Building Rapport – Part 1


Have you ever been in a relationship with perhaps a spouse, family member, friend or workmate, where you felt that no matter what you did or said, or how good your intentions were, the other person just took everything the wrong way and you had to be careful what you said and how you went about them? What about the opposite situation? Have you been in a relationship where you and the other person just clicked, you understood each other and were ‘on the same wave-length’?

Which relationship would you prefer to be in? Which would you be happiest in and more likely to work at if it experienced difficulties? It’s a pretty simple question to answer isn’t it, however when it comes to horses, a great many horse / human relationships fall into the first category. A relationship that has little or no rapport.

So, what is rapport? More and more these days, horse owners are beginning to understand the need to communicate with their horses. And communication is a great thing to have, however it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Can you think of a time when you were communicating with someone but it wasn’t necessarily pleasant?

Rapport is two individuals who see eye to eye, who have trust in each other and who are both willing partners in the relationship. The ultimate connection if you like.

As horse owners, so often we get all caught up in the ownership of the horse; we buy the horse thinking that that makes him ‘ours’. We take really good care of him…..feeding him, brushing him, perhaps rugging him and providing him with shelter etc and then when it comes to handling and riding him, we subconsciously expect him to just do as we wish and be nice to us because we have been nice to him. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. We might be providing him with what ‘we’ think’ he needs, however, how many of us truly take the time to consider what ‘he or she really’ needs.

If we want to catch him, we just go get him without pausing to see how he feels about it. Then we are baffled to find out that maybe he doesn’t want to be caught. We want to ride, so we just saddle him up and get on; again in many cases without even considering how he feels about it. We want him to jump the jump, cross the ditch, leave his friends behind and we are surprised and a little annoyed when he shows some resistance to doing as we ask. After all, we bought him that nice new rug to keep him warm and got the really juicy crunchy carrots he likes. He should do what we want!

As much as horses like juicy carrots, they really do not care too much about whether they get them or not, if they do not first have a few basic needs of their own filled. For horses, their number one priority is to feel safe. Being a prey animal, this is an absolute must. Until they feel safe with and around you, nothing else matters, no matter how ‘nice’ you think you’ve been to them, this will count for nothing if he feels insecure. If you take the time to build the kind of relationship he really needs, gain rapport with your horse, he will relax with you, give you the benefit of the doubt and trust you…….even if he feels like you are asking a lot of him, he’ll still try for you. We’ve all experienced the huge amount of heart and desire horses can have for a human……imagine if you had that kind of relationship with your horse ALL the time!

If you do not have rapport in your relationship, chances are that you will find some resistances in your horse. He may be hard to catch, or lead, or to pick up his feet. He’ll be more prone to kick out if you are around his back end, or it may show up with him not wanting to go onto the horse float. If your horse truly saw you as his great leader and friend, would he ever try to bite you or buck you off? On the contrary, when riding, if he felt you getting a little unstuck, he’d be more likely to duck back underneath you to keep you on. Can you imagine what it would be like to have that kind of relationship with your horse; one where he was an equal and willing partner in it and really enjoyed his time with you. Where he tried to help you out rather than help you off!

Take the time to build rapport with your horse, in all things ask him first how he feels about it. It will pay off enormously if you do.

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