Q: How can I make my new rescue mare more confident around new people?
A: Building a horse’s confidence, particularly a horse who has had difficult past experiences, takes time and patience. However, the reward makes the work worth it!
The first step should be to introduce a calm, horsey friend to your new horse, preferably over the fence in the paddock so she can approach when she feels ready and move away if she needs to. It is important that you tell your friend not to touch your horse until the horse touches her, and even then it is best if she can just let her sniff and explore rather than reaching out to touch her.
If you repeat this process over the course of a few days or weeks, each time allowing your horse to lead the interactions with the humans she will gradually become more confident. Over time your friend can then start to give her gentle scratches, or approach her in a more confined space like a stable. Eventually, your friend may even be able to groom her in her stable and lead her to and from the paddock, but allow this to take the time your horse needs. Rushing the process will take you straight back to square one.
Once your horse is comfortable with this friend, you need to recruit another friend to do the same process. Over time, and with great patience, your mare will start to realise that humans are okay and that she can trust them again.
NOTE: The stronger the horse’s bond is with you, the easier she will find introductions to new people. Therefore, spend time developing your bond before rushing to introduce her to new faces.