Horses are not exactly jumpy creatures, but certain things could trigger anxiety in these animals. And your job is to make sure the horse is calm and comfortable. To address anxiety, you should know the reason of it.
Most times, horses are terrified of certain objects, like farm equipment or cars. Anything they think are out of the ordinary strikes fear. Certain situations could also trigger fear and anxiety. Dark, unfamiliar or enclosed spaces are common causes of anxiety in horses. Loud noises, unfamiliar sounds or hissing could also cause horses to act up. New terrains, grooming rituals and sometimes the riders themselves could cause a horse to panic or be fearful. So essentially, you want to keep a close eye on a nervous horse to find out exactly why he’s acting the way he is. Once you’ve identified the cause of his anxiety, read below to address the situation:
Nothing calms a horse (or any animal, for that matter) like a loving, trusting relationship. An anxious horse will get comfort from people he trusts. For instance, if your horse used to fear moving cars but throughout his experience with you, he learns that you will not put him in harm’s way, he will no longer be as afraid of cars. Horses can smell fear. If you’re not scared of the car, he’s not scared either. A calm demeanor helps settle down an anxious horse. If your body is tense, your horse can detect fear and he will react accordingly.
The most effective way to banish fear or anxiety is repetitive movement. During training, your horse should become accustomed to all the things he’s scared about. This method is called desensitization. You are essentially wearing out the sensitivity of your horse against noises, moving cars or anything that scares him. Of course, you shouldn’t force stressors to your horse. The key is to make these elements a part of the horse’s environment.
Also, you could also do counter conditioning. This method requires you to give your horse a treat each time a stressor is present. This replaces bad experience with pleasant ones. For example, if your horse is scared of chainsaw sounds, give him a treat each time he hears the sound. This will calm him down. He will also associate the sound with something pleasant, like getting a treat.
Lowering The Horse’s Head
A relaxed horse usually lowers his head. This means his guard is down. If he’s anxious, try gently lowering his head. Lowering a horse’s head triggers a physiological response. Gradually, his heart rate decreases, his muscles relax and he sweats less. Calm him down with this method and reward him with treats after. Also, lay the praises thick.
On the other hand, if your horse got anxious as you are riding him, keep his feet moving. Let your horse focus on what you want to do so his attention shifts from the stressor to your tasks.
There are some cases wherein nervousness in horses is caused by diet. Some feeds are high in carbs or sugar and these compounds generate excess energy. High protein diet could also cause excitement in horse so find the sweet spot.
If your horse is still a nervous Nellie even if he’s in a balanced diet, he might be magnesium deficient. Boost his consumption of magnesium to relax the muscles.