Horseback riding is a tough sport. It takes a lot of work, sweat, dedication, and commitment. Many people spend hours and hours in the saddle practicing keeping a posting trot rythym, holding two point for laps and laps and laps, and perfecting "inside leg to outside rein". We want the best for our horses. We feed high quality grain, try to give the best hay available, and continually buy new tack, expensive treats, and not to mention riding apparel for ourselves.
But all the dollars and time spent means nothing if you and your horse aren't working towards better communication.
You must remember that the horse is a herd animal. They build and maintain relationships with other horses by eating together, playing together, and resting together.
Some simple ways to spend time with your horse that will build trust and communication - these can be done before riding as a mini-warmup, or after you're done, when you're cooling out the horse, or waiting for your ride to come!!
- Graze your horse where he doesn't normally get to graze
- Go for a nice handwalk with your horse (Bonus - this doubles as a training exercise in the spring before venturing out for the first trail ride of the year
- Spend an extra 10 minutes currying your horse, or give her a nice back massage! Use the heels of your hands rather than the points of your fingers
- If your horse is in a herd, you can do belly lifts and carrot stretches while he is eating with the herd (as long as the other horses are safe to work around)
- Teach her a new trick! Be careful, as tricks can be dangerous if your horse attempts them when you aren't paying attention. I suggest sticking to tricks like shaking their head yes/no, picking up something off the ground like a riding crop, or lifting a foot on command for hoof cleaning.
No matter how your ride goes, he is still your good horse. He works hard for you, and you should treat him (or her) with the love and respect she (or he) deserves!
Show your horse you care! :)