Horses are naturally curious. It starts off when they are young and discovering the world and continues with them the rest of their life. When any of their senses are stimulated, whether it is the sound of a ruffle in the bush or the sight of an object running towards them, it creates curiosity. Along with this comes fear. They are also naturally fearful of anything that stimulates them. These qualities given by Mother Nature are what preserve the horse’s life. When the horse is stimulated by something their fear instinct tells them to flee. As soon as they begin to realize the stimulus might not be harmful they become curious. There is a balance between fear and curiosity. Fear is what drives the horse away from something and curiosity draws them towards it.
A secret recipe to horsemanship is to create curiosity. Rather than you approaching the horse try drawing it towards you. This may take time depending on the horses’ conditioning. Horses that have not been exposed to human interaction or have had negative encounters with humans may let the fear drive them away more than a horse that has been handled humanely by humans.
A good way to create curiosity is to sit in the stall, pen or pasture where the horse is being kept and do nothing. Your presence alone will stimulate the horse with fear and/or curiosity. Eventually the curiosity will overcome the fear and the horse will be drawn towards you. When the horse is able to walk up and check you out either by smell or touch, it shows that the horse has some confidence that you are not going to harm it. By allowing the horse to come to you, you are letting the horse decide when it feels safe and confident.
This is a good way to make a friend out of your horse. Your horse will perceive you as friendly and wont feel threatened by you. This is important when it comes to riding because if the horse feels threatened by you it might try to buck you off.
It also builds confidence in the horse. The horse learns that not everything in the world is out to hurt it. It allows the horse to be more curious than fearful which will create a braver and more confident horse.
You can even use this technique to halter your horse. Instead of catching the horse, you allow it to catch you. This allows the horse decide when it is ready to be caught.
Keep in mind that building curiosity may take time. It depends on the horse and how fearful or curious it is. No matter how long the time takes to build curiosity, it is worth it! Taking the extra time now to allow your horse to become confident will have greater results in the long run.