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Handling a Nervous Horse

March 1, 2015

Despite humanity’s long bond with horses, there are many things about our equine friends that can be perplexing. A horse’s brain, after all, is very different from our own. One common problem we see in many horses is anxiety. Below, your veterinarian Black Hills gives some tips on handling a nervous horse.

Understanding Equine Anxiety

It’s important to remember that horses are prey animals. Silver’s natural instinct, whenever he is faced with anything he might perceive as threatening, will be to run. In cases where running isn’t an option, horses can become very uneasy.

Identify The Cause

The first thing to do is try to pinpoint the cause of your horse’s fear. Does Silver act up whenever your dog passes by? Is he afraid of flags, loud noises, or certain situations?


Once you’ve determined the cause, you may be able to take steps to desensitize your horse. If Silver is afraid of flags, for instance, allow him to sniff a flag, then gently rub him with it before giving him a treat. This may make him realize that flags aren’t so bad after all.

Helpful Tips

If your equine friend acts up when riding, you may want to ride with a yoke or breast strap, so you have something to hang on to if he spooks. Try to stay calm yourself, as otherwise Silver may pick up your nervousness and add that to his own. It may help to work your horse in serpentines, or other configurations, and change gaits frequently. This may force him to concentrate on his job, and not on his fear. Another thing that might help is sticking to an established routine and schedule for feeding, grooming, turnouts, and riding.

Building Trust

Horses can get past their fears, but it can take a lot of time or patience. Establishing a strong bond with your equine buddy is very important. Groom your horse daily, while talking to him in a soothing voice. Follow with a treat. This will help build trust and make Silver feel more secure.

Remember, horses with extreme anxiety may need more work than those who are simply uneasy. Be patient, and give Silver time to conquer his fears. Always put safety first when working with a nervous horse, and use every possible precaution.

Please contact us, your vet clinic Black Hills, for all of your horse care needs.

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