We do it in all sorts of ways: hand-fed treats, special dinners filled with delicious goodness, or even the extra hug or pat on the neck. We talk to them in soft soothing tones, and we are careful to be extra calm when they are startled by something. We buy them supplements and make sure they get the veterinarian attention they need. Most importantly, we buy well-fitted saddles, properly adjusted bridles, and even get something with a little bling to add that special spark to their overall look.
In our desire to show our horse affection, we lose sight of one thing - how the horse perceives our actions, and what they would interpret as being a positive interaction.
Of course your horse enjoys your treats, extra nibbles in their feed tub, or your pats and soft-toned voice.
Your horse certainly needs the supplements, vet care and correctly fitting tack to work at his best. And he does need your expert guidance to help him be adequately socialized for this human-dominated environment in which he lives.
But there is one thing that absolutely resonates with your horse on a level that none of the above methods can begin to match - and it's more simple than you can imagine.
The Gift of Exercise
What can make the horse snort, become playfully alert, soft in the eyes and exuberant?
Exercise, of course!
And most horses aren't even particularly picky about what kind of exercise they participate in. Go for a nice trail ride in the woods and smell the crisp outdoor scents. The change of scenery is stimulating as are the sights and sounds of (hopefully!) little critters scurrying about doing their daily chores.
Alternately, ride in the ring and work on specific movements. You can even do them over and over and over and the horse will STILL relish the fun, because working well and moving correctly feels good just as much to him as it does to you.
Not enough time for a full ride? Then enjoy a 20-minute lunging session and work on developing length of stride in all the gaits. How fun can it be? Just look at your horse's face and body language as the minutes roll by and you'll get your answer.
How about a nice bonding session mixed with grooming and a serene hand-walking down the driveway of the barn? So many experiences can be shared just by keeping your horse beside you as you go places!
In bad weather, try staying in the barn and playing with a few horse tricks! Tricks are not only physically challenging, but they encourage problem solving and memory work for your favorite equine friend. Even with limited space, you can connect in a way that both you and your horse can enjoy!
The Bottom Line
In this era of horses as recreational pets (rather than working livestock), do remember that the horse is hard-wired to move. Nothing pleases him as much as doing what he is supposed to do. Keep it physical, and your horse will appreciate being with you more than any horse treat, tack or bling can ever buy!
Get out there and enjoy time with your horse!
Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!
Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions.
This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.
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Take a look at more articles:
Dressage As A Healing Tool: Even at its most basic level (or perhaps, especially at the most basic levels), dressage holds a value to horses of all disciplines.
Cultivating Your Multiple Riding Personalities: In daily life, assuming different personalities might be frowned upon. However, if you can can channel several different personas while riding, you might actually be doing your horse a favour!
Breaking the Cycle: It Might Not Be What You DID Do…: … but rather what you DIDN’T do!
Perfecting Perfection in Horseback Riding: We will never really find the perfect horse, nor will we ever be a perfect rider. However, of course we try for perfect!