Finding the YES in Your Horse

I believe that almost all horse lovers enjoy showing affection to their horses by rubbing and stroking them.  One day, as I was spending time with my horse Sampson, I made an interesting observation.  When Sampson had tack on, he allowed me to rub all over his face but when the tack came off and Sampson was at liberty, he did not allow me to put my hand on his face.  Instead, he drew back in protest.  If I put his halter on, all was well.  If it was off, Sampson withdrew each time I tried to touch his face.  I got the distinct impression that the tack caused him to submit without protesting but when he could express his opinion at liberty, touching his face was a big NO.  

Thus, I set my heart on finding the YES in Sampson so that I could express my affection for him with his blessing.  At first, I just stood beside him without asking anything in return.  I gave him a treat instead of trying to pet him.  Next, I stood beside Sampson and raised my hand until it was about 12 inches from his face.  Sampson was ok with my hand being near his face.  He didn’t draw away.  Again, I gave him a treat.  I raised my hand again and held it even nearer to his face.  I was met with another YES that this action was still ok.  I continued to repeat this process inching my hand closer and closer to Sampson without touching him.  Each time I asked Sampson if he was ok with my hand being nearer to him, I rewarded him with a treat rather than trying to touch him.  When I got so close that the next step would be to actually touch Sampson, I repeated holding my hand at that proximity several times.  Only when I felt certain that Sampson knew I considered his feelings, did I attempt to touch his face.  The process went smoothly for both of us.  Now I can form my arms into a circle to ask for a hug and Sampson will drop his face into my arms as I caress him all over.  

Training your horses at liberty allows them to express themselves and helps them realize that their feelings really do matter.  A thoughtful approach to finding the YES in your horse will contribute greatly to the bond you share as it would in any relationship in which there is mutual respect for one another’s thoughts and feelings.  Our horses are powerful teachers that can grant us a unique perspective in life.  Finding the YES in my horses is not just about touching their faces.  It gives me great satisfaction to know that I can share so many life experiences with my willing equine partners.  

Have a great rest of the week.  I am flying to Denmark for a clinic so I won’t be posting a blog next week.  I look forward to posting a new blog upon my return.  

Say YES to a closer connection with your horses as well!