Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building Trust with Your Horse

Photo by Shannon Pifko

Perhaps one of the advantages of being a more mature rider is the possibility of more time with your horses.  Maybe your kids are grown or you have more flexibility at work, but many folks get back into horses in middle age because they have more time to become involved in this expensive pastime.  That time is the asset you need to build trust with your horse.

The nice thing about building trust is that you can do it without special equipment or instruction.  You don't need to ride your horse like a professional.  All you need to do is spend quality time with your horse.  If you have the opportunity to feed your horse, that frequent contact while feeding builds trust.  Taking extra time to groom your horse, trim your horse's feet, bathe your horse, or work with your horse on a lead builds trust.  Riding in new venues and challenging situations can also build trust if your horse senses that you are confident in those situations and you sense that your horse will not try to take advantage of you.  It's my experience that doctoring your horse through illness and injury also builds trust.

Trust is not an "on" or "off" status.  It's something that develops slowly over time.  It is your horse's confidence that you will take care of him or her, and your confidence that your horse will not look for opportunities to hurt you.  Trust is a horse's sense of assurance that you will not put him or her into a situation that the horse can't handle -- jumping too large an obstacle, trailering your horse carelessly, roping a big cow from a bad angle, running a barrel pattern in bad footing, or trail riding across dangerous terrain.

Trust is something to be cherished and nurtured in our relationship with our horses.  It encourages our horses to "try" for us when other horses might quit, and it makes us confident that our horse will not refuse the larger jump or bolt when a bear runs out of the forest in front of us.  It also helps the horse understand when we need help to get something done.

I hope that you and your horse are building trust in each other.  Spending quality time is a good way to do it! The next couple of posts will discuss some examples of trusting relationships, and I hope that you'll share some of your own stories of trust on this blog.

What Happened to Belinda and The Long Ride!

Friends, some time has passed since the last update on Belinda Dougherty's ride through Wyoming and Montana to the Canadian Border. In mid-October, I became concerned about the lack of word so I send an email to a friend of Belinda's, and Belinda responded back in late October, just before I went on vacation. In the spirit of catching up, here's the final update that I received from Belinda in October.

Hi Paul,
How's it goin'? Didn't realize that you didn't get the last update to my ride.
We rode as far as Ennis MT. By that time, what started out as a bruise, on Jim Bob, had the hair rubbed off- a spot about the size of an egg, just below his withers. We didn't want to wait 2 weeks or more for the hair to grow back, and we didn't want to get him rubbed raw. We dodn't have a replacement for him, so we came home. Went 392 miles, over 12 mt passes, averaging 6-9,000 verticle ft per day. We both hated to quit. I hope I can take some time to continue next summer. I really have the bug now.
After we left Gardiner, we rode north then west through the Gallatin Petrified Forest. It rained the entire night, before we rode the next day, up to the Gallatin Divide, a steep muddy SOB. Going down the other side, the horses were sliding about 10ft per stride. A bit hairy and steep. The steep downhill is what started JB's bruise getting more sore. The downhill puts all the weight on the front of the horse. Teriffic views of course. Came down to the highway near Big Sky- hikers and mt bikers everywhere. Then. crossed the highway and rode up Buck Creek Ridge. This ridge goes up to 9,500ft. We followed the ridge, camping on it-awesome views of mts all around. The ridge circled around to the ski area before climbing up a narrow ridge and dropping steeply down the west side into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area and down into the forest..
Our final trail out of there, towards Ennis ws on a trail that hadn't been used in many years. Had to be very attentive as to the route. Tons of deadfall everywhere. It was a hard trail. Don't think I'll take that one again.
I kept a journal and am writing it up. Also did some paintings. Hopefully, I can figure out a way to get it published.
Meanwhile, I have decided to do 4 Renegade Rides next spring.

I'm sorry that Belinda was stopped short of her goal, but the health and welfare of our horses comes first. I hope that she has the opportunity to try again next year.

If anyone is interested in riding with Belinda in 2010, please let me know and I'll forward your email to her. I rode with her in Wyoming in 1993 and 1994, and they were absolutely wonderful trips. For the scheduled trips in 2010, Belinda intends to include some time with colt starting, where riders will have a colt of their own to work with.