It is far more enjoyable to ride a horse that trusts you rather than one who does not. But getting a horse to trust you is a difficult task, especially if the horse has a history of past abuse. It is indeed possible to befriend a horse who is shy and reticent but does not have a history of past abuse.
Approach From the Left
Make sure that you approach the horse from the left. And always remember to show him what you have in your hands, even if it is a hoof pick, meant to be used on him.
Wear Tight Clothes
The second thing to remember is always to wear tight clothes. Loose clothing flaps in the breeze and may unnerve you horse. And once you have scared him, it is difficult to make him believe you. It’s hardly comfortable both for the owner as well as the horse, if there is an element of fear and mistrust between the two of you. To put it simply you should not make the horse do any activity, which he does not feel confident to do.
Take Your Time
The horse must have full confidence in you, when you ask him to jump or trot down an unfamiliar path. If you ask him to take a jump and he fails to do so, he will lose the confidence he has in you instantly. He will be frightened to take any command from you the next time. So, instead try and build his confidence in you slowly and gradually. Practice with him, going down a wide and easy road or jumping over easy hurdles. This way he develops trust in you.
Stay Within Their Capabilities
Never make him do anything which is beyond his capabilities. Gaining trust from a horse which has been previously abused, is difficult. However, with a lot of patience, you may evoke some confidence at the end.
Taking to your horse if a soft, soothing voice helps. Do this before you ask him to do any task. Never make yourself overbearing to your horse, demanding to get his attention. And never try to ride him before you get his trust. Relieve him of any fright or mistrust first. When he is used to your presence as well as your voice, approach him then.
Remember that a horse who is scared is very difficult to manage, so never force anything on him. On the contrary, offer him some food that he enjoys. Soon after he has relished something given by you a few times, gently stroke his muzzle to befriend him further. You know you have reached some understanding with your horse, if you find that your horse is letting you stroke him.
Never ride an abused horse, without the help of a horse trainer, who has had some experience with abused horses. These horses are calm when you are on the ground but start panicking when you are trying to ride them.
Brian Kendall is a staff writer at Horse Enthusiast.