Understanding the Causes of a Stressed or Anxious Horse-
Have you ever experienced working with an anxious horse? How does it feel when your horse has left the planet and is in a nervous frenzy?
For me, this is something I have surface often with my horse Peppy. He is a performance bred horse, whose foundation training did not cover emotional fitness… and even going on 20 years old he struggles.
In other words, he is a hot rod who has an accelerator and no brakes (sometimes the accelerator sticks too). This is especially true if he encounters anything that he thinks is dangerous. Such as a free-roaming (halter but no human) donkey, leading his herd of trail riders down a trail, that Peppy and I often frequent.
What seemed like a funny and cute thing to me, was traumatic and horrific to Peppy. He had already expressed his engine was over-revved when I first got on and this event set him off. He traveled to another world, thankfully I came off as safe and comfortable as I could have hoped… I then spent the next 2 hours continuing down the trail trying to get him to come back down to earth.
Speaking of Earth…
Peppy was so concerned about his near-death experience that he was afraid of our cow and goats when he got home. These are animals he encounters regularly and yet he was suddenly terrified of them. After another 45 minutes of working with him, I was able to put him back in his pen in a relatively calm state.
The next week, I headed back out to the same trail and decided we would take extra time to ground ourselves both Peppy and I. I chose to do this through the use of essential oils and a method called square breathing.
Now we can’t make the horse square breath, but as we do the horse will naturally connect and often will pattern their breathing to a more relaxed state.
Something was missing.
Although Peppy was staying connected to me, he was still very emotional and was not grounded. I felt something was missing and I began to feel frustrated. Not at him, but myself as his leader… I began the square breathing and continued small partial disengagement exercises with Peppy. I began to change my focus to our beautiful surroundings on the trail. As I did Peppy’s head dropped and he started blowing out!
In that moment I realized what I had missed. When learning to ground you will hear people say things like, think of yourself as a rooted tree, you need to be rooted and grounded to the earth. This is true, but there is a second piece that I personally miss or forget often (you can read another ah-ha moment that shows this in the previous post Horsemanship Bringing Awareness to the World Around You)…
Trees do not only have roots! They reach and expand out with their branches. I was too inward-focused. It was only Peppy and I… his anxious behavior and me as his leader failing to aid him through managing it. But when I focused outside of us the answer was there. I was in charge of my body and emotions, Peppy was in charge of his, I was there to support him, and he (we) could release the energy growing between us, outward to our surroundings.
The rest of our ride was much better. He would have a rise in emotions, I would square breath, focus on my roots, and expanding out, and he would relax and blow out.
Natural Solutions for the Anxious Horse-
The next time your horse struggles with anxiety be sure that you are both grounded. You can do this through a variety of ways…
- Essential Oils
- Patterned Breathing
- Yoga (some will do yoga by the horse, as a way for the horse to connect to the grounded energy)
- Flower Essences
- EFT Tapping (reader suggestion… Love it!)
If your horse regularly struggles with being anxious it would be a supportive precaution to ensure there is not a health concern that is causing it… There are common signs that horse owners miss, and that we are actually told by professionals and our peers are nothing to be concerned about.
In fact, if your horse isn’t greeting you at the gate, is resistant or dull to your cues, or is experiencing negative health conditions… It isn’t your fault. And contrary to what some vets and equine professionals might lead you to believe, it certainly isn’t normal!
It’s time revolutionize the way you think about and approach your horse’s care and lifestyle; equipping you with the tools and information you need to optimize your horse’s performance, reinvigorating their zest for life, and accessing the “horseplay” and exuberance they are naturally known for.
Discover the forgotten framework of care that will transform your horse’s health! Grab your copy of my book Healthy as a Horse, Click here to reserve your copy now.
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Life is better when you’re horsin’ around!