Keeping calm on a nervous horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2013
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Keeping calm on a nervous horse

At my barn I ride horses that will NOT be controlled if you are tense, including my horse. My horse I am perfectly calm on no matter what- I think maybe because I know him well or ride him in a western saddle perhaps- even though he is potentially way more dangerous than the other horses I ride. However, when I get on the other horses I tend to start out fine and I look great on them. As the ride goes on, I seem to tense up and I can't stay calm. If it weren't a lesson I would just get off and walk the horse around until I calm down; I don't ride horses nervous. Do you guys have methods of staying calm. How can I work on this? I am normally really good at staying calm, but recently I have been riding a horse that makes me nervous in particular and it is becoming an issue. It is the same on the ground too. When I wasn't quite as familiar with working with my horse and when he had his biting issue I would be extremely nervous around him. Whenever I turned my back he would try to bite me (I didn't know how to deal with it then, I do now, the horse is straightened out, it was several years ago) so I would always be extremely nervous and come home bruised from bites. This definitely made him nervous as well, but now that I am calm around him we work together wonderfully. I really just need ways to calm down, and ways to practice at home.
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post #2 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 09:57 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Ashland, OR
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Talk and sing.

The theory behind this and keeping calm is because a horse is very capable of feeling your breathing. When you are nervous, you subconsciously don't breathe or don't breathe as much. When you talk/sing, you HAVE to breathe. Even if you are just whispering.

For me, when things get sticky, I try to go to sleep. I picture myself as I am right now: Sitting back in my comfy chair, laptop on my lap, leaning back and kind half lying down. This is relaxed. My mare the other day reared and I just kinda sighed. My trainer said I looked ready to take a nap, which of course I was. You gotta find your happy place whether or not you're in a bad situation with the horse.

And of course, breathe.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
SorrelHorse is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 09:59 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
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man try to tell someone else how to calm down. thats tuff, what is it that is getting you "worked up"? your idea of getting down if it wasn't a lesson is a good onw lesson or not. the only thing other the "just stop it" when you feel yourself "heading south" go back and work on something easy. something you know the horse can do and somthing you know you can do as well.

Or "just stop it"
or try smiling laugh make a funny noise (somthing that won't scare your horse)
CowboyBob is offline  
post #4 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 10:22 PM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Cantley,Quebec
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What is it that the horse does that makes you nervous? My Paint horse is a super sweetheart but can be scary if he gets galloping when he is in a large group as he will pass all the other horses if you let him. Once I learned how to slow him down and not let him get out of hand. Lots of ring work helped me develop a better relationship with him. He is a more flight than fight kind of horse and it took what I thought was a long time before he really trusted me. Hundreds of hours on the trail certainly helped. You need to find out how that particular horse ticks and then hopefully, things will begin to fall into place. A good trainer is also invaluable. For me the best thing was to just keep at it even if I felt I'd never succeed and there sure were a lot of difficult days. But, now I am really happy to have such a great bond with my horse.
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post #5 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 10:45 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
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I like the round pen for nervous horses and nervous humans.

First, it's a great place to establish yourself as the leader. Second, it's a great place for a nervous horse to calm down. And third, it's helpful to nervous humans when you can see a horse visibly relax and start looking to you for direction and commands. I would recommend tacking up these horses and then taking them to the round pen for a few minutes before getting on and riding in a lesson.

If you don't have a lot of experience in a round pen, then let me give you a piece of advice: Steer clear of hooves, and pay attention to the horse's body language. It will tell you when you when you need to get out of the way of said hooves, and it will tell you when you've accomplished what you set out to do. And finally, remember that your body language is key. A horse pays attention to your actions, so with most horses you can't just wuss out and hope they'll go in a circle. They'll find that one blade of grass to eat and ignore you. At the same time, many horses don't need an extreme show of dominance or aggression to move--each horse is an individual, so fine tune your body language based on how the horse is reacting to you.
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post #6 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 11:02 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Middle of Nowhere, Saskatchewan
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Talk like a crazy person.
People might think you have multiple personality disorder, but talking helps so much.

I have a super hot mare and I honestly talk to her constantly so I dont tense up when she flips out or starts dancing around.

People totally think I'm loopy, but I dont even care :P

(Sometimes, I'll be warming up and while trotting in a circle I'll just be going: Dooo deee dah dah doo dee la la laaaaa. Yup)
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post #7 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 11:17 PM
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I used to get nervous when riding real high-energy or spoiled horses. Not good in my line of work.

I started thinking about the "what ifs" and taking them to the most ridiculous, worst possible ending my imagination could imagine. I frequently ended up laughing and that seemed to relieve a lot of tension for me. I also gained confidence in my ability to communicate consistently, learned not to expect perfection from myself or the horses, and stopped caring whether I made an unscheduled dismount or not.

Worked hard on my core strength and higher level balance so I could respond better to the leaps, both up and sideways, and it's all helped.
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post #8 of 10 Old 02-16-2013, 11:43 PM
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Tucson, AZ
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Another horseback chatty kathy here! If I am nervous, I talk to my horse constantly. I tell him about my day, why I'm feeling a little nervous, what I wish he would or wouldn't do...

Another thing that I do--especially out on the trail alone--is to put music on my phone and tuck my phone into my pocket. Two-for-one there; I know I haven't lost my phone, and I will hum along to the music. It seems to soothe us both!

If this is an on-going situation with a horse, however, I am all-for round pen work for respect on the ground and any exercises that require the horse to mentally focus and look to you for direction.
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post #9 of 10 Old 02-17-2013, 01:06 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Missouri
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You need to find your inner herd leader and embrace it. I used to beat myself up with phrases like "Stop being a wuss and do it" etc. which worked for me.. because overtime they became "Hey I've got this!" which is WAY more positive.

Find it... embrace it... chant it. Fake it till you make it, kiddo.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #10 of 10 Old 02-17-2013, 12:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Alberta, Canada
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I agree with singing and talking, it sounds stupid but if my horse is nervous or tense I start to sing Old MacDonald. Also just focusing on taking big deep breaths will make you relax. You would not believe how taking 3-4 deep breaths affects your body, it is very hard to stay tense.
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