horse face COWGIRL magazine
A nervous horse. Photo by Raphael Andres.……

There are many different temperaments amongst horses. Some are naturally more anxious and spooky. They tend to be on high alert at all times. Fortunately, there are training tactics you can try to help calm them down. In some cases, more experience and exposure is the answer. Other times, the horse needs to be kept busy and focused on something. It’ll depend on your individual horse, but start with these helpful tips!

The Anxious Horse

1. It’s unusually better to keep these horses moving. Forcing them to stand still while they’re nervous and reactive can cause explosive behavior like rearing.

2. Encourage them to focus on you by performing various exercises. Sometimes, a nervous horse is one without a job. Practice figure eights or lateral movements to keep their attention.

3. Keep your sessions simple and go back to the basics. When your horse is anxious and jittery, you don’t want to try and teach them new exercises. It’s better to focus on things that they are pros at, such as backing up or transitions.

4. Make sure that your horse behaves respectfully. For your own safety, your horse needs to respect your boundaries. Don’t coddle a nervous horse, rather be firm and consistent. A rope halter and training stick can usually keep them out of your space on the ground.

A horse acting out. Photo by Sergio Cerrato.

5. Your aids should be clear and precise. If using pressure, it should be released immediately when the desired reaction is achieved.

6. Consider adjusting their lifestyle. Do they get enough turnout? Has their diet been evaluated? Could they benefit from a calming supplement? Are you consistently working with them? All good things to consider!

Depending on how reactive your horse is, you may benefit from the guidance of a professional trainer. Your safety and your horse’s is very important!