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Build Confidence in Anxious Horses - 5 Proven Strategies for a Brave and Calm horse

Updated: Jan 22

As a horse owner, you're likely familiar with the challenges of dealing with an anxious and unpredictable horse. The telltale signs of anxiety – spooking, bolting, restlessness – makes riding and handling a nerve-wracking and even dangerous experience. However, don't lose hope. There are effective ways to transform your anxious horse into a brave and confident companion. In this article, you get 5 proven and tested ways for calming your horse down, that you can take action on right away!

1. Desensitizing - makes horses less reactive

Desensitization is a powerful technique that can significantly diminish your horse's anxiety triggers. A key distinction to understand is that desensitization is not flooding; the two are distinctly different. Desensitization involves introducing your horse to potentially fear-inducing stimuli while allowing them to move and explore. As your horse relaxes, remove the source of fear.

This process instills a valuable lesson; relaxation leads to the removal of scary elements as opposed to fight, freeze or flight, which is what horses naturally do when scared.

Interestingly, many things that trigger anxiety in horses are not inherently threatening; they simply appear so in the horse's mind. By desensitizing your horse without creating mayhem or a shut down horse, you empower him or her to conquer their anxieties.

To avoid flooding make sure give your horse freedom to move away from the stimuli and read your horse's body language as shown in this vlog.

2. Choices over Control - strengthens the bond

Counterintuitively, letting go of control and offer choices instead, instantly boosts a horse's confidence. Horses are flight animals with the need of a way out which makes them feel tense when controlled, whereas we are tactile beings who instinctively tighten the lead rope or rein when we sense our horse is tensing up. Which tends to add feul to the fire. By doing the exact opposite and present choices in a strategic way, horses convince themselves of something not being dangerous in a much more effective way than if we try to pressure them to be brave.

What's even more remarkable is how this approach nurtures a profound connection between you and your horse. Control is according to Brene Brown professor of emotions the opposite of connection; by granting choices and loosen the grip, you not only make your idea your horse`s idea you also foster a partnership rooted in cooperation and trust.

3. Deepen the Relaxation - while doing nothing

Anxiety often manifests as tension that can be visible even when horses are standing still. But we don't always notice a horse`s sign of tension before it's too late. Spending quality time with horses without imposing demands, allows them to experience your presence without associating it with work or pressure. Wait for subtle cues like, licks, chews, yawns or lowering of the neck indicating deeper relaxation. And your horse will find a deeper relaxation when with you and come to associate tranquility with your companionship.

4. Practice Mental Transitions - makes you horse quicly go back to calm

Intentionally varying your horse's pace and routines is another powerful way to prepare them for unexpected scenarios. By engaging their energy intermittently and then encouraging relaxation, you equip your horse with the tools to navigate shifts from excitement to calmness. This practice makes them more adaptable and less likely to react anxiously to sudden changes. But only do this after you have taken the time to help your horse be truly relaxed when with you and have tools for making your horse calm again after being up, such as the bend to relaxation and the bend to stop.

5. Solve Separation Anxiety - the hidden cause of anxiety and spooking

Separation anxiety often lies at the heart of anxiety-related behaviors. Horses are social animals, wired to thrive in the company of their herd. Yet, circumstances may demand moments of solitude. To mitigate separation anxiety, embark on a journey of gradual separation through specific groundwork exercises. By becoming a source of security when apart from the herd, you help your horse overcome their fear.

If your horse is dealing with separation anxiety or anxiety in general, we invite you to join our FREE training that solves this challenge in a fast and effective way or simply change a few routines, without spending any extra time. This will guide your horse towards independence and tranquility during times of stress, so that you can enjoy trail rides on your own, as well as clinics and shows with a horse that feels good and behaves well.

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