Some horses, like some people, are more anxious than others. Here are some tips for helping the perpetually tense horse relax:
• Exercise him often. Activity won’t change a horse’s personality, but it will burn off energy that may be feeding his tension and reactivity. An hour-long ride at least four days a week is ideal and will benefit him physically as well as mentally.
• Mind his diet. To avoid providing more energy than your horse needs, give him only as much grain or concentrates as are necessary to maintain his weight; otherwise, base his diet on a high-quality hay.
• Examine his environment. A busy barn, with lots of comings and goings, can set a sensitive horse on edge. If moving to a more laid-back facility isn’t an option, try to create a smaller oasis of calm for your horse by finding him a pasturemate he likes or perhaps relocating him to a stall in the quietest part of the barn.
• Provide more turnout. A horse on pasture will not only get more exercise but may also become acclimated to things that make him anxious. A horse who lives outdoors isn’t going to mind the sight of wildlife, the rustling of leaves or other distractions as much as a stall-kept animal.
• Consider supplements. A variety of herbal and pheromone-based products designed to help calm anxious horses are available. Consult with your veterinarian to see if any might be a good option for your horse.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #454, July 2015.