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What Can I Do to Help Ease His Anxiety?

What Can I Do to Help Ease His Anxiety?
Alice Trindle

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Q:

My gelding is 6 years old and has been ridden since he was 4. He is very good when I ride at home, but as soon as I haul him somewhere else he becomes very anxious and flighty. Although, he has never gotten to a point were he is dangerous. What can I do to help ease his anxiety?

He also will freeze up, plant his feet, and pull back on his halter whenever you have the clippers anywhere near him (they don’t even have to be on). He has even broken his halter doing this and thrashing around, and I want to know the best way to desensitize him to clippers and other things that might become a problem in the future.

Thank you so much for reading my questions. I would much rather have an expert’s opinion that try and do this by myself, I sure don’t want to make the situation worse. Thanks! – Malloy


A:

Hello Malloy,

The answer to both of the situations you describe with your gelding, (i.e. anxiety away from home and anxious about the clippers) is pretty much the same. We have to ask ourselves how can we set it up so your gelding is seeking a comfortable place, with you, in all situations. It’s a classic Ray Hunt answer…Set it up so that your idea becomes his idea!

First, make sure you are setting it up with a positive attitude and clear picture of the right answer. Remember that the right answer may just be a step in the direction away from home, or the ability for you to walk around him carrying the clippers. See progress in small steps, with a positive reward, in a relaxed attitude at the end of each step in the right direction. Allow your horse to move, even ask him to move his feet, making the reward be standing quietly with you, whether you are on the ground or on his back. Remember that lateral movements are more difficult, so by asking him to move his feet in a sideways fashion may cause the gelding to seek that comfortable place with you more rapidly. (Review the Tip for the Ride video entitled: No Smoking Sign https://youtu.be/1IEpmsqc27c )

Specific suggestions regarding anxiety away from home:

1)      Go with someone else who has a confident horse.

2)      Do your ground work prior to getting on, and make the ride short and positive

3)      Follow the confident horse on a circle, then have the other horse lead you out of the circle a few steps in the direction you are heading for your ride; Every time your horse gets anxious, have the confident horse come back, circle until your gelding calms, then ride out again towards your destination.

4)      Again, keep a picture in your mind of this positive, little steps, rather than getting frustrated at his anxiety specific suggestions regarding anxiety about the clippers:

1)       Do not tie your horse up! Allow him to move his feet, as you simply hold the clippers.

2)      Think of an “Approach and Retreat” action, where you bring the clippers close to him, then take them away and rest.

3)      Remember there is no time limit…little steps, accomplished over a long period, will begin to set it up where your gelding will seek that ‘Comfortable’ place, faster and faster.

4)      I am not opposed to giving a little treat, and certainly a good pet/rub, as a little reward.

5)      Stay POSITIVE!

Hope this helps. Alice

 

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Alice Trindle

Alice was born on a ranch in eastern Oregon, the only daughter in a family of five brothers. She learned to ride behind the back of the saddle holding on to her brother’s belt loops. In the past 15 years Alice has studied with horsemen such as Tom Dorrance, Ray Hun, Dennis Reis, and Bettina Drummon. Her focus is on building a balanced relationship, applying Classical Dressage and Traditional Vaquero principles, via multi-day horsemanship retreats at her ranch in eastern OR.

www.tnthorsemanship.com

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