Nervous horses can make an uncomfortable situation dangerous with spooks, bucks, and other evasive behavior. Knowing your horse’s predispositions and having a general understanding of equine anxiety management will keep everyone safer.
Due to their prey-programming, horses see danger in many things. A fluttering bag or dark shadow could set off the fight or flight instinct.
Here are some tips for calming a nervous horse both immediately and over longer periods.
Like us, horses thrive with healthy boundaries. A simple boundary can be something like horses maintaining a 2-foot bubble around people. This boundary means in the event of a spook, a horse is less drawn to the people nearby. A horse with clear boundaries is more likely to be comfortable in its environment. They know what to expect, and what is expected of them.
Become the leader and use your voice
Being a respected leader in your horses’ eyes is not often the first thing considered in horse ownership, but it is important. If your horse respects your body language and application of pressure you can deescalate nervous situations. Intentionally using your voice throughout training will not only teach your horse to recognize you but understand your tone. Calm, encouraging words will soothe a horse who is beginning to get nervous, while a firmer tone can get through to a horse that is already worked up.
Keep things consistent and reasonable
As a leader, you have a responsibility to be consistent with your horse every day. Wide ranges in mood, energy, and intensity can be confusing for them, and fractious horses will struggle to decompress. In stressful situations, keep pressure and expectations reasonable. Firm, confident handling both on the ground and in the saddle will translate to your horse. Release pressure when your horse tries to be good – like placing one foot inside a new, scary trailer. Releasing will build trust and confidence, propelling them in the right direction.
Move their feet
In nervous situations, a stuck horse is a scary horse. Moving their feet can take their mind off the scary situation and put it back on the rider. If walking past a threatening bush is NOT going to happen, side passing or backing by it might be. Using movement to diffuse nervous horses is commonly used at racetracks and horse sales.
Change the circumstance
If a horse is struggling with a certain banner in the arena, choosing to change the circumstances instead press the subject more may be the best route. Instead of spurring your horse up to the banner, which only causes the banner to flutter and more chaos to ensue, see if a confident horse can march past the banner while you follow. If another horse isn’t available, lead your horse past the banner several times to increase their confidence enough to walk by under the saddle. Changing the scenario for the better can allow you to make progress in scary situations. Plus, every situation safely maneuvered builds confidence for everyone involved.
BeneFab’s far-infrared and magnet technology promotes healing and relaxation in horses. Include BeneFab products such as the Smart Poll Pad in your everyday routine to decrease anxiety and promote circulation in the poll.