Horsemanship With Lindsey Partridge: Your Horse Can Like You but Not Trust You

There are three key ingredients to a successful relationship with your horse: like, trust and respect. Today, Lindsey Partridge discusses how you know what’s missing and how you can build each ingredient. 

Lindsey with two of her horses. Photo by Jill Noseworthy.

By Lindsey Partridge

Like. Trust. Respect.

These are all very important with our horses and yet they are not dependent on one another, nor if you have one does it mean you have the other.

Throughout my workshops and clinics working with many students I often see people struggling to have all three of these essential pieces: Like, trust and respect.

My goal is to have these three things with my horses because they are all important for different reasons.

  • Like — I want my horses to like me because it makes the training sessions more enjoyable. When my horses likes me, they are easy to catch out in the field, they are happier during sessions and they are more willing to put up with my seemingly silly requests. When my horse likes me, it makes liberty and bridleless so much easier and it gives my horse a better expression when we are going around the competition ring.
  • Trust — I want my horses to trust me because I want to take them anywhere. I want to trail ride by myself or go into a competition arena by ourselves and not have issues being herd bound. I want to cross bridges or go through water. I want to go over jumps and have the confidence that we can tackle any competition course together. A horse that trusts me will try new things, will stay calmer in new situations and be less spooky.
  • Respect — I want my horse to respect me because it is important for our safety. I want my horse to stop if I tell them that they do not need to run. I want them to go if I tell them that I need them to move. I want to safely feed my horse or take feed away. It can be dangerous if the horse does not respect you because they may push into your space, they may decide to run off and not listen to you, or they may cause a fight with another horse and injure you indirectly (among other accidents that can happen). When my horses respect me they will respect my personal space, they will not push on me or step on my feet and they will listen to my cues to move or stand (as long as they understand and aren’t scared).

Having all three of these ingredients makes for a pleasant relationship with your horse, one where you can feel relaxed, confident and safe while having fun.

Sometimes I find students that think if they have enough of one of these ingredients that they don’t need the others. For example, they think if the horse respects them enough then the horse with go anywhere with them and trust them to jump anything… but this isn’t the case. Or, for example, they think if a horse likes them enough that the horse won’t be food aggressive or won’t try to run back to the barn if it is scared… but this isn’t the case.

Your horse needs to like you.

Your horse needs to trust you.

Your horse needs to respect you.

If you want a partnership with your horse that lets you try any discipline and go anywhere.

How do you know what you’re missing?

If your horse doesn’t like you it might be:

  • Hard to catch
  • Grumpy about work
  • Throw tantrums during sessions
  • Run away from you when they get the chance (for example, if you fall off, they leave)
  • Try to bite you

If your horse doesn’t trust you, it might be:

  • Reluctant to go new places with you
  • Spooky and startling at lots of things
  • Looking to other horses for comfort

If your horse doesn’t respect you it might be:

  • Refusing to let you touch it in certain spots
  • Pushing on you
  • Trying to pull and go where it wants
  • Trying to go the speed it wants (faster or slower)
  • Refusing to let you go near its food
  • Ignoring you to do what it wants

So how can you improve the three ingredients?

To help your horse like you:

  • Make sure your horse is healthy and feeling good (equipment fits, the horse is sound, teeth/feet/back/etc. aren’t bothering them)
  • Offer pay cheques for jobs well done (use positive reinforcement)
  • Play at liberty so you develop better communication and awareness for each other

To help your horse trust you:

  • Try building confidence exercises like the Touch it game, All around game or the Triangle game
  • Start in your comfort zone and then try pushing out of the comfort zone a little bit until you both relax
  • Have a clear focus and goal so your horse knows you have a plan

To help your horse respect you:

  • Use passive leadership and establish respect for drivelines and quadrants
  • Determine the speed and direction for the movements you ask for and stick to it
  • Only ask of your horse what is reasonable and what they can do

Developing like, trust and respect takes time and repetition of positive experiences. Each time you take your horse out be mindful of these ingredients and you’ll be working towards an incredible partnership with your horse.

About Lindsey Partridge:
Lindsey has won multiple championships and placed in the top five at the Thoroughbred Makeover and Mustang Training Challenges. She is the Founder of Harmony Horsemanship.