HELP! Why Doesn’t My Horse Like Me And How Can I Get Them Too?

It can be upsetting (and lead to a troubled relationship) if you think your horse doesn’t like you, but it’s very rare that a horse will dislike a person for no reason. While this might not sound that helpful at first what it does mean though is that if you can find out why your horse doesn’t like you you can fix it, giving you and your horse a very bright future, together!

Why doesn’t my horse like me? As a general rule horses dislike somebody because they feel intimidated by the person, they’re frightened of them or they’re confused by the person’s commands. The good news is that in most cases this can easily be rectified.

Before I carry on with this article let me tell you a little story about what inspired me to put pen to paper in an attempt to help other people.

I was recently working with a rider who insisted her horse hated her, in a tearful voice she told me she’d tried everything but that nothing had worked. She’d decided to give her one last try but if that didn’t work then she was going to sell her. This upset me because I’d known the rider a long time and had never known her to be like this about a horse before. Anyway, to cut a long story short I worked with the two of them and soon discovered that the problem wasn’t actually the horse but it was the way she was interacting with her. The good news is that they now have a great relationship and the rider no longer thinks the horse dislikes her.

So there you have it, never give up on your horse until you’ve tried everything. It might seem like there’s no hope but with a bit of patience and understanding, you and your horse can come through this and have a better, stronger relationship.

Horses rarely dislike a person without a good reason.

Why do horses not like some people?

Horses are emotional creatures that live in the moment, they don’t harbor grudges and instead are often a lot more forgiving than we give them credit for. They rarely take an instant dislike to somebody but instead react to how other people and their surroundings make them feel.

Being highly sociable animals, horses rely heavily on the relationships they form with their fellow horses but also with us which is why we can sometimes think they don’t like us. This means that the way horses feel towards us is governed, largely, by how we act when we’re around them. If you always turn up at the yard in a bad mood and rush through the chores without paying much attention to your horse, is he really going to want to be around you? Conversely, if you’re always in a positive mood and take the time to fuss over your horse then of course they’ll want to spend time with you.

How do you know if your horse doesn’t like you?

All horses are different and give different signals which is why it’s important to know your horse and understand what’s normal for him and what isn’t. Some horses will give subtle clues such as swooshing their tail horse shaking their head while others may make it more obvious by stamping their feet or refusing to move. 

Some horses may even resort to extreme measures such as rearing or bucking, but thankfully this is very rare and tends to only happen when they’re desperate and have exhausted all other options first.

Rearing can be a sign your horse doesn't like or trust you

What do you do when a horse doesn’t like you?

If you really think that your horse doesn’t like you, you need to be honest and ask yourself why, are you doing something wrong or something that might be upsetting him, how does he behave with other people, is he happy at the yard? As I say horses very rarely dislike a person without a reason, finding that reason will be the key.

If your horse is okay with other people then it’s unlikely to be the yard or the actions of others and while it’s not a comfortable thought for any horse owner it means that it’s probably your actions that are making him unhappy. It might sound like I’m being overly negative but I’m not at all, admitting you might be the problem is the first step to resolving the issue.

Are you communicating with your horse properly? The most common reason for owners thinking their horses don’t like them is poor or inconsistent training on their part. You need to make sure you’re always giving your horse clear and concise commands and reward him when he gets things right, regardless of whether you’re riding or doing groundwork.

You might think you’re being bossy and dominating but it’s also important to assert your position as a leader. Hierarchy is crucial to horses and your horse will actually respect you more if your position is clear. Horses crave security, stability, and comfort, and by making your role clear you’re helping to give your horse just that.

Knowing why your horse dislikes you is only part of the battle, next you need to do something about it. It’s no good just saying I know what the problem is, it’s your duty as an owner to learn how to read and understand your horse, as well as work with him. 

How do I get my horse to like me?

As I say horses don’t normally take a dislike to somebody without a good reason (or at least there’s a good reason in your horse’s mind) which means that, with a little bit of patience and understanding, you can get your horse to like you again.

It might feel like getting your horse to like you is an uphill battle that you’re not going to win but the following tips, if followed properly, are guaranteed to get any horse to like you!

