Building your horse’s trust

How staying present and performing a gentle acupressure session on your horse can help deepen his trust in you.

If you think your horse knows exactly what you’re thinking and feeling when you’re riding, you are absolutely right! Horses are incredibly sensitive to human thoughts and emotions, so his level of trust – and ultimately his behavior – depends a lot on your mental state during a ride. Because horses are prey animals, their safety requires them to be constantly alert. They rely on their keen ability to read everything in their environment – including you – and the ambient emotional tenor of their surroundings directly impacts their emotional stability.

The importance of being present

When you’re with your horse, staying present is one of the best ways to earn his trust. If you get mentally distracted by what you’re going to make for dinner or what you need to buy at the grocery store, your horse may spook or bolt before you realize what’s happening. He’ll pick up on the fact that you aren’t present, and will overreact to the snap of a broken twig because he thinks he has to protect himself. Even the most “push-button” horses have experienced the “fight or flight” instinct when they suspect they aren’t safe.

A Chinese medicine perspective

In Chinese medicine, the spirit of the animal is important. Emotions such as fear and anxiety can seriously disrupt the health and well-being of an animal – especially a prey animal. When faced with a fearful situation, horses want to run away as fast as they can. If the horse can’t get away, anxiety builds, and at an extreme level of stress, he s can become self-destructive, which is not a good survival strategy.

Your job as a rider is to help allay your horse’s fears and provide a sense of security. Building trust between you and your horse is essential, even before mounting to ride. Being present while riding lets your horse know you are alert and want to protect him. Trainers tell you to look where you want the horse to go because he knows where you are looking. It’s a good motto.

An acupressure session to build trust

Acupressure is based on Chinese medicine and can help build the bond between you and your horse. Specific acupressure points, also called “acupoints,” are known to promote a sense of trust (see chart below). Just by offering your horse this acupressure session every fourth or fifth day as part of your grooming regimen, you will enhance your connection.

When your horse trusts you, and the both of you feel a strong sense of being bonded, your training and riding take on a whole new level of enjoyment. You become a special team!

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Amy Snow
Amy Snow is one of the authors of Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, Acu-Dog: a Guide to Canine Acupressure and The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure. Amy Snow, together with Nancy Zidonis own Tallgrass Publishers, which offers meridian charts for cats and dogs as well as manuals, DVDs and canine acupressure apps for mobile devices. They founded the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute, offering hands-on and online training courses worldwide, including a Practitioner Certification Program (animalacupressure.com or Tallgrass@animalacupressure.com).
Nancy Zidonis
Nancy Zidonis is one of the authors of Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, Acu-Dog: a Guide to Canine Acupressure and The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure. Nancy Zidonis, together with Amy Snow own Tallgrass Publishers, which offers meridian charts for cats and dogs as well as manuals, DVDs and canine acupressure apps for mobile devices. They founded the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute, offering hands-on and online training courses worldwide, including a Practitioner Certification Program (animalacupressure.com or Tallgrass@animalacupressure.com).