When a horse is anxious or agitated, it’s usually for a very good reason – they’re not like humans who get mad or angry or upset because their emotions get the best of them.
If a horse is anxious, there was probably a noise or a sensation that they experienced that set them off, or they don’t understand what you’re asking them to do.
Your job as their handler is to make sure they understand that whatever made them upset is nothing to worry about, remove the stressor from their environment if you can, or teach them not to fear it.
When you’re working with a new horse, it’s important to start slow, and establish the horse’s limits.
Remember that the horse can be sensitive to your body language, so if you’re stressed and nervous, she will be too.
Do your best to remain calm at all times.
If your horse appears stressed, start by trying to remove the cause of your horse’s anxiety.
- If whatever has spooked her is not something she’ll eventually need to get used to, like a fly mask or your new riding boots, it’s usually okay to simply remove the object from the area.
This is easier than teaching your horse to get used to each foreign object she encounters and reacts negatively towards.
However, you should work with her if the source of the anxiety is something the horse will need to get used to it.
If she’s terrified of the barn’s new water bucket, for example, that’s a problem.
Spend one-on-one time with her and the bucket until she’s used to its look and smell, and it no longer frightens her.
If you ignore the object that’s upsetting the horse, chances are, she will eventually ignore the object as well.
Use your body and your voice and be consistent. Stay in communication with your horse and make sure she knows that you’re not afraid of the silly water bucket, and she shouldn’t be either.