Reply To: Highstrung or Nervous?

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Hi Summer, I have been doing natural horsemanship and have been studying the psychology of horses for over 20 years and now have the education and experience to understand horses at a great level. It sounds like your horse is lacking confidence in both himself, and then you, as his leader. (No fault of yours at all). Horses are herd animals and to be calm and confident they search for the leader(whomever or whatever that is) to place confidence in them when they are unconfident for any reason. It is like grabbing your friends arm when something jumps out at you. That is your reaction to feeling safe. If your friend freaks out so will you, but if your friend can stay calm and meet you where you are at in your fear and know how to get you to calm down then all is well. If your horse doesn’t feel like he has anyone as this kind of leader around, that will be able to help him feel safe then he will fret. It isn’t anything that you have done wrong, you just need some tools to help him gain that trust in you and then ultimately build his confidence in himself. It sounds like you have an extrovert personality (horsenality) in your horse and he is acting right brained. Right brained is the instinctual side of his thinking. There is not much logical reasoning going on in his mind when he is right brained. He is running off of adrenaline. His mind says danger and get out of it. Horses are prey animals and we are predators so we don’t think alike very much at all. Just know that he is acting exactly how he is supposed to for his species to have survived all of these years. This is where your horse is stuck at when you are riding him. Left brained is the thinking side and he needs to be taught how to start clicking over to that side. He doesn’t know how to do this yet and this is where you can teach him. Think about when you get scared and how you feel if you can’t get out of the situation. Your adrenaline rises and you want to run. You might even panic. Logical thinking is much harder to do at this point. If you were able to find a safe spot out of that situation then you would be able to reason it all out better. Only then, when you realize that there really isn’t any danger, then you can start going back towards that scary spot and you will notice that you aren’t nearly as scared. If you have a confident friend to go with you then it is even easier. Same for your horse. He just needs your help to become more confident and start thinking instead of reacting. Think of his thinking from a horse’s perspective and not a human’s and you will understand him better. Extrovert horses need to move their feet when uncomfortable and circles work best to get them to calm down and start using the thinking side. Straight lines fire them up. If you are trying to hold him back when he is fretting then the tension and nerves will build in him and he will get worse and worse, and also more unsafe, so circle, circle, circle until he starts to relax and then release him. Repeat if necessary. The crazier he is acting the smaller you want your circles to be. Just make sure you are doing this exercise with calmness, not trying to punish him. Horses do not understand punishment. I’d also recommend riding him in a well fitted smooth mouth snaffle for now so that you can bend his head around safely and not scare him further. If you feel unsafe, EVER, get off! No point in getting hurt or killed. When he is calm then get back on. I have a couple of extroverts and absolutely love them! When they become confident in themselves they are fun and love to please. There is so much more to my answer than what I can write here, but the program that I follow is the Parelli Program. It goes far beyond surface type horsemanship. (If you are reading this and want to say something negative about this program please don’t. This forum is to help someone explore all options). It has changed myself, my horsemanship, and then because of this, my horses have changed immensely. Start by getting on their website and looking up the 7 games. They are a human version of how to play the games that horses play with each other to gain the horses confidence and respect with themself and you. They are also played on the ground where you are safest, but translate to being on his back. Just know that horses and horsemanship are a neverending journey of learning and can be really fun and rewarding if you stick with it. I know that you can get your horse to become all he and you want him to be with the right knowledge and time put into him. Best of wishes to you two!