Equestrians often come across horses that they find hard to connect with. If you feel the same and think your horse doesn’t like you, we’ve got a great discussion at hand.
Your horse might show negative behaviors like running away from you, ignoring you, or getting aggressive towards you. And it’s legit for you to think he doesn’t like you. But interestingly, horses don’t feel emotions as we do. It’s about their preferences for someone they spend more time with and think is confident and trained enough to ride them.
The disinterest or disliking might’ve happened for many reasons, such as a lack of quality time together, mistrust that makes the horse anxious, a lack of basic groundwork, and a lack of confidence to give commands. If you’re willing to solve these issues, join the rest of the discussion here to win over your stubborn horse!
Why your horse may not like you? causes & fixes
We’ve identified several possible reasons why your horse may not like you. Here we’ve described them in detail and discussed their fixes so you can turn things back and make your horse love you!
1. Lack of trust
A study conducted by Ethologist Léa Lansade of the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment shows horses remember their keeper’s faces. So if he’s unable to recognize you, it means he hasn’t spent enough time with you and hence can’t trust you. The lack of trust is the most common cause of your horse showing signs of disinterest. It means he isn’t comfortable or confident enough to go with you out of the herd or follow your commands.
Here are some of the behavior the horse will display if it lacks trust in you:
- He may be unwilling to come to you.
- He may look iffy when you go into the pasture.
- He may flinch or move away from you when you try to touch him.
- He may look anxious around you; the symptoms could be stall walking, weaving, excessive chewing, and trembling.
- He may freak out, look around crazily, and whine when taken out of the herd and away from other horses.
Related: Do Human Pregnancy Tests Work On Horses?
How to fix it?
Remember, building a relationship with the horse is like building a relationship with another human. You can try the following hacks for that:
- Don’t try to sit on their back straight away; pass some time with him on the ground, so he can see you and remember your face.
- Take the horse on walks and lead him around while leading the tucker back to the barn.
- Use a child or horse curry comb to brush your horse affectionately, especially the itchy spots (like under his girth). It’ll let the horse know that your touch is positive and you are trustworthy.
- Since horses are food-driven animals, feed them and offer them occasional treats. He can positively associate with you and recognize you as someone who gives him food. Just make sure he isn’t going to be pushy with you and doesn’t get into your space.
2. Lack of groundwork & understanding of boundaries
Spending some personal time can only make you familiar with your horse. But it won’t let him know your boundaries, meaning your personal space, and how he should behave with you. It requires ground training for that. A horse that doesn’t have the ground training may not understand your boundaries and do stuff like the followings:
- Pull on the lead.
- Push you with the shoulder.
- Step on your feet.
- Run you over.
How to fix it?
He might be doing it because of the lack of training, but you may mistakenly think he dislikes you. To establish boundaries with the horse, he needs to be taught some groundwork exercises that’ll let him know how to move and behave correctly with you on the ground, not while riding.
So teach him some groundwork exercises, including the most basic ones below.
- Teach him how to stand still, as it’ll establish your role as the authority and prevent your horse from getting carried away with subtle things.
- Teach him how to lead correctly so he can focus on you and get familiar with your command to know when to walk and stop.
- Train your horse to respond to pressure correctly with proper flexing and softening while accepting contact with the reins.
- Teach him lungeing, meaning how to move on a circle around you by moving the feet and controlling the motions correctly.
Related: How To Clean Leather Horse Riding Gloves?
3. Rigorous training
Research suggests, “The exercise-induced hormonal responses seem equal for the equine and the human athlete.” So similar to humans, overtraining can take a mental and physical toll on the equines as well. And it could be one of the reasons why your horse might display negative behavior.
Ground training is inevitable to improve your horse’s confidence, form habits, and build trust in your relationship. But you’ve to be careful not to push your equine’s boundaries. He needs a break from the rigorous schedule to enjoy his time. Some signs that your horse is annoyed by rigorous training include:
- Decreased motivation.
- Sweating or panting.
- Respiratory problems.
How to fix it?
Their brain learns by linking an action to the consequence. So here are a few positive things you could mix up with the regular training schedule of your horse. Doing these things can enhance your horse’s motivation and make him feel good about your coaching.
- Be cool, calm, and compassionate after their training session.
- Make a tolerable training schedule and have day-offs for rest.
- Try some different activities with your horse, like trail riding.
- Play games like spook-busting with your horse as it’ll help develop a strategic partnership between the two.
- Give him timely rewards with edible and non-edible treats so that he can learn positive behaviors.
4. Miscommunication or inability to understand each other
You must have enough understanding of your horses’ demands. If he sees you’re unable to provide him aid or fulfill his demands, he may stop responding to your call or show disinterest in you. It could be frustrating for both the horse and the keeper. This kind of communication gap occurs because of two reasons:
- The keeper doesn’t understand the horse’s body language
- The horse has no or little training for understanding what the keeper’s trying to say
If the horse has any complaints about the food, water, shelter, or other inconvenience, it’ll want the keeper to understand that. In case the keeper is unable to understand him, he may get frustrated with him and show the following signs:
- Flicking the tail.
- Putting the ears back.
- Bucking or rearing.
- Kicking unusually.
How to fix it?
Professor Jan Ladwig from Copenhagen University’s Department of Large Animal Sciences says that we can prevent equine-related accidents by paying close attention to the body language of our horses.
