Why Doesn’t My Horse Like Me?

At one point or another, most equestrians will ride or own a horse that they don’t seem to connect with right away. I know first hand that it can be tempting to take certain behaviors from a horse negatively, but over time, I’ve learned that these behaviors are usually just bad habits that can easily be trained out.

If you feel like your horse doesn’t like you, here are a few things that might be going on:

    • Too much rigorous training 
    • Not enough basic groundwork
    • Lacking confidence when giving commands
    • Not enough quality time together

 

These are some of the most common issues I’ve seen firsthand over the years. If you think any of these things could be the issue you’re having, let’s look at each one in more detail for some practical applications.

Reasons for Relationship Issues With Your Horse

Reason 1: Too Much Rigorous Training

Horses, by nature, much prefer lounging in a field eating grass than doing training that can be strenuous both mentally and physically. Just like us, horses really enjoy their days off.

If you’re finding that your horse doesn’t seem to be very fond of you, one possibility is that you are overtraining them.

It can be tempting when you have an event coming up to work your horse almost every day leading up to it, but this can be incredibly taxing for your horse.

Not only will they become physically tired, but they also might begin to develop negative associations with you. Horses have amazing memories.

When they see you coming to retrieve them in the field, their minds will instantly go back to the last two weeks of intense training that they’ve been put through, and they’ll likely take off in the opposite direction!

It’s important, especially as you’re just starting a relationship with a new horse, to make a conscious effort to create and reinforce positive associations. Give your horse treats, take them out on nice relaxing walks, reward them for all their hard work.

There is a time and a place for a nice good workout for your horse. But there is also a time and a place for plenty of rest and relaxation.

Reason 2: Not Enough Basic Groundwork

Groundwork is and always will be a cornerstone in the relationship you have with your horse! If your horse won’t perform well on the ground as you’re working with them, they most definitely won’t perform well and follow your instructions while you’re riding.

Groundwork is important because it instills two very vital things in your horse. Trust and respect for you as the leader in your relationship with one another.

Working with your horse doing groundwork is the perfect opportunity to bond with one another. In groundwork, you’re able to demonstrate that you’re in charge and that your horse can trust you when you ask it to do something. If you need some help in this area, here is my article on the 5 Best Groundwork Exercises. 

Reason 3: Lacking Confidence When Giving Commands

As in most areas of life, confidence is key in your relationship with your horse. I know what a struggle it can be to give commands confidently as a beginner, but it really does go a long way.

Horses are smart. They can tell when someone is in the saddle that won’t keep them accountable for their actions. Even as a beginner, mount your horse with a confident attitude, and expect your horse to perform the way that they’ve been trained to.

Horses desire a sense of security that comes from having strong leadership. By taking the lead, you help put them at ease so that they can perform at the best of their abilities.

Reason 4: Not Enough Quality Time Together

There is no substitute for spending quality time with your horse. Coming out once or twice a month and expecting to have a strong bond with them isn’t realistic.

It will take time and commitment to get to where you want to be in your relationship with your horse, but it is well worth the effort. Every horse is different, so the amount of time it will take for you to feel truly close with them will vary.

Keep in mind, that as mentioned previously, all of your time together should not be spent doing vigorous training. Remember to slow things down on a regular basis to just enjoy each other’s company.

One of my favorite things to do with my horse is to take a nice long walk out in the field or on a trail leading them. It might not seem like much, but just being together with your horse helps to strengthen your bonds with each other. Here’s an article on 8 tips for bonding with your horse.

What are the Signs that My Horse Doesn’t Like Me? 

If you’re concerned that your horse doesn’t like you, here are some of the most common signs that there is a problem in your relationship that needs to be addressed.

Bolting. A horse that constantly bolts away when you go to get them could be doing so out of stress. If they know that you coming to get them means a lot of strenuous exercises, they are more likely to develop this habit.

Kicking and Biting. Horses are known to kick when they feel threatened, frustrated, to establish dominance, or because they’re in pain. Establishing yourself as the authority in your relationship will help your horse feel both relaxed and safe, decreasing the risk of these negative behaviors.

Bucking. Horses tend to buck when they’re in uncomfortable situations that they can’t avoid by running away. They can train themselves that bucking is a good thing when they get their desired outcome from the action, like a heavy amount of weight being removed from their back.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I tell if My Horse Does Like Me? 

A horse that is comfortable around you and likes your company will generally have a relaxed appearance.

You can tell that a horse is relaxed when their eyes are half closed. Another clear indicator is if their tail is relatively still as opposed to swishing around sporadically. A relaxed horse will have round nostrils, rather than tight and thin nostrils.

A horse that is fond of your presence is also more likely to stand still instead of walking away when you approach them.

How Can I Tell if My Horse Trusts Me? 

Similar to the answer for the previous question, a horse that trusts you will be very relaxed in your presence and will be more likely to do new things that you request of them without putting up much of a fight.

A horse that trusts you will look to you as the leader. Even in situations where there are a lot of potential distractions around, a horse that trusts you will be good about still responding to your commands.

How Do I Correct Bad Behavior in My Horse? 

If your horse is exhibiting bad habits or negative behaviors, my go-to solution is groundwork. Many of the behavioral issues you’ll experience as a horse owner can be worked out while doing groundwork. If you’re not sure where to start, check out my article on the Five Best Groundwork Exercises for Horses.

If you’re new to horses and you don’t have much experience correcting behavioral issues, my advice is to work with a professional trainer. This option is a little bit more expensive, but if you’re able to watch and receive tips as the professional works with them, you’ll be able to pick up training techniques that you can use for years to come.

Another of my favorite approaches for correcting bad behavior in a horse is just doing research by reading tons of articles, watching videos, and asking any other experienced horse owners that I know about their recommendations and experiences. Facing the issues you come across in this way will help you become a much better horse owner in the long run because of all of the knowledge that you’ll have gained.

Thank you for checking out this article! If you enjoyed this, check out my article on 8 Tips for Bonding With Your Horse!