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Ask Clinton: Building Trust With a Horse After a Riding Accident

Q: Since I fell off him, my horse and I have been having trust issues. He has become really spooky. Is there a way I can build up his trust again? – Magen W. 

A: Falling off a horse can be a scary experience, but the good news is with groundwork you can build both of your confidence up so that you’re enjoying your time together once again. Practicing groundwork exercises with your horse will allow you to gain his respect and prove to him that you’re a trustworthy leader. It’ll also give you the control you need to stay safe and give your horse confidence. The secret to being able to earn a horse’s respect is by moving his feet forwards, backwards, left and right and always rewarding the slightest try.

When you begin groundwork with your horse, I recommend starting with roundpenning exercises because working in the roundpen is the safest place to earn his respect. It allows you to get to know your horse. After a few sessions in the roundpen, your horse will have a higher level of respect for you so when you do put the halter and lead rope on him, he’ll be in a better frame of mind to pay attention and learn.

From the roundpen you can move on to groundwork exercises using the halter and lead rope that will reinforce your leadership position and teach the horse to move his feet forwards, backwards, left and right with minimal pressure. Once you can move your horse’s feet safely from the ground, then you can begin teaching him to be responsive and respectful under saddle.  When you’re in control and you’ve proved to your horse that you’re a knowledgeable leader, he will learn to trust you and follow your leadership. When trust is established, then you can begin to truly enjoy your partnership.