Although majestic, horses can be fickle creatures. One second you’re gracefully riding on your usual trail, then *BAM*! Your horse starts to buck you back or sprint at full speed without warning. After you gather yourself and calm down your companion, you realize that your horse stepped on an unassuming discarded snack wrapper, making an unfamiliar sound.
Every horse is different and will react to situations and objects in their own way. As a horse owner, you want to have the best relationship with your horse as possible. One part of this is understanding your horse’s personality.
It may take some time and effort to discover the root of your horse’s anxiety, but it is well worth it. In observation of World Mental Health Day, us at BRD Vet Rx want to open a discussion about anxious behavior in horses.
What Causes Anxious Behavior In Horses?
Horses can get spooked or uncomfortable because of a number of factors. Unfamiliar people and objects, past trauma, separation anxiety, boredom, diet, grooming procedures, new places, sounds, and other animals are common culprits. Compromised vision, uncomfortable fittings, or unknown health issues could be some other causes to look into.
When your horse has a negative reaction to something like this, take a second to pay attention. What factors could have caused them to react that way? Is it a pattern you’ve noticed? They could also feel stress that you may be giving off, so check how you’re acting around them.
Another thing to consider is that horses are herd animals. They rely on each other for protection and trust, so they might feel more vulnerable if they don’t have horse companions around them.
How Do I Calm My Horse Down?
Once you find the root(s) of your horse’s anxiety, you can try a variety of different ways to help alleviate it. Do they need a different sized stall or neighbors? Repositioning that ladder that casts a spooky shadow? Sometimes, a simple fix will solve the issue.
Other times, your horse may struggle with a more deep-rooted fear. If an object can’t be removed, let them approach it at their own pace. Introduce them to it with repetition and carefulness, letting them sniff it.
They may become more familiar with the object and accept it. Never force your horse to do it if they don’t want to, but don’t be afraid to take a break and try again another time. You will need patience and compassion to form the best bond.
How Should I React To Situational Anxious Behavior in Horses?
Situational Anxiety can be a lot harder to mediate. These usually happen quickly and out of nowhere, so just do your best to be prepared for these situations. Maybe introduce your horse to a new stall neighbor in a non-claustrophobic environment before putting them under the same roof, or let your horse explore a new arena before people start showing up.
When your horse does start to shake, bolt, buck, or roll its eyes, try to stay calm. Don’t make your horse more nervous by exuding your fear. Focus on clear, stern, and focused commands to get out of the situation. Some horses will look for leadership in stressful situations, while some will not.
The more you get to know your horse’s personality quirks, likes, and dislikes, the closer you two will be. If you’re worried about your horse’s behavior, consult a horse health care specialist. BRD Vet Rx has been keeping horses healthy and happy for almost 100 years, learn more about our story here.