It’s hard to admit but a few years ago I realized that most of the horses I had owned would rather be in a large field, eating grass with their horse friends, than being ridden or working with me.
Now I understand why.
I used to catch my horse, groom him, saddle him, ride him, and put him back in the paddock. The next day I would catch my horse, groom him, saddle him, ride him, and put him back in the paddock, etc, etc, etc. Not much fun for my horse (except maybe the grooming part).
Now I make sure that when I’m around my horses it’s not all about work. We play games, practice tricks, have a scratch, and generally hang out together.
To check that my horse would really rather be with me, I practice most tricks without a bridle or headstall. That way my horse can leave if he isn’t happy with what we are doing.
For example, the other day I was teaching Trigger a new trick. He became a little confused about what I wanted and so just walked a few steps away from me and looked back at me. I knew he didn’t understand and so I worked on another way to explain to him what I wanted. I called him back and we tried again. This time he got it and he stayed with me.
There are some tricks that you will definitely need gear for and at first, you will need to always work with a bridle or headstall. Even Trigger was impossible to catch when I first got him and would run off at the slightest chance.
But after a while, you will find that your horse will want to hang around you because trick training is fun and interesting for them. Even more fun and interesting than eating grass with their horse friends!