Horse training is an art that requires a deep understanding of equine behavior. If you’ve ever encountered a nervous horse, commonly referred to as a “hot horse,” you know how challenging it can be to handle. In this article, we will explore effective and humane ways to calm a nervous horse, delving into the basics of horse behavior, body language, and practical training tips.
Understanding Horse Behavior
1. Flight-or-Fight Instinct
Horses, by nature, are flight-or-fight animals, preferring to escape rather than confront threats. Recognizing this instinct is crucial for effective horse training.
2. Body Language
Learning to interpret horse body language is essential. Signs of a nervous horse include hyperactivity, resistance to the bit, tail wringing, and more. Conversely, calm horses exhibit relaxed muscles, lowered heads, and diverted eyes.
Factors Contributing to Nervousness
1. High Energy Diet
The horse’s diet plays a role in its behavior. Some horses may become excessively energetic due to high-calorie, low-fiber feeds. Ensuring adequate forage in their diet is crucial for mental well-being.
2. Lack of Exercise
Horses need regular exercise to release pent-up energy and prevent nervousness. Grazing in open pastures provides both mental and physical stimulation.
3. Equine Calming Supplements
Consider the use of calming supplements containing ingredients like thiamine, licorice extract, and valerian root. It’s crucial to have a chat with your veterinarian before incorporating any supplements into your pet’s routine.
Calming a Nervous Horse: Training Tips
1. Assess Frequency and Triggers
Determine how often the horse exhibits nervous behavior and identify specific stressors. Tailor your training approach based on these observations.
2. Longeing for Relaxation
If the horse is nervous when first taken out of the stall, use longeing to allow it to stretch its legs and “take the edge off.” This is particularly beneficial for horses with excess energy.
3. Circles and Figure Eights
When mounted, guide the horse in circles or figure eights. This encourages the horse to focus on your cues, diverting its attention from fear. Gradually stop and praise the horse when it stands still.
4. Lowering the Head
Implement horse training methods that involve lowering the horse’s head. Gently apply pressure to the poll and nose to teach the horse to drop its head. This signifies relaxation and compliance.
5. Avoid Reinforcing Bad Behavior
Be vigilant not to reinforce nervous behavior. If the horse becomes unsafe in the saddle, dismount and continue working it in a controlled environment like a round pen.
Calming a nervous horse is both an art and a science. By understanding the nuances of horse behavior, addressing dietary needs, and employing effective training methods, you can build a trusting relationship with your equine companion. Remember, prevention is often easier than cure, so pay attention to your horse’s needs and behavior to create a harmonious partnership.