Unfortunately, horses can go through anxiety just like humans can and it is important to work through it just like you would with a human friend. Many everyday situations can cause anxiety in horses. That anxiety can appear in different ways, some animals can act disobediently while others might become aggressive. Here are some of the most common signs of stress in horses. It is important to understand what causes your horse stress and how you can ease their anxiety. Here are some helpful tips to get you through a stressful situation:
1. Try to figure out why your horse is anxious.
When your horse suddenly starts acting strange by weaving, shaking, or rolling their eyes, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of their anxiety. The most common stressors for equines fall into seven categories: objects, situations, sounds, grooming, new places, new work or riders, and other animals. Once you locate the trigger, you can begin to fix the problem and move forward with getting your horse back on track. Take time to note just how scared your horse is. Are they just spooked or truly horrified? You will choose how to deal with the stress from there.
2. Remove the cause of the anxiety, if you can.
If an unfamiliar object, sound, or animal has just momentarily spooked your horse, the easiest thing to do is remove the trigger, or your horse, from that situation. If your horse is not too scared, they will naturally calm down eventually. When the situation is out of your control, like being in a new place or conducting new work, reassure your horse that things are okay. Try to understand why your horse might be scared and do not let the situation get out of hand. Let them take in the situation before pushing them too far.
3. Build confidence through repetition.
One of the best ways to combat equine anxiety is repetition. When your horse is calm and in a comfortable location, try to reintroduce them to the things that scared them before. Also introduce them to new things that might be scary in the future. By presenting them with new and scary things, and showing them they are going to be okay, you are building confidence. Confidence can prevent future stress and anxiety problems. Prevention through repetition.
4. Always reward, sometimes correct, never punish.
Be your horse’s source of comfort and security by making them feel like they can trust and rely on you. Having a close relationship with your horse will help tremendously when trying to calm them down. If they trust you, your confidence in the situation can ease their discomfort, so always keep your head high when things get stressful. Remember to always reward good behavior with lavish praise, gently correct improper behavior, and never punish your horse. Always be understanding. All of this helps a horse relax.
Horse anxiety can be hard to handle and if you let that anxiety transfer to you, you are in for an even worse situation. The number one thing to remember is to stay calm and confident, show your horse that everything is fine. Be understanding of their feelings and keep in mind that they get nervous and frightened just like people do. Here at Cottonwood Equine Center, we care about you and your horse. Keep each other safe and do not let equine anxiety get the best of you.