TLC: What Every Horse Needs
The reason horses are a joy to keep is the same reason they are so demanding to look after – TLC. All horses need a great deal of tender loving care as well as time and effort put in to create a bond between animal and owner. TLC encompasses many facets; grooming, riding and just spending time with them, getting to know each other as you would a human friend. For horses make wonderful friends if you take the time to build on this friendship – they cannot just be left in a field on their own.
Spending Time with Your HorseTo have a true understanding between you and your horse, you must build up a rapport with them. This includes seeing them every day if possible. You do not necessarily have to ride them every day, you may be tired, it could be raining or you may simply not have time to go for a hack. But seeing your horse daily, even if only for five minutes is a good way to build up the rapport. Horses know who cares about them and who does not. If they never see you, they will not be fooled by treats when you do turn up. Do not be surprised if a horse left on its own turns to other horses’ owners for comfort and starts to listen to them more than you. And when you genuinely cannot avoid being away from your horse for a while, such as when you go on holiday, try to ask a friend to pop in to say hello. Although the stable staff will look after your horse, they will miss you. So a friendly face which the horse associates with you is always welcome.
GroomingGrooming makes the horse look and feel nice. Just like humans, grooming makes the horse feel pampered and looked after. And, as it helps the horse’s circulation, it keeps them healthy too. Grooming also shows you care, both to the horse itself and to other riders. They will note a well groomed horse and know that you love and look after your horse regularly. The horse itself will appreciate the effort and this will help the bonding process between the two of you the more often you do it.
HandlingHandling is an important part of the TLC you show your horse. You must know how to approach and handle the horse with love and care. It is not possible to just run up to a horse. As your bond grows, the horse will start to know what you are going to do, but should always make your intentions plain to him to stop him from becoming frightened.
When threatened, a horse’s natural instinct is to flee. Horses also kick, and a kicking horse can break human bones, so this is to be avoided at all costs.
Trust between a horse and rider is built up using body language. A horse will talk fairly expressively through his body language and a good rider needs to be on the lookout for these signals and what they mean.
If a horse’s ears are flat back, it could mean he is about to kick, so stand away. Ears should generally point in the direction of the horse’s attention, and thus, when you are riding, the horse should always have one ear on you to show he is listening to what you say. The tail is a good signpost. When a horse is scared, it will lie flat. Lashing out with the tail is a sign of irritation. Of course, every horse has different ways of showing their emotions and the more time you spend together the more you will learn. Never forget that horses can be unpredictable, however well you know them, so always take care when approaching, especially when at the rear.
Horse owning is a partnership between rider and horse. If you put in the TLC and time and effort to get to know him, he will repay you and reciprocate. Horses are loyal and caring animals and know exactly who likes them and who does not. With horses, perhaps more than any other animal, what you put in, you will get out.