Monday, January 10, 2011

Greeting your horse

How do you greet your horse?
We usually approach our horses at the withers and check them over physically while giving them a friendly scratch. When I'm at the withers I'm in a safer spot if the horse needs to move out of the way for some reason. I'm not crowding their face and shoulders and they can reach around laterally with their head and neck to visit which is beneficial later on when I'm in the saddle. I never offer horses any hand fed treats but the reasons for that can be discussed in another blog entry.

When I halter the horse I ask them to tip their nose around and halter themselves. I don't want to be grabbing or snatching at their face and giving them a reason to want to avoid me. In this first picture I'm bending over just to see how far this particular horse will drop his nose and reach for the halter for me, but that isn't necessary.

You may want to hold onto your lead rope and not leave it laying on the ground, just always be aware that it is not held in a way that would wrap around your hand or another limb if a horse were to spook suddenly or decide to leave in a hurry. 

Remember to be especially patient and thoughtful when you are haltering your young horses. Many times if we're in a hurry we can inadvertently pull on or bump a horse's face. Those little things we often dismiss can make the difference between haltering being a positive experience or a negative experience for a horse. 

Horses that have been rushed through the haltering process can be very wary of being caught and may have already gotten into the habit of pulling away and bolting off. Snatching and grabbing at those horses is not going to help them to be more comfortable, it will just confirm their fear. 

A first halter for this colt

When approaching a horse that might be unsure, beware of how you are carrying yourself. Are you holding your breath and nervous? Are you stalking them in a predatory manner? Are you frustrated or annoyed? Are you relaxed and friendly? Horses will pick up on all these feelings, postures and smells before you ever step through the gate and they will respond accordingly. 

Take time to visit with horses without immediately catching them and going to work. Maybe pick up a foot, help them scratch an itchy spot, casual things that will build their confidence in being around you. 

Do make sure that your horse is with you and paying attention before you lead him off so that you don't inadvertently bump him in the nose.

1 comment:

  1. Good information for all of us to remember. Beautiful horses too.