Help for an anxious horse

A few simple changes to your horse's routine and environment can help keep him calm.

Some horses, like some people, are more anxious than others. Here are some tips for helping the perpetually tense horse relax:

Close up of a horse with wide eyes, looking startled.
A perpetually anxious horse can be helped with some simple management changes.

 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.

Click here to learn how to read equine body language.

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

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