How to tell if you got a happy and performing horse.

Recognizing if your horse is happy during riding lessons or throughout training or just in general, is an important aspect of understanding your horse and part of becoming or being a good trainer.

How to recognize the signs of your horse enjoying what they're doing, however, is often a little bit trickier than initially thought. How do you know, what do you look for, is it even possible?

A lot of research indicates that if a performance horse is happy and enjoys what they do, it makes for a better partnership between horse and rider, they're consistently at the top of their game and are more likely to have a longer career.

Here are some quick tips on what to look for when it comes to a happy horse.

How do I know if my horse is happy?

Some indications of a content and happy horse include a consistently relaxed attitude and behavior overall. This would include the horse's entire physical appearance, from a casually placed tail, a relaxed stance most likely with one back leg rested, a dropped head, and a content appearance when you look at their face.

In other words, your horse’s entire physical appearance will appear relaxed, and this is one of the best ways to tell if your horse is content.

Horses are grazing animals, their bodies are designed to move and graze for a large majority of the day, experts would suggest approximately the average number of hours for horses in pastures or out in the wild, graze for 18 hours a day! 

If your horse has access to a pasture/paddock with grass or some sort of roughage such as hay, regularly throughout the day, it is highly likely that they will display the above signs and possibly even lay down in the sun.

If your horse is in a yard or stable environment and isn’t getting enough roughage to combat the acidity in its stomach, there is an increased risk of your horse being agitated, irritated and of developing stomach ulcers and other digestive related issues.

Your horses’ general behavior and how they interact with their four-legged friends is another way to gain an understanding if they’re content or not.

A happy horse will spend a lot of time grazing, some time relaxing under a tree or lean-to, and perhaps even lying down. They can be seen walking amongst other horses, not agitated or flighty, playing by galloping around and kicking up and then relaxing again.

What do I look for when it comes to training? 

When it comes to catching them and exercising or training, how they behave towards you on a consistent basis over a period of time is the best way to decide if they actually enjoy what you’re doing with them.

Horses that are inclined to avoid being caught and are difficult to catch regularly can be an indicator that your horse is experiencing soreness of some description and therefore is not enjoying being subject to interaction with you.

Flinching, being jumpy, or being sour in general, especially when doing up the girth can be another indication the horse has tension in its body and isn’t thrilled about the idea of having to go for a ride.

Whilst riding, as most of us that have ridden horses for a while would know, one of the great and most tell-tale signs there possibly is, is your not so happy four-legged pal bucking and you going for a nice little flight followed by eating some dirt.

Some horses may just not be the one for you, but more often than not pig-rooting, bucking, shying, flicking their head, fighting pressure on the bit, kicking out, the excessive swishing of the tail, laying their ears back and resistance to moving forward at all, are definite signs your horse is not a happy camper.

A horse that is comfortable and happy is a willing participant, they display all the relaxed and content signs by way of physical appearance. Their face is relaxed and they may lick their lips. Their ears are relaxed or alert and follow your movements, and their tail is relaxed.

They will be accepting of being saddled, girthed up, and being ridden and will be happy to follow your cues. They will remain relaxed and forward-moving throughout the ride and you will be able to feel that his/her body is relaxed.

All of this takes time, time learning and understanding your horse, time working with your horse so that you can work out his behaviors, body language, habits and understand when they are feeling off.

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