How to Gain the Trust of a Horse

Usually, horses are very friendly and accept communication from people.

However, if some people have frightened or hurt the horse in the past, then they are more cautious about trusting new people.

By the horse’s nature, he is afraid of new and unfamiliar things, just like we are so she must prove to herself that the new thing will not hurt her.

She can see, hear, and smell much better than we can … so she knows more about her surroundings and can be scared more easily.

Most horses want just a few simple things:

  • Food and water.
  • To be with the herd for safety and protection from the proverbial wolf.
  • To be groomed and get attention.
  • To be sure that there is nothing around that will hurt her.
  • Consistent repetition of communication and requests (Cues, commands).

The horse is always looking around for these four things.

Horses do not fight their enemies, they flee … they run until they are out of danger unless they can be taught that the object will not harm them.

So, your job as a human is to prove to the horse that you will not hurt her.

Prove that you are a friend and can be trusted.

For starters to not do things that will frighten the horse:




Do not offer food unless a reward is deserved … also do not suggest food is present by wrinkling plastic or paper materials and bags.

Instead, to gain trust:
Walk slowly toward the front shoulder about the legs, get very close with your hips and slowly extend your arm to pet with a full hand.

Talk to the horse. Tell her she is a good girl (or boy or horse).’

Read the horse’s body language. If the ears are back, she is mad. If the ears are perked straight up, she is alarmed or searching the environment.
If the body is tense, so is she, if relaxed she may put her head down meaning “Hello.”

When she accepts you without pulling her head away from you, you can step slowly up to the neck and scratch her at full length at the top of the neck, under her mane (the long hairs hanging from her neck). When she likes this, she will put her head down or shake her head up and down.

She may turn to look at you at any time. This is normal as she is checking you out and also checking to see if you are offering any treats. Do not offer the treat too soon or she will expect treats all of the time.

After talking more to the horse and praising her, you are finally ready to approach her face. Move slowly and very close to the horse. Touch the side of her face with the back of your hand and then scratch her gently.

Finally, let her smell the back of your hand.

Next, you can stroke her on the withers or shoulder. She will respond positively and notice what she does to let you know she approves and trusts you. Now you have a new friend.
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