Time and confidence

All riders must understand that winning a horse’s trust is crucial for establishing a harmonious and fulfilling relationship for both. Things usually start on the ground. When one is still a few metres away, the horse picks up several signals from the sound of our footsteps, our voice, our gestures…
There is also a kind of energy code that we send out. But, compared to us horses have a different perception of the outside world.
Even though horses have lived with us for millennia, nothing should be taken for granted. Each one of them, every foal, has to go through a phase in which it accepts the human being: a bond of trust that is never permanent. The horse always retains its “comfort zone”.
Personally, it is when first making contact on the ground that I start to create the communication code to be established between the horse and myself. The way in which he reacts when I approach him gives me precious indications as to how I will ride him. Observing his behaviour when I talk to him, allows me to understand in advance whether or not my voice will be an effective aid.
The main goal is that horses should learn to trust one, which is why it is critical to spend a lot of time with them, listening to them as much as possible and having an overall outlook. I touch them, I pat them, I talk… and observe the horse’s reactions.
In general, problems can be solved calmly and gently. Whipping a horse that doesn’t want to get on the horsebox, punishing him if he rejects being clipped or saddled, will only lead to increasing its unease and there will be consequences.
You are certainly going to say: “Yes, it’s a good idea, but I don’t have the time”. And I am going to answer, “If the horse returns the harm you inflicted you risk wasting a lot of time to remedy these consequences…”.
For this reason, we must devote a lot of time to understanding the horse’s needs, we must always reward them even for the smallest progress, and, above all, we must spend a lot of time together, not only in the saddle.

From the book: Michel Robert, “Secrets and methods of a great champion”.