For those of us that have anxious or hot-headed horses, trying to keep them calm or calm them down in certain circumstances may be a priority. Here are some useful tips to help you do this.
1. Ride Quietly with Soft Hands
Riding with heavy hands can make an anxious horse even more anxious and want to resist even more, which can make any situation much worse. Riding quietly will help show your horse that there is nothing to be afraid of and you are calm, so they should be calm too. They are always looking at and listening to our body language. Make sure to sit deeply into the saddle and not grip with your legs or pull with your hands. Give subtle signals and use the least amount of pressure as possible.
2. Keep Them Busy
Giving them something to do will keep their mind on something else besides being anxious. While riding, try to do lots of different turns, circles, go over random poles and even some jumps to keep their mind constantly working. By doing lots of turns, your horse will not be able to expect what you will ask them and will need to pay more attention to you and what you are asking. This way, they will not worry so much about what is going on around them and will instead stay more focused on what they are supposed to be doing.
Pushing them into a forward trot will working is also helpful for getting rid of some of their anxious energy, which will help them relax into what they are doing more.
3. Use a Low, Calm Voice
Talk to your horse in a calm, quiet voice to help them stay calm. They will hear that you are calm and will realize there is nothing to be afraid of if you are not afraid. The more that your horse trusts you, the more that your calm voice will help them. Even if they jolt or take off for a minute, one of the worst things you can do is raise your voice or scream, as that will make them even more anxious and likely to bolt.
(Photo Credit: https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2015/09/17/calming-supplements-horses-ingredients/)
4. Pet Your Horse
Gently petting your horse before, during, and after riding can help keep both you and your horse calmer. They will appreciate the contact and you can even give them a scratch where they like it.
(Photo Credit: https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2014/08/11/fear-free-horse-training-neil-davies/)
5. Put on Music with the Gait’s Tempo
Find some music that matches the tempo of each gait you ride, and put it on while you ride for both you and your horse to hear. It will help both of you stay focused and able to do your riding.
6. Lavender Aromatherapy
Using lavender aromatherapy has been shown to calm horses, which can be very useful for situations that they find stressful, including vet and farrier visits, trailering, bathing, etc.
Do you have any techniques to keep your anxious horse calm? Let us know!