Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Horse’s are fight or flight animals. As such, they may become nervous or uncomfortable in situations where their flight response kicks in. If you find yourself in a situation with a nervous horse, below are a few easy tricks that can help calm the tension.
1. Breathe - your horse will mimic your breathing and the oxygen will calm him down. In situations you are stressed yourself use the 7 - 4 -8 method. Breathe in for 7 seconds, hold for 4 and breathe out for 8, this resets your brain from feeling stressed and the oxygen helps release. When you start feeling relaxed, your horse will follow suit as he looks to you as his leader. Hint: this breathing technique is also great for pre-competition nervousness!
2. In a stressful situation, it can help to talk your horse through it as you would talk to another person. Guiding a stressed horse can sometimes be like guiding a toddler. Take a position of leadership, confidently talk them through it, exert radiant calmness and give them time to asses the situation all of which will in turn build their trust in you.
3. Be patient. A horse needs about 7 minutes for their nervous system to calm down after a stressful situation. We as humans are often used to instant gratification and may lose our patience long before 7 minutes. Be patient with your horse when asking for something new or when they may be feeling at unease. Give them crucial time needed to understand. If we try and force a point it can often lead to the opposite of the desired result; your horse will lose trust in you.
4. Try to gently encourage your horse to lower his head. Having their head in a lowered position actually tricks the mind into making them feel more relaxed. Offering a treat is a great way to not only encourage your horse to lower his head but also to get his mouth moving which is also a soothing action. Hint: Treats don’t always have to be bad for your horse! We suggest offering Twenty Four Carrots as a healthy, low-glycemic alternative.