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Stable Mates - How to build & maintain a strong partnership with your horse

October 2021 

The relationship between a horse and their carer, owner or rider can be a strong one. When it’s good it can feel like you know what each other is thinking and you can anticipate reactions and behaviours before they happen, you understand each other and form a partnership. But, even a small change can derail this stable relationship and cause problems for both horse and rider.

Let The BHS ensure your partnership is on the right track with advice, support and resources from experts. Take a look below at the key elements that contribute towards this strong partnership and learn how to spot the tell-tale signs that something isn’t quite right.


Knowing what is normal for horses is essential! Any behavioural changes from ‘normal’ could indicate they may; not be coping with the current workload, not be coping with their environment, have inappropriate feeding, or are in pain.




Every rider, whether they are a beginner or advanced, recreational or competitive, requires a certain level of fitness. Your level of fitness can considerably impact the comfort of your horse and affect how they move. It doesn’t matter what activity you are doing, or what level of rider you are, your physical fitness is important.

(Photo: John Stroud)



Just like horses, riders can be all shapes and sizes and proportions. The size and shape of the rider can have an impact on the ability of the horse to move freely and comfortably. For both you and your horse to be comfortable you need to consider your height, weight and the size of saddle your horse can carry.




Maintaining your horse’s health and fitness, and ensuring they are fit and healthy enough for the activities you want to partake in, is vital to promote good welfare. Continuously assess your horse’s health and fitness, considering their willingness to work, ability to cope with exercise, recovery time, behaviour, and body condition.




Ensuring your horse’s tack fits correctly is vital. A poorly fitting saddle can cause prolonged pain and discomfort, rubs or sores, which can have a detrimental effect on your horse’s ability to work. Make sure your tack is checked regularly for wear and tear and kept clean and supple to ensure comfort and safety as dirty tack can also result in sores and/or rubs. It is strongly advised to have the horse’s saddle fit regularly checked by a qualified saddle fitter.




Whether your equine partner is an experienced schoolmaster, or young and green, they need to fit within your capabilities for that partnership to flourish. Being able to judge that takes self-reflection and some honesty – any mismatch could be causing a loss of confidence, in you or your horse, and could even lead to unsafe situations. So, is your horse right for your current level of experience?




Your horse should be your sidekick in hours of fun, and for that bond you need to be well matched. Whether you’re starting the search for a new horse or wondering if you and your horse have grown apart, it’s vital to be clear what your needs are and what sort of horse will suit you. Think about what you really want from your riding.  




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