Horse Training – Calming a Horse

is an essential aspect of training that ensures both the safety of the handler and the horse’s well-being.

, being prey animals, can easily become anxious or frightened, leading to unpredictable and sometimes dangerous behavior.

Implementing effective calming techniques helps build trust, enhance communication, and create a more harmonious relationship between horse and handler.

This article explores methods and tips for calming your horse during training.

The Modern Horseman’s Countdown to Broke: Real Do-It-Yourself Horse Training in 33 Comprehensive Steps
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  • Patrick, Sean (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 578 Pages – 08/01/2017 (Publication Date) – Trafalgar Square Books (Publisher)

Last update on 2024-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Understanding Horse Anxiety

  1. Signs of Anxiety:
    Recognizing the signs of anxiety in a horse is the first step toward addressing the issue. Common signs include:
  • Rapid breathing or snorting
  • Widened eyes and flared nostrils
  • Ears pinned back or constantly flicking
  • Tail swishing or clamping
  • Trembling or sweating
  • Pawing or pacing
  • Refusing to move or bolting
  1. Causes of Anxiety:
    can become anxious for various reasons, including:
  • Changes in environment or routine
  • Loud noises or sudden movements
  • Separation from herdmates
  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Inconsistent handling or training methods

Techniques for Calming a Horse

  1. Consistent Routine:
    thrive on routine. Establishing a consistent daily schedule for feeding, exercise, and training helps reduce anxiety by providing a predictable environment.
  2. Gentle Handling:
    Always approach and handle your horse gently and calmly. Use a soft voice and smooth movements, and avoid sudden actions that might startle the horse.
  3. Desensitization:
    Gradually expose your horse to new stimuli in a controlled manner. Desensitization involves introducing potentially frightening objects or situations calmly and gradually, allowing the horse to become accustomed to them without feeling threatened.
  4. Positive Reinforcement:
    Reward calm behavior with treats, praise, and gentle stroking. Positive reinforcement encourages the horse to associate calm behavior with positive outcomes, reinforcing a sense of security and trust.
  5. Groundwork:
    Groundwork exercises, such as leading, lunging, and yielding, help build trust and respect. These exercises teach the horse to respond to your cues and create a foundation for calm and cooperative behavior.
  6. Deep Breathing:
    Horses can sense their handlers’ emotions. To help the horse calm down, practice deep, slow breathing.
  7. Calm Energy:
    Maintain a calm and confident demeanor around your horse. Horses are highly perceptive and can pick up on your energy. Exuding calmness and confidence reassures the horse and helps reduce its anxiety.
  8. Environment Management:
    To create a calm environment, minimize loud noises, sudden movements, and other potential stressors. A quiet, safe space is essential for helping a horse feel secure.
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Last update on 2024-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Calming Exercises

  1. Join-Up:
    Join-up is a technique popularized by Monty Roberts. It involves working with the horse in a round pen, encouraging it to join you voluntarily. The process helps establish trust and a connection, leading to a calmer horse.
  2. Long Reining:
    Long reining involves working the horse from the ground with two long reins. This exercise improves communication and builds trust as the horse learns to respond to your cues without the pressure of a rider.
  3. Touch and Release:
    Use touch to reassure and calm your horse. Apply gentle, steady pressure to areas like the neck or withers, and release when the horse shows signs of relaxation. This technique helps the horse associate touch with relaxation.
  4. Sacking Out:
    Sacking out is a desensitization technique that gently introduces potentially frightening objects, such as a plastic bag or tarp, to the horse. Gradual exposure helps the horse become less reactive and more confident.
  5. Controlled Movement:
    Encourage your horse to move in a controlled manner. Walk and trot in hand, using calm, steady commands. This exercise channels the horse’s energy and helps it focus on your cues, promoting calm behavior.

Herbal and Nutritional Aids

  1. Herbal Supplements:
    Some herbal supplements, such as chamomile, valerian root, and lavender, can help calm an anxious horse. Always consult a veterinarian before introducing supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate.
  2. Balanced Diet:
    Ensure your horse’s diet is balanced and free of excessive sugars and starches, which can contribute to hyperactivity and anxiety. A fiber-rich diet and essential nutrients support overall health and calm behavior.
  3. Electrolyte Balance:
    Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are crucial for maintaining a horse’s calm demeanor. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can cause stress and anxiety.

Tips for Successful Calming Training

  1. Patience:
    Be patient and allow your horse time to adjust and respond to calming techniques. Rushing the process can increase anxiety and hinder progress.
  2. Consistency:
    Consistent handling and training methods are key to reducing anxiety. Stick to your routines and techniques to provide a stable, predictable environment.
  3. Observation:
    Pay attention to your horse’s body language and behavior. Understanding what triggers anxiety can help you address the root cause and apply appropriate calming techniques.
  4. Gradual Progression:
    Introduce new stimuli and exercises gradually. Allow the horse to become comfortable with one step before moving on to the next. This gradual approach prevents overwhelming the horse.
  5. Professional Help:
    If your horse’s anxiety is severe or persists despite your efforts, consider seeking help from a professional trainer or equine behaviorist. They can provide specialized guidance and support.

Video: Making Your Horse More Supple and Soft w/ Flexing

Calming a Horse Conclusion

Calming a horse during training is essential for the safety and well-being of the horse and handler.

Understanding the signs and causes of anxiety, implementing gentle and consistent handling techniques, and using positive reinforcement can create a calm and trusting relationship with your horse.

Incorporating specific calming exercises and managing the horse’s environment and diet further enhances this process.

Patience, consistency, and observation are key to successful calming training, ensuring a harmonious and enjoyable experience for you and your equine companion.

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