The way you approach a horse can set the tone of your interaction with him. While some horses are relatively difficult to upset or frighten, other horses can react very negatively if you approach them the wrong way. If a horse feels threatened or frightened by you, he may bite, kick or run away from you. Approaching a horse is not difficult if you do it the proper way.
Let Him Know You're There
Sneaking up on a horse is always a bad idea. A startled horse who suddenly realizes there is someone -- or something -- near him may kick out in reflex or run away. As you begin walking towards the horse you want to approach, start calling out to him gently in a soft tone of voice. Make sure he can both see and hear you approaching him. Do not walk up behind a horse. If you must approach from the rear, approach him at an angle so that he will still be able to see you coming on the edge of his vision.
Avoid Loud Noises
Horses are prey animals and they generally don't like loud scary noises. Yelling, screaming, shouting and even just loud, overexcited talking can upset a horse. Try to keep your volume turned down as you approach a horse as well as when you are handling him. While a horse will eventually get used to you and most of your noises, it may take some time to desensitize him to your screams of joy.
Let The Horse Smell You
When you first reach the horse you are approaching, hold your hands out to him and allow him to sniff your fingers if he desires. Horses use their sense of smell to help them decipher potential threats from potential food items. If you have a treat with you, now is a good time to offer it to the horse. Let him take it from your hand. Make sure the treat is sitting on your palm and your hand and fingers are completely flat to avoid accidental nipping. Pet the horse on his face, neck and sides once he has sniffed you. At this point, if the horse has sniffed you and is allowing you to pet him, then you have successfully approached him and he has accepted your presence.
For an assortment of different reasons, some horses are not easy to approach and may even be dangerous. Never chase a horse that attempts to run away from you when you approach it. If the horse behaves aggressively by pinning his ears, bearing his teeth, biting, rearing or kicking, then you need to stop what you are doing and leave the horse alone. This type of behavior needs to be dealt with by a professional horse trainer in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Never go into the stall or pasture with a horse you do not know unless a professional has instructed you to do so and you are under her supervision.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.