February 23, 2021
Like us, horses can get stressed and nervous when traveling, competing, or learning the ropes of a new job. They exhibit anxiety in different ways—from excessive chewing or grinding teeth, weight loss, to spooking easily, pacing, rearing, bolting, sweating, or suffering from gastric ulcers or diarrhea.
The symptoms and behaviors of a nervous horse can be frustrating and make it difficult for a horse and rider to connect and accomplish important goals together. So what can you do to help your horse feel more relaxed and confident?
A lot of equine stress can be relieved by providing your horse a consistent schedule, frequent turnout time, ample access to food and water, and other horses for companionship. But what about the horse who experiences increased stress from frequent travel, training, or competition?
We asked Aimee Williams, a horse trainer from Stephenville, Texas, that question. Aimee runs Flying A Barrel Horses and raises and trains futurity-age barrel horses. In this article, we asked Aimee to share some insight about what typically causes anxiety in horses and how we can help them feel more calm, relaxed, and focused.
Horses are prone to worry, and worry is prone to cause gastric ulcers—which leads to more anxiety and worsening health.
“If your horse is showing signs of anxiety, digestive disorders or ulcers are the first thing to rule out,” Williams said. “When your horse is in any type of pain, they’re going to be apprehensive about doing their job.”
If you suspect your horse has ulcers, a checkup by your vet is always the first step. Williams also recommends and uses all-natural Redmond Daily Gold Stress Relief to prevent and heal gastric ulcers in her horses.
Our goal as riders is to have our horses feel confident and understand their jobs well. When they don’t, it causes confusion.
“When a horse is confused about what we’re asking them to do, they’re going to get stressed and become anxious,” Williams said.
Many problems of horses misbehaving or exhibiting anxiety arise from training a horse before they’re well-broke. If steps have been skipped during training, it will manifest as confusion and anxiety later.
“Slowing down and going back to the basics is always a great thing to do,” said Williams. “Fixing any steps that were missed in the training process will help your horse become calmer and more confident in their job and in themselves.”
Do you get riding jitters? You’re not alone. Many riders experience nerves before climbing on a horse. Unfortunately, if you’re uneasy in the saddle, you’re likely adding to your horse’s anxiety.
“Horses notice even the slightest difference in their rider’s behavior,” Williams said. “When a rider is nervous, they usually tense up, holding the reins tighter, stiffening their back and legs. As the trainer, it’s your job to reassure your horse that there is nothing to be concerned about.”
Which is why keeping relaxed and calm is critical. So take a deep breath and remind yourself and your horse that everything’s okay. And if finding your zen in the saddle isn’t that simple, one of these 33 suggestions on how to ease riding nerves may help.
It’s hard to stand still when you’re anxious. The same is true for horses. Letting your horse move in a controlled pattern can help them work off some nervous energy.
“Keeping your horse’s feet moving by walking circles or figure eights is a great way to keep them focused and calm,” Williams said.
If walking isn’t an option, then practicing a small movement like lateral flexion can help.
“Flexing a horse laterally while standing still can help your horse stay calm and soft in the bridle by keeping their attention on the rider rather than new or stressful surroundings,” Williams said.
Horses experience apprehension when leaving home and hauling to new places. Arena anxiety is especially probable, where noise and lots of distractions are the norm.
“If a horse isn’t used to loud noises, bright lights, banners, et cetera, they may get nervous, anxious or spooky,” Williams said. “It’s up to us to keep them feeling safe.”
She gives these suggestions to ease stress and help your horse feel safe on the road:
Looking for an affordable, effective supplement to help your horse feel calm and focused without artificial drugs or fillers? We can help with that.
Our Redmond bentonite clay in Daily Gold soothes digestion by buffering stomach acid, repairing ulcers, and eliminating diarrhea. Plus, it contains 60+ trace minerals to nourish and improve your horse's health.
Daily Gold helps your horse relax and feel ready to focus and give his best effort in every situation. That means you and your equine friend can connect and accomplish more together, whether at home or on the road.
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