Since horses move certain body parts in a way that indicates a specific meaning, you can anticipate what they’re up to. But it needs a detailed guide and probably an expert’s help to understand your horse better.
For a general idea, the horse moves their ears, raises or lowers the head, positions forelegs & hind legs in different ways, uses different muzzles & gestures using mouth & nose, and uses eyes & tails to say a lot of things to his owner. And in most cases, they’ll be doing these to say the following things:
- Sensing danger.
- Feeling hungry.
- Going through stress or depression.
- Feeling sick.
- Requires help.
5. Your lack of confidence
Horses can quickly pick up the emotions of their keepers and riders. If you’re a newbie in handling horses, they can sense that from your lack of confidence. Since horses are intelligent, they can identify someone who can hold them accountable for what they do.
Your horse needs a sense of security; if they know someone riding them isn’t experienced and confident, they might fear getting injured. You can realize that by seeing:
- Signs of refusal if you take them for a walk or mount/sit on them with nervousness.
- Sudden halts.
- Refusal to accept training and follow commands.
Related: Can You Use Human Shampoo and Conditioner on Horses?
How to fix it?
Generally, beginners who lack confidence face this problem more while ending up thinking their horse doesn’t like them. But it’s actually your lack of training to handle or ride a horse that’s making the horse not go with you.
- Get horse-keeping and riding training from an expert.
- Be confident even if you’re mounting for the first time.
- Take the lead while walking and put him at ease.
- Learn different horse riding skills and surprise your horse with them.
- Spend more quality time together to understand each other better.
6. Certain human behaviors
Horses offer themselves to be ridden, but that doesn’t mean they’re okay to take all human behaviors. Certain human behaviors could annoy horses, and you need to check whether you’re doing any of these to your horse. Some of these behaviors that horses dislike include:
- Approaches from behind.
- Yelling or sudden aggressive movements.
- Yanking or jerking the reins.
- Keeping them alone or in the stall for too long.
- Doing anything that hurts, like compressing their necks.
- Making mistakes by mounting on them ignorantly.
How to fix it?
Correcting these behaviors are entirely in your hand. So if you think you’re doing any such behavior to your horse, correct them as soon as possible. If you delay it by too much, it’d be challenging to turn the lousy impression into a good one. Also, make sure to play, reward, and show affectionate behavior towards them to set up a good image.
Related: Why Do Horses Bite Each Other’s Necks?
7. Fear of the past behaviors
Horses have fantastic memory, and they don’t forget anything. And there is enough evidence that environmental circumstances can make them recall their past experiences. So if you’ve had a bad experience where your horse had been upset with you, it’s possible that your horse still remembers it and shows disinterest in you for that reason.
How to fix it?
Here are some possible fixes you should do to turn things back.
- Investigate if there’s anything around them that could trigger those past memories and change if there’s any.
- Take them to a totally different environment, as changes can make them feel good and prevent anything from triggering the past.
- Whenever you see an area of concern, try to win your horse’s heart by rubbing his head and scratching the withers so he doesn’t suspect you could be violent to him anymore.
More tips to make your horse love you
Horses can’t hate someone who loves them. So if you maintain a positive demeanor around him, he’ll also show positive behaviors. It’s just that he may need some time to get used to you. Once you pass enough quality time, train him correctly, and do the abovementioned things, you’ll soon be getting the results.
We’ve got some more tips here that you can combine into your horse’s overall care routine to make him love you and enjoy your companionship.
- Just as you do, horses also like to explore new places, so take them for a walk or ride together to enjoy new places.
- When there’s a schedule for your horse to graze, try to be around them as they’ll enjoy your company while doing this favorite activity.
- Grooming is a great way to bond better with your horse. Clean their hooves daily, brush their mane, and rinse well to remove loose hair, sweat, and dirt.
- Spend time around them when you’re in the best emotional state. Don’t be around your horse when you’re emotionally compromised.
How can I tell my hose has started liking me?
If you’re doing everything right, your horse will soon show signs that he has started liking you. Some of these signs include:
- A relaxed mood with the eyes half-closed when you’re around.
- The tail is relatively stable compared to how they swish it around sporadically when anxious.
- Relaxed, round nostrils instead of thin and tight ones.
- The horse doesn’t walk away when you approach him.
- He stands still when you show affectionate behaviors, such as rubbing his head or brushing the coat.
Related: When it comes to your horse’s health, it’s important to know the difference between hay belly and pregnancy mare. Here are the key facts you need to know.
If you’re wondering, “why my horse doesn’t like me?” The short answer is he’s yet to figure you out. So you must spend more time with him. Be around him, provide him with groundwork exercises, give him breaks, rewards, and treats after training, and see him trusting you and accepting your authority.
Also, make sure to lead confidently, understand his body language, provide grooming, and avoid behaviors that he doesn’t like.
You know you can’t do all these overnight; it’ll take some time. So be patient and don’t rush or force him to like you. You’ll learn by experience and by making mistakes and correcting them. Taking help from an expert can also make some of these jobs easier for you. Horses are capable of loving, and they can even fight wars for their owners, so imagine the level of loyalty and affection they can have once they’re trained!
Zunnun AhmedWe are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.
Can Horses Eat Mango? Apparently So! (Quick Facts)
If you're wondering if it's safe to feed your horse mango, check out this article. We'll tell you everything you need to know.
Is Rye Grass Hay Good For Horses? (3-Minute Read)
Learn about the benefits of rye grass hay for horses and why it is considered one of the best types of horse hay. Read details about his grass...