What it takes for your horse to be happy
The first moments when you enter into your horse's line of sight should give you the first and most important flag when reading your horse’s emotional attachment to you. The easiest of all signs-if your horse is out to pasture, do they see you? And most importantly, what is the body language they give off? If they run right to you- you're doing something right. If they steer clear, you might need to take a second look at how you deal with your horse.
When horses are stalled up most the time, it can be harder to differentiate true appreciation from sheer boredom. If they become excited, their ears up, making noise, nostrils flaring (just a bit-too much snorting could be the opposite reaction we are looking for), I've seen some horses so excited their owner had arrived they have bucked reared and jumped in their small stalls. If your horse is nonchalant, don't despair! There is hope yet.
Horses are creatures of habit. If your horse has recently switched barns, or homes, give him some time to adjust. Make sure though, that the time of adjustment has alot of YOU involved. The more you see your horse, the stronger his connection with you will be. Simple as that.
Okay it can be a bit tougher than that. Horses are flight animals. Heard of that animal kingdom flight or fight mechanism? Oh ya horses are flight. Not to say that SOME rare horses like to fight. Danger comes, no worries- I'll run in circles frantically, not fleeing but gaining perspective on the situation and then I'll stomp it to death. I've had my share of courageous horses, but typically, horses are flight.
My biggest recommendation with developing a bond between horse and rider, is time and experience. You can ride 100 times in an arena, but how much has that improved your horses experiences of the world? The horse questions the world just as we do. They have curiosity. If you can develop your relationship through trail rides and insecure riding times- where there isnt predictability, your horse will begin to trust YOU and not itself.
Horses begin to trust in themselves during arena riding. They want to just get it over with, and the series of commands leads to repitition. Horses memorize these repititions. They do just enough to slide by. The truly great riders are the riders that connect with the horses' spirit, not training it to be ridden, but training the horse to run for them- to ride for them. For mutual benefit, and mutual satisfaction.
Something I have said, and will say time and time again: Horses are like dogs. A dog will come when called when the owner has a true, solid relationship with the dog. The dog will not come when called if it is not respected, if it has no trust, or if it thinks that you aren't capable of alphaing the pack. A horse is very similar, if you don't seem to be able to control the situation, a horse WILL pick up on that, and will change the course as he/she sees fit to make sure that he/she remains safe and sound.
So a horse isn't listening to the commands you gave it? Hmm... The horse must see benefit in doing as you are telling it. So the horse that with one rider, does everything as he's told, and the next rider, he acts like a yearling, what is the difference? What causes this rift?
Confidence. The first rider carries confidence, the latter carried insecurity. Horses pick up on that. Another factor to consider is relationship. Does the first rider have regular interactions with the horse? And does the second? Riding horses is more than just a sport.
It's a relationship.