If your horse is fretful, does it mean there’s something wrong with him? Not necessarily. Every horse is an individual, and just like people, some horses are more anxious than others. In this article, we discuss natural, common sense ways to calm a nervous horse. Read on to learn more about the best calmer for nervous horses.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 Why Do You Need To Calm A Nervous Horse?
- 2 Address Your Horse’s Fears
- 3 Time And Consistency Heal All Things
Why Do You Need To Calm A Nervous Horse?
A high strung horse can pose challenges in everything you try to do with him. From walking to training to grooming to farrier and vet visits, you could find yourself struggling through every aspect of dealing with your horse. This spoils your experience and your horse’s experience. A high strung horse can also present a danger to himself, you and those around you.
Thoughts On Sensitive, Reactive Horses
What Can You Do?
There are medications that can calm an anxious horse, but these should not be your first option. Just as with people, there are many reasons why a horse may seem to be “wired”. Are you inadvertently adding to your horse’s problem?
Think about your horse’s diet, exercise and care routines, and ask yourself these questions:
1. Is my horse’s diet too rich or sweet?
If you are feeding lots of sweet feed or pelleted complete feed, your horse may be experiencing a constant sugar high. A horse’s ideal diet should consist mostly of grass and hay with grain given sparingly. Choose natural grains over processed or heavily sweetened combinations.
2. Is my horse getting enough exercise?
Horses need ample turnout time to run and play with their friends. They also need regular riding and exercise. Just as you should get twenty minutes of light-to-moderate exercise daily to maintain your health and well-being, a horse should have several hours a day to move around and burn off steam.
If your horse can’t have an adequate amount of free exercise, you must hand walk him, lunge him, increase your riding and/or make use of exercise equipment, such as a horse walker:
3. Am I making my horse anxious?
Horses like routine. An unpredictably routine can cause a horse to feel insecure and anxious. It is important that you feed your horse consistently at the same time every day. Follow a regular schedule of feeding, grooming and care. Make adjustments and changes in small increments.
In addition to maintaining a regular care routine, you should behave in a consistently calm and competent manner around your horse. Move and speak smoothly and quietly. Don’t rush about, wave your arms or shout.
Always use consistent verbal and physical cues to mean the same thing every time you use them. If your horse sees you as being unpredictable and undependable, you will not be able to build a solid relationship with him, and he will feel anxious around you.
Address Your Horse’s Fears
Some horses are afraid of specific things or activities. Observe your horse closely to identify situations and things that tend to make him anxious. Once you understand what causes him distress, you can take specific steps to desensitize your horse to these triggers.
Desensitization involves exposing your horse to the frightening object or situation gradually to allow him time to become used to it. Sometimes this process takes minutes or hours. Sometimes it takes days, weeks or months. This depends on the reason for the anxiety and the severity of the problem.
In this video, a rider allows her frightened horse to watch other horses walk past a donkey and then rides the horse past the donkey and back again allowing plenty of time for the horse to overcome his fear of the donkey.
Spooked Horse Over White Donkey
Establish Calming Routines
Some horses like to be talked or sung to. It’s often a good idea to talk with your horse as you work with him and/or to establish a song you sing while riding or doing chores around him. This can become a calming, focal point. When your horse is used to your voice, you can use your voice to calm him in times of stress.
Add Essential Oils To Your Grooming Routine
Establish a regular, predictable grooming routine that your horse can count on and enjoy. Grooming your horse gives you an opportunity to bond, and it can have the same effect as a calming massage on your horse.
This is especially true if you add calming essential oils to the routine. There are a number of different essential oils that have been known to have a calming effect on horses, but lavender oil is probably the simplest, safest, most affordable and easiest to access.
Keep a bottle of lavender essential oil in your grooming kit. Before you groom your horse, rub a few drops on your own hands and wrists. Rub about a dozen drops between your palms and stroke the oil over your horse’s nose and around his mouth allowing him to inhale the calming scent.
Sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on your finishing brush to infuse your horse’s mane and coat with the scent for a lasting calming effect.
If your horse tends to be anxious with the vet or farrier or in any other situation, be sure to do a full grooming with essential oil before the situation takes place.
Try A Calming Supplement
Your horse may be anxious because he is lacking in vitamins or minerals. For example, a lack of magnesium in the diet can cause anxiety and many other health problems in horses, people and all living things. Review the nutritional content of your feed and discuss your horse’s nutritional needs with your vet.
Some nutritional or calming supplements contain balanced nutrition and herbal support. For example, supplements that provide a full array of vitamins and minerals, along with calming herbs such as Valerian root can be very effective.
Note that if you show your horse, you should check to be certain any supplements you are using will not disqualify you from competition.
Time And Consistency Heal All Things
Helping a horse overcome anxiety is not a quick or easy process. When you change a horse’s routine or diet or add supplements, it can take a month or more to begin to see improvement.
Be positive, consistent and patient. Establish a workable routine and stick with it. A sensible, predictable routine is key to having a sensible, predictable horse. That’s why the word “routine” has been used a dozen times in this article.