Let me ask you something, and answer honestly to yourself: how often do you go into the pasture or stall with your horse and… do nothing (at least, not with him)? Just go in and sit with him, read a book, write a story, draw a picture, meditate, talk to him, sing, play guitar etc.? And not just for 1 minute to say Hi. No, actually BE with him for, let’s say, an hour. Think about it, aren’t we always saying we want a ‘partnership’ with our horse, we want them to WANT to be with us, be our friend. Well, why on earth would they want that if we often don’t even take the time to be a part of their herd?! No wonder there is so much separation anxiety, buddy- and barn sourness and relationship issues. The other horses are his friends and partners, he actually spends most of his time hanging out with them (considering, the horse gets his desperately needed social interaction with other horses every day). Then we come in with our fancy halters, go grab him (if he even lets you) and then ride, lunge, do other groundwork or whatever. In all of these cases we are expecting something of him, we are expecting him to perform, to listen, to do as we say (no matter how ‘natural horsemanship’ you are; any work with horses is us asking something of him; expecting something of him..). What if we would simply be another herd-member for even a few hours a week? Imagine the partnership you can build by just doing a bit more of ‘nothing’. When you do this, don’t initiate contact. If he comes to you, great, maybe give him a little scratch, but then let him be. It will actually increase his curiosity of being around you, if you don’t force yourself on him. This is also a good exercise of not taking anything your horse does personally. If he doesn’t come to you, that’s fine! It doesn’t mean he hates you, at that moment he just prefers to go about his own business rather than interact. He knows you’re there.
So, just go in, chill out, take a nap or whatever you want, then go home (and no, don’t go riding after that, that messes up the whole point of doing nothing). Trust me, the look on your horse’s face those first few times you do this is priceless; this is something they definitely don’t see coming. For fun, even take the halter with you, and simply don’t put it on. If you already do this, great! Keep it up and spread the message of how important this is. If you are honest with yourself to say you don’t do this enough, please, just give it a try. Do it for your horse, and do it for yourself. You’ll notice it has quite a meditative effect and you’ll feel ‘zen’ afterwards, plus you are actually building a better partnership with your horse, win-win! :)
Side note 1) No excuses that you don’t have time; if you have time to ride, you have time to do this. Consider this part of the training.
Side note 2) If your horse or another horse in the same pasture or stall has aggression issues, then just sit next to the fence for your own safety and pretend the fence is not there. No problem.
Side note 3) This brings me to another tip. If you have a horse that get’s annoyed as soon as you walk in to his stall or paddock with or even without a halter (for example, puts ears back, threatens, always walks off etc.); a few times a week, go in, put the halter on, pet him, take the halter off and leave. This will leave him mesmerized, thinking “what just happened?!” and you will see that after a few times he will be a lot less annoyed. You’ll have to repeat this randomly, thereby breaking his thinking pattern that every time you come in with the halter, he has to go to work. This works parallel to the tip of ‘doing nothing’.
Good luck and keep smiling!