Before anyone can become a successful horseman there must be an understanding between owner and animal. The horse is in many ways like a child. He forms habits readily and whether they are good or bad is up to you. The good habits must be developed and the start of bad ones stopped at the first sign. You must build confidence. Establish in your horse’s mind your method of approval and whenever he does your bidding always use the same manner of compliment whether it be reward or voice.
In the beginning all the potential horseman sees is this beautiful animal with the big brown eyes, lovable and endearing. But the horse is a complex animal with intense emotions often as deep as a human’s. As you watch him, put yourself in his place and try to think as he thinks. Step down to his level so you may understand his fears and frustrations.
Take your time getting acquainted and don’t expect the impossible of him. It will take a few days to become used to new quarters. Don’t make demands of him that are beyond his physical and mental capabilities. If you find the animal has some bad habits, work methodically, step by step, as the habits present themselves. A horse is never too old to train provided he has not been broken in spirit or hurt physically.
The horse’s upper lip is his finger. He uses it to examine everything. Before presenting something new to your horse, let him feel it with his lip. Don’t rush him. Let him take his time. You will be surprised how quickly he will accept what is requested. A horse and rider work best as a unit.
Because the main quality of this unit is understanding a rider will get the most from his horse if the animal has full confidence. He fears disfavor, so we work on his craving for approval. The best way to become acquainted with a horse and to discover his little idiosyncrasies is by grooming. Take much time at this, and stop to talk and pet him. He will not understand the words, but it will accustom him to the tones of your voice. Have a few pieces of carrot in your pocket so he will look to you for tidbits. However, don’t feed him sugar. The animal becomes so fond of it that he will get overanxious and be apt to nip at you in an effort to get more. Make your horse feel you mean him no harm when you approach him. You will notice how alert he is at this time because he does not know what to expect from you. Horses often sleep on their feet. Be cautious until you get to know him well.
When you approach him in the stall, be sure he knows you are behind him before entering. Be sure his weight is on the side on which you intend to enter. If he is inclined to kick or if you startle him, you can be safely out of the way before he can change position and kick with the leg on your side. You will find that your horse will relax around you as soon as he is used to your presence and knows how you will act around him.
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