Relaxing your Horse

You all know, I am sure, those nervous, jumpy horses who simply cannot concentrate on you when there are other things going on. In fact, sometimes you are even scared that your horse really has no clue you are standing right beside him and might just run right over you! Vienna is one of those higher strung horses, and there is a very simple solution.

First, however, we must explore the cause of this rampant problem. Basically, by worrying about what is going on over the fence or in the next stall rather than calmly looking to you, your horse is saying, ‘I don’t trust you to take care of me, I have to take care of myself.’ To begin with, you should analyze why your horse is thinking like this. Have you ever let him be hurt by anything? Have you ever done something around, near, or to him that really shook his trust in you? Trust takes a long time to rebuild, and I suggest you start working on that. You must prove yourself again to your horse, which will be a hard task, because horses have a very, very long memory of wrongs done to them. It is far easier to always treat your horse with respect and caring and look after him well than to try to patch up broken trust.

Now, on to the ‘practical’ solution. When a horse lowers his head below his withers an endorphin is released which gives him a pleasant sensation. Putting his head down to eat, resting it on the ground when he is lying down, all these things feel very good to the horse. When he eats or lies down, he is relaxed because of the endorphin. So, to get your horse less uptight, you simply must lower his head. You will always lose at tug-of-war with your horse; he is much stronger than you are, so don’t pull down on your lead rope! So start by putting your hand over his poll, right between his ears. With your thumb and middle finger (or pinkie, if your hand is small) you should feel two indentations in the horse’s skull at the base of his ears. Apply a small amount of pressure with your fingers here with your right hand, while applying soft pressure downward with your lead rope. It there is no response, wiggle your fingers, gradually increasing pressure until the horse drops his head away from the pressure. Immediately release all pressure and praise him! Even if he moves a millimetre, release, praise, and keep practicing this until next time!

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