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How do I get my horse to trust and show affection towards me?
I just got a new 7 month old pony. He is very cute and loves to be around people and to play with things. Part of the reason my parents got me this horse was so that I could help my trainer at the barn I go to train my horse and to form a bond with him. The only problem is that our real training like in the round pen is not going to start until next springtime. So the only thing I can do with him now is to be with him a lot, groom him and just love him. And I go to the barn about 4 times a week and do all of that stuff. But no matter how much I go and how much I am near him he never seems to remember me or show any affection towards me. And I want him to do both. Please tell me how I can help him to get used to me and to show some affection.
Thank you for your question. Please read the essay I wrote on Horse Affection in my archives and essay section on my website. You can do some very gentle bonding exercises with your pony in a stall or paddock. Horses (ponies) want and look for a leader; a kind, compassionate and appropriate leader. A leader similar to the great parent is what the wants needs and wants all the time. If you act like the leader when ever and where ever you are with the pony, he will bond to you and come to you and want to stay by you.
First, always speak confidently and assuredly to your pony. Be physically affectionate but do not over do it. I want you to be more of a horse with your pony than a human. Put a halter and lead rope on the pony and ask him to come along with you just several steps and then say "Whoa!" and you stop all movement. Make every little move a conscious request. "Come this way boy, Whoa, good boy. Back up a bit, back, Whoa! Good boy!" Again, make every little move a conscious request and when the pony does it, he gets a "Good Boy". You will be like ballroom dancers if you do this. Your lead rope should be quite slack. Do not grab the pony tightly. The goal is to have the pony do as you request on a fairly slack line because it wants to and not because you have made it do anything. If the pony gets good at following your requests, take the lead rope off and ask the pony to do the same things. The pony will immediately move where and when you want, stop when you want, back when requested, follow you around, etc.. These small, simple, basic moves done consciously and thoughtfully will set you up as the great leader or parent for the pony and you will immediately see affection and a bond.
You must do more than maintenance and very casual interaction. You need to do something that establishes you as the 'leader of the dance'. So, dance with him by making very simple moves, a few steps at a time, change direction often and always do this on a slack line. You will be amazed at the immediate and deepening bond that develops between you and your new pony. The pony is a baby and needs a lot of patience, never punishment and always appropriate leadership (parenting). Keep your sessions to 10 to 15 minutes or so and then go back to just grooming. The attention span is quite short for a baby that young. But you could do a few sessions a day spread out.
Thanks for your question and good luck. Please keep me posted. I am interested how it all goes.