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Horse Anxiety: Why It Happens and How to Manage It

Horse Anxiety: Why It Happens and How to Manage It

Horses get nervous at shows, just like people do.

A few months ago, we wrote about calming rider’s horse show nerves — but taming human nerves is only half the battle. We know our horses feel the buzzy show environment too, and many are far more sensitive to change than their human teammates. And whether the anxiety shows up as unusual spookiness or something else, it’s a circumstance that’s less than ideal for competitive performance.

To learn more about horse anxiety and how to manage it, we posed a few questions to Christian Harper at Ramard, makers of Total Calm and Focus calming supplement.

WHAT ARE SOME COMMON REASONS WHY HORSES GET NERVOUS?

Horses get nervous for so many different reasons. It’s often related to a change in environment, which of course happens every time they go to a show. The travel itself can be factor, as can an unknown show venue, staying in different stalls and being around new horses.

Some horses can even be very sensitive to any type of change — so weather changes and feed changes can also trigger anxiety.

WHAT ARE SOME BEHAVIORAL CHANGES THAT HORSES DISPLAY WHEN NERVOUS?

A nervous horse might become aggressive and kick, bite, buck or rear. But some horses will respond to anxiety in the opposite way, by showing signs of fatigue or unwillingness to work.

ARE THERE ANY EFFECTIVE NON-SUPPLEMENT STRATEGIES YOU CAN TRY TO CALM A NERVOUS HORSE?

Hugs may work for your human friends, but it's less effective for our four-legged friends.

Hugs may work for our human friends, but they’re less effective for our four-legged pals.

Time, patience and trust are the best non-supplement strategies to calm your nervous horse. Get to the show a day early and give the horse time to learn the lay of the land. Never rush a horse into doing something that he’s scared of, as that will add to the anxiety. Be firm, but not aggressive when correcting behavior.

WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT THINGS TO LOOK FOR OR ASK WHEN CHOOSING A CALMING SUPPLEMENT?

When choosing a calming supplement, look for something that suits both the horse and the sport. You definitely don’t want something that will dope your horse, which would be unsafe for the horse and rider. Also look for products that are gentle on the horse overall, and won’t cause other issues like stomach pain or damage to liver or kidneys. And of course, if you are competing, you need a calmer that won’t test positive.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS OUT THERE ABOUT CALMING SUPPLEMENTS?

The biggest misconception about calming products is that calmers alter the horse, and are not fair in sport. But even the best calming supplement won’t change a horse’s mechanics, how high it jumps or how fast it gallops.

Horses, like people, sometimes need help with nerves and energy utilization. A supplement that provides that support, as gently as possible, simply makes things safer for both horse and rider.

Special thanks to Ramard for sharing the expertise for this post! Ramard makes Total Calm and Focus, an all-natural supplement that calms an anxious horse, while enhancing focus.

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