Building a Healthy Relationship With Your Horse


BY: bob roach

For years I trained and started young colts with hopes of making the show ring. I started every colt with the same methods that I had acquired through out the years. My first colt was a filly named Rama’s Masterpiece in 1975. She made good shows throughout her two and three year old year. She even placed in the two year old filly class at the Kentucky Celebration.

I say all of this to let you know that I was going at it all wrong. I did not realize the importance of having a healthy relationship with my colts. I was teaching them to do exactly what I wanted them to do through fear and frustration. Very simple task like loading your horse, getting them to lead, getting your horse to move over in the cross ties can be better taught when you have a good relationship with him that is developed through respect and trust rather than fear and frustration.

Here is just one example: Everyone wants the horse to easily load in a trailer. Don’t wait until you need to transport him to teach him how to load! Think about it. How would you like it if you were expected to pass your drivers license test on the first day you got behind the wheel.

I suggest you teach your horse to come to you before you try to load in a trailer. Your horse must also be desensitized to the environment of a trailer before loading.

So, how do I prepare my colts for loading? I work on a relationship of respect and trust. A horse that trust you will follow you anywhere. The first thing I do is put my colts in a round pen at liberty and get them to move in one direction or the other. I encourage them to go by using a carrot stick but I do not hit them. I hit the ground behind them. I will direct the horse to change directions after two or three rounds in one direction. Most young colts will turn their head away from you. While this is very disrespectful, I have given the colt no reason yet to either respect or trust me. However after the colt has changed directions several times I will wait for them to turn toward me in one of the directional changes. As soon as the colt turns their head toward me, I will stoop a bit and back up at least one big step.

When you reward your horse for turning toward you with a short break, you will have given your horse the best reward that you could give. I will continue to drive the horse and change directions until the horse turns toward me on a regular basis. And each time the horse answers the question correctly, I will give a reward with a short break. As the horse continues to give me the right answer I will work toward getting the horse to join up or come to me. I will stoop down a bit and back up a few steps. When the horse begins to come toward me I will take a few more steps back. Soon your horse will be looking for a break and come all the way back to you. As soon as this task is complete, I will give the horse a long break while standing right in front of me.

The next day I will put my horse on a line and continue to use this exercise in the same manner. However, I will start to knead the rope when I want my horse to come toward me. As soon as my horse yields to light pressure on the rope, I will completely take the pressure off of the rope. Soon he or she will be coming to me with very little pressure on the rope. I am sure you can see how this will assist me when I plan to get my horse to come to me in a trailer.

Oh no! What about that scary trailer? Since I now have him circling very well, I will get him about twenty yards from the trailer and use the same methods above without a round pen. Each time I change directions I will get a little closer to the trailer until he is circling right by the trailer door without anxiety. His level of anxiety will be my guide as to how quickly to get closer to the trailer. Listen to your horse. Many times slow is faster. I will go as slow as I need to in getting him used to going between me and the back of the trailer until he is traveling right next to the trailer.

When he has accomplished this task I will know that he is ready to load. I always load him on a day when I have no thought of actually going anywhere. In this way I will listen to my horse and not get in a hurry. I will then open the trailer door and begin to approach the doors with my back to the open door. While holding the end of an eight or ten foot rope I will back into the trailer in a stooping position as I gently knead the rope. I will give him plenty of time as he approaches the open door. As long as he is responding I will put no pressure on the rope. If he begins to resist I will put tension on the rope, yet release the pressure as soon as he takes the slightest step or steps forward. Remember, the release is his greatest reward. I will continue to reward him as long as he is taking at least one step in the right direction. Soon he will be in the trailer. I will usually do this for several days and I am not beyond feeding him in a trough in the trailer before taking him off.

Why is my horse loading so well? because he trust and respects me. I promise you, that relationship will give you more success than trying to get him on a trailer because you are using a whip on his back side to try and scare him onto the trailer.

New Article(Feb 25th,2012)


Well! How are you and your horse getting along? In my last article we worked on getting your horse to load, by building a relationship of trust and respect. We should be building on that relationship every time we get him out of the stall or pasture.

So don’t you just hate to be a bully? Or better yet, don’t you hate getting bullied? Today’s thought is on getting your horse SOFT AND SUPPLE so that you can better enjoy your horse. I have watched many horse enthusiast as they try to man handle their horse. Simple task like turning to the left, right, backing, or going forward seem to require way too much energy. By the end of the ride, you are worn out and both of you are frustrated.

In order to improve and enjoy the riding experience you need to get your horse SOFT AND SUPPLE. This can be accomplished by working on each of the directions that a horse has the ability to travel. If you want your horse to turn to the right or left you need to get LATERAL FLEXSION. A simple exercise to get your horses head and neck more supple will assist you in this endeavor. While in the saddle if you move your rein to the outer point of your hip and hold it there, Your horse should bend the head and neck toward your left or right knee. In all likely hood since your horse has never done this before, he or she will begin to go in a circle. If you will hold the rein steady until the horse stops and then instantly take pressure off of the rein immediately. Horses will soon learn that you merely want them to turn their head and neck. This exercise should be employed in each direction. It should be clear to you that by getting your horse to flex the head and neck in both directions it will make your horse more supple. This will make turning to the right or left much easier for, thus requiring less energy and strength from you!

Will this exercise make your horse soft? Not within itself. You now must make sure that each time you turn left or right you put the least amount of pressure on the rein to attain that task. As soon as your horse begins to turn in the direction that you desire, you must reward your horse by putting little or no pressure on the rein at exactly the instant that your horse begins to turn. You may work on this task by making circles or figure eights in each direction. On the other hand you may choose to just do this naturally every time you need to make a turn while enjoying your horse on the trail, in the pasture, or in the show ring. Remember, it is a horses nature to push against constant pressure. By teaching your horses that they will be rewarded when going against their nature, each of you will develop a more enjoyable experience which includes a relationship based on trust and respect. In short… have fun and don’t be the bully!

6 Responses to Building a Healthy Relationship With Your Horse

  1. You are very welcome! I plan to have at least two new articles per week and will definitely
    have more video this week. Come and see us!