I want to help my 9 yr old gelding overcome his anxiety, worrying when leaving the barn alone. We've done a lot of Natural horsemanship and groundwork since I've had him at 3 yrs old. He is kind, protective, very strong personality, social/extrovert, and the alpha horse who thinks he has to direct everyone. But he doesn't feel good leaving his herd at home. The behavior is a little more manageable when I'm on the ground walking beside him away from the barn, than when riding, where he can't see me (although I talk to him and pet him a lot for reassurance). He starts out quiet and looking calm, but he has a bubble and in about 5-10 minutes the worrying visibly starts. I've tried to take him out in 1 min, 2 min interval times, etc and take him back before he gets worried, and then try to increase the time slowly, but we still haven't gotten over his bubble. It's exhausting!! He's very vocal and he will make his point known, first with a little whinny, then slowly escalating to a full out hissy cry, cries so hard it makes him shake, spin and toss his head, and then there's no reasoning with him. He will whinny sometimes at nothing, or the slightest thing he sees, a person, a car, a dog, gets him going! It's like he forgets for a bit, then he remembers he's alone when he sees someone. On the ground the only thing that works is to stop walking, lower his head when he tries to whinny, but in the saddle that doesn't work, and a one-rein stop or circles only makes him more crazy. When he rides out with his buddy, he's happy and well-behaved, but even then once in a while, he lets out a little whinny and we tell him no, he'll stop. What can I do to help his anxiety?
Hi Karina. First we have to move past the why he acts the way he does and his personality. The reality is he has a job to do and if he does it then you will take care of all his needs. Trying to get him comfortable for short periods of time away is the proper way to handle it. Since that didn't work then we need to redirect his energy. In the arena near his buddies teach him to collect, stop, engage his hips, reining spins and whatever you can think of. Also, teach him to put his head down when cued while you’re in the saddle. I pick up on one rein, arm extended until they lower their head. Teach this at the stand still, walk and trot. Now with all the skills he does well start taking him further from his friends. Before he has a hissy fit get him to focus on you by asking him to do the things above. If he gets more anxious move back closer but work him harder. Then move him away but still ask him to do things just not as hard. If you want him to rest then ask him to rest with his head down. If he ever gets jiggy ask him to jig with his head down. When I say down I mean nose about 6 inches or less from the ground. You will find he cannot get excited with his head down. You try it. You can't either. Over time he will build confidence and learn to focus more on you than on everything else. Good luck and thanks for the question.
Raye Lochert Horsemanship
Notify me of follow-up comments
More equine events»
Keep up to date. When we publish you get updated!
From My Saddle Blog- Popular!Northwest Horse News Horse Health
• Educational articles• Expert answers• News• Events• and more!
Current issue »
Northwest Horse Source offers information on the following topics: Idaho horse, Idaho horse shows, Idaho trail rides, Idaho horse events, Idaho horse news, Washington horse, Washington horse shows, Washington trail rides, Washington horse events, Washington horse news, Northern California horse, Northern California horse show, Northern California trail rides, Northern California horse events, Northern California horse news, Oregon horse, Oregon horse shows, Oregon trail rides, Oregon horse events and Oregon horse news.
Address: PO Box 717, Blaine, WA 98231Phone: 360-332-5579 • Fax: 360-332-1826 • Email: