When engaging with an animal, you must gain its trust. Knowing that you can count on your horse is critical to your safety and livelihood as an equestrian worker or on-the-saddle professional.
Creating a trusting environment and a relaxed atmosphere is key to a healthy relationship with your horse. Of course, it will help you win riding competitions, but more importantly, it will allow the both of you to truly cherish those casual rides around the ranch or on the prairie.
This article will explore six signs to look for to help you know that your horse trusts you.
What is Trust?
Trust is elemental to any relationship to endure the test of time. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word trust as “an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”
If you take the time from the beginning to lay the groundwork for a positive two-way relationship with an animal, its behavior and reaction to your presence will radiate with trust.
It Trusts Me, It Trusts Me Not
Simply allowing you to approach is fundamental to the level of comfort the horse feels in your presence. But a relationship with a horse entails a lot more than just being able to enter into its personal space.
Generally, a tell-tale sign that your horse trusts you is its willingness to follow you and listen to your instructions. However, when looking to see if a horse trusts you, there are more specific signs you should be aware of.
Signs Your Horse Trusts You
As you continue to interact with your horse, some behaviors and responses will be very clear in ascertaining your horse’s level of trust when in your care.
Look for these six clear signs of trust:
Sign #1: Your Horse is Relaxed Around You
For any relationship to grow, it is critical that its members feel relaxed and comfortable. Therefore, if your horse appears to be calm when you come around, it is a sign that it is comfortable, and more importantly, it feels safe in your presence.
A tell-tale sign that a horse is truly comfortable is if they remain lying down if you begin to approach them. Horses feel most vulnerable when lying down, so if they do not move upon your approach, it truly trusts and loves you.
Sign #2: Your Horse Follows Your Instructions
Being a leader is much more than dishing out commands and expecting someone or something to listen. Instead, leadership entails mutual care and respect for one another.
If your horse trusts you, then it will happily follow your commands by responding positively to the instructions you give. Likewise, if your horse follows you around, it feels confident that you have its best interest in mind.
Sign #3: Your Horse Comes to You
A horse is an animal of class and elegance; having a relationship with one is truly a privilege. If a horse comes to you when called or remains steadfast upon r approach, then it associates you with peacefulness and fairness.
On the other hand, if a horse stays in the field or runs away from you, it likely feels overworked. This unfortunate situation can arise when the horse must put in loads of work without enough reward.
Although you never want to have a horse run from you, do not feel that this situation is irreparable. This article explores several tools and tips that you can implement to make your horse feel important, relaxed, and adequately rewarded for the work it puts in.
Sign #4: Your Horse Respects You
When left to their natural habitats, animals establish a pecking order in a variety of ways. I think the same thing happens amongst siblings, and this behavior is often present during other social interactions between humans.
As a parent, I am slowly learning the delicate balance between reward and supportive discipline. It is essential always to be loving and kind, no matter what is going on.
If you practice being kind and gentle but firm and assertive when necessary, you help establish a presence your horse will trust and respect. Although I am not one to like titles or categories, you must establish yourself as the leader in the relationship you have with your horse.
Sign #5: Your Horse Allows You to Touch Them
A horse will likely appear uncomfortable if you attempt to touch their head or neck area if they do not trust you. Instinctually, a horse will choose flight as its preferred response to an unsure situation.
However, if you dedicate yourself to being that model leader your horse needs, you will notice how they will become increasingly more comfortable with where you touch them.
Sign #6: Your Horse Gives You Lovies
A horse will vocalize their desire to be around you. Just like a dog wags its tail or a cat purrs, you may hear your horse “nicker and whinny” when it is eager to see you.
Nudging is equivalent to a kiss for a horse. So if your horse offers a gentle nudge, it is yet another sure sign of the affection it feels towards you. A relationship that lacks trust will most surely lack real love, so if your horse gives you these lovies, it trusts you.
Another sure sign that a horse truly loves and trusts you as its leader and friend is if it grooms you back. Most equestrian moms and dads thoroughly enjoy the bonding that occurs while grooming their horses.
If your horse nibbles on your head or shoulder, it is exhibiting the same behavior as it would to a friend in the wild. If your horse likes you enough to groom you, then it trusts you.
How to get a horse to trust you?
If you are looking for ways to deepen the trust relationship between you and your horse, be sure to lay the groundwork with the following tips for success.
1. Be A Good Leader
I already mentioned how vital it is to become a human that your horse will trust and respect. Of course, it would help to lay down the groundwork early on in your relationship, but if you notice some signs of distrust, it is not too late to be the change needed to ensure a healthy and positive environment for both you and your horse.
Establish yourself as the leader by being fair, loving, caring, and rewarding. Never try to control a horse, or anything for that matter, by instilling fear or by showing aggressiveness towards it.
2. Put in the Groundwork
It is just as important for a horse to trust you on the ground as it is for it to trust you on the saddle. But, again, it takes baby steps, dedication, and perseverance to establish this level of trust in a given relationship.
Once you establish trust, you can’t just stop; there needs to be a day-to-day investment into your relationship. So with your horse, you can provide increasingly more significant challenges to meet to help them push through barriers that they may likely face.
As it meets the challenges, you should be sure to reward them sufficiently to help boost their confidence. Not only does this add a token to their trust bank, but it also establishes a lasting memory between you and your horse.
3. Cherish Spending Time With your Horse
‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman is an insightful way to understand how one prefers to give and receive love. The relationship with your horse will significantly benefit if you spend quality time with your horse regularly.
Relationships are more about giving than about getting, and although there are some things to be expected, your horse should feel that you genuinely love spending time together.
What To Look Out For?
Maybe you or someone you know tends to wear their emotions. Likewise, a horse will use its body language to let you know how they are feeling. If a horse is not truly at ease, you may notice one of the following physical signs:
- tightened bottom lip
- tensed nostrils
- rapid movement of the tail, or an utterly still tail
- pinned ears or at the alert facing you
Any time an animal, or human for that matter, feels uncomfortable, they are likely to show some sign that they are not at ease. If a horse trusts you, it will feel more comfortable being completely relaxed in your presence.
As you begin to spend more and more time around your horse, you will learn its specific habits and behaviors.
If you want to have a horse or already have one, you know that your relationship will require time and dedication to establish a loving bond cemented in trust and respect.
Remember that a horse is more than just an animal. It is a companion that deserves to feel relaxed and significant. Therefore, it would be best to handle a horse with gentle and tender care so that beautiful memories of trust will always characterize your friendship.
Please feel free to share your questions or concerns regarding trust signals that you are seeing from your horse in the comment section below.