood on the ground.
Once she can walk over it in every direction, stand quietly and back off, raise the plywood on some sturdy landscape timbers and repeat.
Add jump standards on each side, or put the plywood next to a wall or fence on one side and use large cones, bales or some other sturdy support to place a pole parallel to the wall to create a “hallway” for them to walk through.
Drape plastic, or a tarp over the pole(s)
Have someone stand on each side and use pool noodles to create a “roof” to walk under. Have friends hold plastic over head, or fasten plastic to the wall on one side, and have two friends hold it up on the other side.
Now you have created many of the challenges of a trailer, one piece at a time. Teach the horse how to handle each chunk completely separately with breaks in between before you combine them into your mock up “trailer”.
This is just one example, and you can apply this method to any training challenge by looking for smaller “pieces” in any action you are trying to get your horse to perform. If the horse is fearful of any complex task for what ever reason, especially if they have had a previous bad experience, it is faster, easier and safer to spend some time relieving their fear, calming them and making them feel relaxed before you begin, or at each point when they no longer make progress.
This is what builds trust! When the horse knows that you won't push him beyond what he feels capable of, that he can rely on you to make your request do-able for him, he'll put his trust in you. The hours you spend teaching them to be fearless about all the elements of the complex task by breaking it down will be fun, calm and rewarding, as compared to the hours you could spend trying to chase or force the horse to do it when you are both stressed and unhappy, AND you'll be building that trusting relationship you desire.
Secret #3 Feel with the horse
In all our trying to solve problems, we often forget to think and feel what the animal may be feeling. We are trained to be objective observers, and analyze “what is wrong” which can help us see the “clues” but can also distance us from our horse.
Animals generally do less analyzing and more feeling.
Learning to feel what is going on, without letting our own issues get in the way can give us greater understanding and help us to be authentic. Authenticity is something horses inherently perceive. They know when you are saying one thing and thinking or feeling another. Being inauthentic is a huge trust killer!
Being authentic lets them know that they can trust you.
You can learn to actually feel what your horse is feeling. Learn to feel your body and notice if it is tense in some areas. See if you can describe what emotions you feel at any time. Notice if that is an emotion you actually have. If not, it may well be the horse.
When you can notice your own emotions and the emotions of the horse you' can stop reacting out of fear or anger and start being the leader your horse desires. Since horses cannot speak, it is up to you to find other ways to understand them. They are constantly trying to communicate with us, and opening yourself to communication through emotion will expand your connection and mutual trust exponentially. If you incorporate these three secrets into your interactions with your horse you'll build mutual trust like never before. Instead of a horse that is freaking out in challenging situations you'll find your horse looking to you for leadership, and trusting that you'll guide him to safety. You'll also find that he 'll be more trustworthy.
Want more practical insights like these to help you create that amazing connectedness with your horse? Click here to Buy “Uncommonly Good Horse Sense” , the book that is helping people solve horse challenges and build trust, for more detail and illustrations.