create your own custom anxiety relief plan
To help your horse reset it's alarm system and overcome worry
If you have a horse that is prone to anxiety you know how daunting even simple tasks can become. You set a goal. Your horse has a confidence crisis. You end up further behind than where you started. It’s discouraging and heartbreaking.
To help your horse overcome anxiety it’s important to recognize what they’re going through. For more info on understanding anxiety check out this post I wrote. Then use these powerful anxiety relief solutions to craft an action plan for your horse.
Anxiety Relief Solutions
Balancing Their System
Balancing your horse’s system will have a major impact on relieving their anxiety. Start by creating a nutrition plan that works naturally with your horse’s digestive system. One easy step would be to provide forage throughout the day to prevent stressful spikes in stomach acid.
Another area that’s worth evaluating is your horse’s vitamin and mineral intake. The right nutrition can aid in combating stress and eliminate anxiety caused by deficiencies. After your horse is balanced nutritionally, doing exercises with them to build their confidence becomes easier.
Hormones imbalances can also have a major impact on your horse’s anxiety. Encouraging your horse to move around enough to get their heart rate up, do some deep breathing, and break a good sweat is a great way to help rebalance their hormones. Giving them enough space to move outside at all gates with fresh air and plenty of sunshine is also tremendously helpful.
Creating An Optimal Environment
Creating a stress-free environment will ultimately make your horse become more sensitive to being triggered. By sheltering our horses from everything and arranging their lives so they don’t have to think on their own or use any natural survival skills they will become helpless and easily overwhelmed. The key here is setting up their environment with natural stressors that they are capable of working through. Encouraging them to forage for food, minerals, and find water sources simulates seeking instincts they use for survival. In doing this your horse gets to use their instincts productively while gaining confidence in their survival skills.
Environmental factors can also determine the optimal times to work with your horse on overcoming anxiety. For example, if your horse has had a full day of running around the pasture, socializing, foraging, and getting vitamin D from the sun it will be easier for him to focus training and he will be less sensitive to anxiety triggers.
Designing Effective Exercises
Optimal exercises for overcoming anxiety need to follow a few core guidelines. They must empower your horse, be challenging enough to stretch slightly beyond their comfort zone, and the horse must feel positive about doing them. For your horse to feel empowered they need to be given the choice of whether or not they want to participate. Trying to force your horse to participate in an exercise designed to help him relax pretty much defeats the purpose. Being prepared with modifications and additional activities is the key to providing options for your horse.
To determine how challenging to make the exercise you will want to be realistic about your horse’s comfort zone. Setting him up to work within his comfort zone to build relaxation then challenge him to work slightly outside of his comfort zone. You will then see his confidence increase when going back to easier work and the comfort zone starts to expand. Using positive reinforcement is incredibly effective at empowering horses and getting them to stretch beyond their comfort zone without the use of force.
Alternative therapies can also be very helpful in relieving anxiety especially if your horse has an underlying condition, pain issues, or impaired mobility factoring into their anxiety. Acupressure, essential oils, herbal supplementation, flower essences, and pheromones are just a few avenues to look into for the particularly complicated cases.
For many of you this post probably feels like it’s just scratching the surface of addressing your horse’s overwhelm. I know what it’s like to have a horse that is crippled by anxiety and how frustrating it is to try to find a solution. Helping as many owners and horses as possible to find relief a major goal of mine which is why I’ve decided to give away my Equine Anxiety Assessment for free. Filling out this assessment will help you shed light on your horse’s unique triggers and find patterns in their behavior so that you can craft a plan that will actually ease their anxiety for good.