DONT RIDE UNTIL YOU CAN DO THESE THINGS:
You must be able to touch your horse in these 6 areas. And... your horse must show absolutely no signs of tightness or resistance.
Ideal experience: Your horse lets you touch, hold, rub, all around the chin, lips, and nostrils, any time, any day, anywhere. If you can't, you might not think it's a big deal, and you're right, it's not a big deal, it's a MAMMOTH sized deal! It means the trust you share with your horse only goes so far. What you want is a trusting relationship that has no bounds. You want your horse to comply and know that by complying there are massive rewards waiting for him. It makes life feel good for both horse and human when the relationship doesn't suffer from resistance and/or resentment.
Ideal experience: Your horse lets you cover the eyes, rub around the eyes, even medicate the eyes in certain situations. If they won't let you, that means it's your job to make a game of it and reward good behavior. It's an important part of leadership. If your horse won't let you cup your hand over his eyes, or if he/she reacts every time you raise your hand near his face, you've got a problem you need to fix right this second. Your horse needs to trust you won't hurt him and the eyes are a huge part of building trust.
Ideal experience: Your horse lets you touch, hold, clean, trim/clip hairs, and scratch all over and around the ears, even inside. If you're horse won't let you, it may be because he doesn't like it, but just because he doesn't like it, that doesn't mean you shouldn't expect him to tolerate it. Kids don't like getting in the bathtub, but they still need to behave when you ask them too. Dogs don't like getting washed, but they still need to behave when you wash them. It's the same with horses and their ears. They must learn to keep their head down and soften the muscles that cause all that tension around their ears.
Ideal experience: Your horse lets you touch, hold, lift, and groom every inch of his tail from the bottom to the very top, even underneath. If he/she doesn't, or if he/she expresses tension in any way, you've got a problem that needs to be fixed. Spend time everyday grooming, lifting, holding underneath. Be careful not to get kicked, but realize this is an important part of the trust that your horse needs to develop with you.
Special ticklish places:
Ideal Experience: Your horse lets you touch, scratch and clean all around the special places under the belly and between the back legs. If you can't, you shouldn't ride. I'll say that one more time... If you can't touch your horse in these places, you SHOULD NOT RIDE. The reason I'm so clear on this is to illustrate how a horse that is scared of being touched will always reserve a certain amount of energy to resist and resent you. Plus... I've seen people bucked off their horse or kicked because the horse gets surprised by a simple touch in a sensitive area. This can all be fixed with a simple program to gain the horse's complete trust in every area.
All four feet:
Ideal Experience: Your horse lets you pick up all four feet, clean them, trim them, rub and clean the fetlocks and pasterns, and even allow clipping hair. If you can't do this, you shouldn't ride because your horse is hiding resistance and trust issues in the feet. I want my horse to know that I care about his whole health. That means mental health and physical health. Sure it's important to clean the feet for the physical health of the horse, but it's far more important to clean the feet for the mental health of the horse. It once again proves that the horse truly is connected and bonded with you in a complete, trusting way.
If your horse won't let you touch these areas, you have a huge problem that you need to begin addressing right this minute, but first, finish reading. Make a daily program where you touch your horse every day in a kind, thoughtful way in these six areas. Don't do it once, do it every single day. Make it part of your day. Your horse may not like it at first, then the trust will grow and you'll have a true partnership.
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