Connecting with a Wild or Unhandled Horse – Be the Tortoise Not the Hare

Wild Mustang Ruby Tuesday

There’s been a lot of discussion about “connecting with your horse” just lately. Even the well-known horse trainers have put out videos and information regarding the topic. So I thought I’d get in on the act and, based on my experience with wild horses, put my two cents worth in. It can only be two cents because I can’t afford anymore!

One Cent – Check-in at the Stable Door

Before you attempt to approach a wild or un-handled horse “check in” with yourself and make sure you are calm and centered. Any anxiety on your part will alert the horse to danger. In fact, a study undertaken by Paolo Baragli, DVM, PhD.,  found that when you as a human come into contact with a horse the horse picks up on your state of mind, and will regulate their heart beats to synchronize with yours.

As I’m sure you know, anxiety and fear causes our heart rates to rise, so if your heart rate rises then the horses heart rate will rise too. Given that horses are prey animals and rely on their herds to alert them to a threat, it stands to reason that if you are scared or fearful, the horse will be too.

Horse people sometimes talk of a horse being “honest”. What they mean is that an “honest” horse is a horse that will let you know if they are feeling anxious by using their body language to tell you they may flee, buck, spook etc. Watch their body language and be honest with yours too. Don’t fake it. The horse will know and all you’ll do is add to their perception of threat and increase their anxiety.

Two Cents – Don’t be the Hare. Be the Tortoise

As humans we tend to be a tad impatient.  We want things quickly. We want them now. Horses don’t think like we do. They live their lives second by second, minute by minute. Try to rush them and you are doomed to fail.

Horses, especially wild and un-handled ones, need time to trust. This can take months, even years to achieve. If you want to truly connect with a horse, you must take it slowly and at a pace the horse is comfortable with. This is not the time for training, round penning, this is about connecting with them in a way they understand. Be the tortoise not the hare.

The tortoise continued to plod on, albeit, it ever so slowly. He never stopped, but took one good step after another.

Julia Hyde lives in Scotts Valley, California with her husband, Brian, Dog, Missy, Horses, Shilo, Sera and Jericho.

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