We know that horses are social creatures and recent research shows that they use up to 17 different facial expressions to communicate with each other. We’ve also discovered that they’re able to interpret the expressions in our faces, which enables them to form bonds with humans.
Jimmy Anderson, a cowboy and colt-starting champion, says that this meeting of minds between humans and horses is key. “Horses are really amazing at how much they will be a partner. They try a crazy amount, and I want to try that same amount back for them.” Anderson doesn’t believe in breaking horses; instead he “starts” them. In Equus: Story of The Horse, we see Anderson work his magic with Shiver, an “unbroke” two-year-old colt. Within a single morning, Anderson puts a saddle on Shiver, climbs on without any bucking, and takes him for a ride.
Here are some of Jimmy Anderson’s tricks for building a great partnership with our equine friends.
- Be a leader. Horses are prey animals. It’s in their nature to search for safety from predators, especially when separated from their herd. Lead the horse, and in return, you’ll get trust and confidence.
- Pay attention to your horse’s needs. Horses are social animals. They need lots of interaction with other horses — and with people, too. Drop by to say hello and treat grooming time as quality time.
- Use your eyes to communicate. Horses are drawn to look at our eyes. When you establish a visual connection with them, you have their attention and can build a dialogue.
- Use touch. Try leaning on your horse, use blankets and tarps to get the horse comfortable with weight and objects on their body.
- Don’t punish your horse if it makes a mistake. Horses want to please. Maybe your instructions weren’t clear. Be encouraging and try again.
- Use a trained horse to build confidence with a new colt. The monkey-see, monkey-do approach works. Jimmy Anderson brings an experienced horse into the ring to show the colt that it’s okay to wear a saddle and ride with a human on its back.
- Appeal to their heart. Horses want to please their leader. It’s not about fear; it’s about building a trusting relationship.
If you treat them right, a horse can be your most loyal, long-term friend. To learn more about Jimmy Anderson and his methods visit Higher Horsemanship.