Spend time with your horse

It doesn’t matter how you do it but spending time with your horse in a relaxed and comfortable way will help them to see that being with you can be fun and is something to be enjoyed. 

You could take them for a walk, stay with them while they’re grazing, or even groom them, it doesn’t matter. If you’re stuck for ideas of fun things to do with your horse then this article will help you. 

Stay calm, no matter what

Horses feed off of the people (and horses) around them so if you’re always tense and uptight when you see your horse, or when training him, he’s going to react negatively towards you. 

Never shout at him and be patient while he’s learning. Nobody likes being hurried when they’re not sure if they’re doing the right thing and horses are no different.

Make sure your horse knows you’re the boss

Horses are herd animals that need to know where they stand within a herd, they need to have a strong, well-defined hierarchy and can become very stressed if they don’t. 

You might think that you’re being kind to your horse by not letting him know when he’s done something wrong but you’re actually doing the opposite. By asserting yourself as the leader you’ll gain your horse’s respect much quicker and will have a happier horse as a result.

Horses need to know who the boss is

Don’t overtrain your horse

I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother training your horse at all but instead train him in smaller blocks. This way your horse is more likely to remember what you’ve asked him to do and will also be less likely to get bored.

Horses can also get frustrated if they feel overwhelmed by what they’re being asked to do so training them in smaller, more manageable, blocks will help to reduce this and keep it fun for your horse.

Reward with praise

Be honest, do you work better when you’re being chastised for getting something wrong or when you’re being praised for doing something well or correctly? Horses are no different.

By rewarding your horse with praise (or treats if you’d prefer) when he does exactly what you asked of him you’ll get far better results. He’ll also be more willing to do what you’re asking in the future as well so it’s a win-win situation.

Work with an experienced trainer

If you’re new to horses or aren’t sure how to fix the problem yourself then it’s advisable to work with an experienced trainer. They’ll be able to help you get the best out of your horse and believe me your horse will thank you for it.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help, even the most experienced trainers had to start somewhere.

Working with a professional can help you to get the best out of your horse

What do I do if I don’t like my horse?

People are far more judgemental than horses and it’s far more common for people to not like their horses than it is for horses to dislike their owners but it can still often boil down to the same problem, and that is one of a relationship that isn’t working for either of you and making you both unhappy.

Horses are emotional animals that can get stressed very easily and it’s your responsibility as an owner to prevent that from happening and selling him at the first sign of a bump in the road won’t help that, instead ask yourself why it is that you don’t like him?

Does your horse scare you?

It might be embarrassing to admit but there’s nothing wrong with being scared of your horse. Horses are big creatures that are capable of making their own decisions, something which can make it seem as if they’re acting irrationally or without warning. 

It’s healthy to be cautious around horses but if you feel that this has gone beyond that then it’s time to consider working with an experienced trainer. They’ll help you to overcome your fears and work with you to make horse ownership more enjoyable.

Are your standards too high?

We all want the perfect horse but there really is no such thing (no matter what some people say). Don’t reject your horse just because he doesn’t live up to your expectations. Instead, recognize the qualities your horse does have and work with him to improve his not-so-desirable habits.

By working with your horse you’ll be able to develop a relationship that is perfect for the both of you.

Do you feel that your horse just doesn’t listen to you?

If your horse isn’t listening to you it’s because he either doesn’t understand what you’re asking him to do or doesn’t respect you and doesn’t see you as a leader.

As is the solution for so many problems with horses, it’s time to go back to the basics and start with groundwork exercises to teach your horse to respect you and your space. Once you’ve done that you can move on to exercises to improve your relationship and bond.

What if you’ve tried everything?

Remember that you chose to buy your horse and it’s your duty to make sure he’s happy, I don’t mean to sound harsh but your horse deserves to be happy and not be pushed from pillar to post. Try and work with him to resolve the problem first but if that doesn’t work and you can honestly say you’ve tried everything then it’s time to consider moving on and selling him, but this really is the VERY last resort.

Further reading

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

Recommended products 

Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
  • Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.

Shopping lists

I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉

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