7 Steps to Get Acquainted with a Horse
Horses are gentle and intelligent creatures which can be sufficiently trained to attend the needs of humans. Renowned for their power and strength, approaching them correctly is essential when establishing a lasting, trusting relationship with a horse. If you are looking forward to your first experience with horse-riding, we have compiled a list of tips to help your first interaction with these beautiful animals and how to approach them.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are home to some precious, friendly horses which bring much enjoyment and fun to our site. Our establishment includes a range of horse-related activities for our guests to try. Whether it is horse riding at one of our indoor or outdoor arenas, carriage-riding, or a session on natural horsemanship, our accessible site is dedicated to providing lessons of the highest standard and expert coaching. If you are looking forward to a residential trip soon, take a look at our blog on the 12 Things to Pack for a Residential Trip for some tips before your trip!
Begin by calming any sense of nervousness you may feel about the new experience. Horses are intelligent and can sense when people feel on edge, which in turn, can make them feel anxious too. If you create a calming air about yourself, the horse should read this and naturally feel at ease also.
Keep in the View of the Horse
As you can imagine, it is not very nice to be approached unexpectedly. Horses especially do not like to be contacted without warning and are not a fan of surprises. It is helpful to note that horses have a small blind spot between their eyes, where their nose is. Ideally, you should aim to approach the horse in the direction of one of its front shoulders. Movements should be smooth and confident to avoid any sense of unease.
Which Side is Best?
You may have heard that horses prefer to be approached by the left shoulder. While this can be true in the sense that they are usually trained with preference to the left side, instigated by humans, the side of the approach is not necessarily important. Of course, each horse is its own individual, and it is essential to listen to the advice and guidance of your horse riding instructor at all times.
Voice Your Presence
Letting the horse know you are coming over is vital, so noises of the feet and voice on approach are thoroughly recommended. Of course, try not to make any unexpected, loud noises and keep tones of the voice pleasant and relaxed! On approach, try to look at the horse’s knees as opposed to directly in the eyes as this can make a horse feel threatened. If you are approaching the horse, not in eyes view, it is especially important to let your presence be known.
Greeting your horse is essential to start forming a trusting relationship. Begin by standing one or two steps in front of the horse and extend your arm slowly. Gently allow the horse to smell the back of your hand. Once they have felt comfortable enough to touch your hand with their nose, this will count as your first interaction, and is called a ‘horseman’s handshake’. It suggests that the horse is ok with you mounting him as you have asked ‘permission’. Make sure to keep all actions slow and gentle, and avoid any quick, forceful movements when directing movements towards the horse’s face and nose. If the horse does not show signs of wanting to smell your hand, that is ok. Just move on to the next tip.
How to Pet
After you and the horse have become more used to one another, you can try and pet them. Ideally, you would like to place one hand on the bottom of their neck. If the horse moves out from your reach, gently try again, so the horse understands that you are not a threat to them. You should always stroke the horse in the same direction as its hair as the opposite direction can cause discomfort. As the horse feels more at ease with your presence, you can work up the neck and stroke its mane too.
Where to Avoid
If you are not entirely comfortable with being around the horse, it is recommended to stay at arm’s length from the horse’s shoulder. This is a general rule when not working directly with the horses.
As an accessible site, Calvert Trust Exmoor is a destination for holidays for people with disabilities, and our activities can be catered to the needs of our guests as necessary. If you are interested in attending one of our sessions and would like to try your hand at our Riding School, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us on 01598 763221 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.