Grooming at Liberty
Hi again. One way to help gain a closer connection to a horse is to groom him at liberty. It is a lot of fun and gives you an opportunity for you and your horse to trust each other more. From the grooming experience, which is enjoyable for both your horse and you, you can take the time teaching you horse to feel responsible for standing still, this will carry over when you ride him and he will more willing to listen to your leadership and direction. This is a wonderful outlet for show horses, as well as race horses and family pets. Start out by taking the brushes to his stall paddock or the arena and place the box in front of his head. Then start to brush him. If he starts taking the brushes out of the box stop grooming and put the brushes back in the box. Continue doing this until the horse is tired of the game. It could go on for some time and it is a great tension release and ice breaker. You can start in brushing him again when he is no longer interested in removing the brushes. If he walks away, follow him until he stops and then ask him to go back to the spot he was standing. Then you can give him a treat possibly. Don’t offer treats until you have trained him not to beg for treats and you have a strong bond and respect. Little by little, your horse will start standing still at liberty while you groom him. Some days he will want to play with the brushes more than others. It is all good. You will see as you go on that your horse will build more relaxation and you will build more patience.
Eventually you will have to teach him that he must leave the box alone but you can have plenty of play for a while before you need to set stronger rules. The more we can relate with a horse in interactions the better. We can teach ourselves patience and discernment. The more activities you bring to your horses that enrich his daily life yet hardly required any more time of ours the more well-being we bring to a horses daily life.
A horse tied up to something may be checked out and the experience that you share is not interactive so the partnership as less likely to grow over time. You could be thinking about something else while grooming. But grooming at liberty takes all your attention and discernment to create a standing horse. This exercise causes a horse to be more responsible for standing still.
The interactions that take place will increase the bond and politeness and give the horse more chance to enjoy learning how to work with you and get to doing interactions that are a little pesky that bring so fun into the training experience.
You get to work with your horse like you would a child. A little peskiness is all right but if the horse takes it too far you need to then ask for more cooperation.
I have taken grooming to an art form with my horses. I can ask the horse to pick up his foot, hold it up off the ground, and not touch him to do it. Then when I hold his foot for cleaning I can take his foot to the ground and ask him not to step down on it and then brings it back up this takes a lot of effort for the horse and develops his balance and good intentions that are residual in his performance and training. One way they are residual is that we both become more focused and we enjoy the details of connection.
Always think, when you are around your horse, how you can take any activity to a higher level of perfection. This focus is infectious. You will get in the habit of better leadership in your riding and training as well. It will slow you down and you will understand your horse’s needs more and start to enjoy training more that your need to fulfill you goals.
Anybody that would like to share a tip or a story of simple things to do with their horse to increase connection and willingness, please feel free to do so. It could be something about riding, trailer loading or anything. Training is fun and light hearted training is better.
I remember years ago when I showed halter horses, I taught my horses to stand on small pieces of paper so their feet would stay clean while they dried after being washed just before competition. I had a young colt and he grew into a mature stallion and I needed his attention out of habit if I said stand he would stand like a statue anywhere around any horse... stallion, mare or gelding... and when I asked him to stand he would give me complete control when I knew I needed his attention, because he might get over interested in someone or something else. Paying extra attention to little details creates a deep relaxation that removes a busy mind, a mind that cannot stop thinking. It just floats away and in the moment your horse feels your relaxation as well as your focus, he's begging to listen.
In these moments, both you and your horse are in tune with one another. To completely connect with a horse it is valuable to spend time hanging out with no agenda and to train with the most amount of freedom possible.
I hope that all makes sense to you. Enjoy your week