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Keep Calm and Stay On

30 Nov 2014


This was given as an informal lecture planned as a help for anxious riders and horse people having some issues in their relationship with their (not always) best equine friend. It was also useful for some of the more experienced horse people to share some of their knowledge with the group and pick up new tips.

The aim of the talk was to improve confidence and understanding by learning and sharing some skills and coping strategies to get through difficult situations.

Participants learned skills that would help to improve the management of their own and their horse’s anxiety by changing non-helpful negative behaviours and attitudes and substituting these for positive and different ways of doing things resulting in greater enjoyment of our horses.

The first part of the session revised some very basic horse psychology. There was lots of discussion about leadership and that we all need to be the ‘alpha mare’ (even the boys) in our herd. This is the way that confident and experienced riders ‘nip it in the bud’ when their horse is about to go into a panic about the dragons in the dustbins on rubbish day. They put their leg on and using appropriate body language, are assertive and take control and give the horse something else to think about. Alternatively they may be talking to a friend who is riding with them and be so relaxed that they fail to see the dustbins at all, and the horse responds by picking up on the relaxation.

Perhaps the horse thinks, 'If the boss can’t see them and doesn’t mind, they are obviously not real dragons!' A little anthropomorphic, but the message is to be relaxed and show leadership.

The next part of the evening went on to talk about anxiety and relaxation and participants did some simple exercises to help them relax in a crisis and to understand that the rate and rhythm of breathing is very important when communicating with horses, and also other people. 

Discussion was had about rewards and bribes and titbits. Is it okay to reward? Are bribes waste of time? Perhaps the titbits we give make us feel better?

Vocal tone was also discussed and perhaps saying ‘Good Boy’ with an anxious voice to a naughty or frightened horse just makes things worse. There were exercises in touch and non-verbal communication which made everyone laugh and all agreed that laughter and singing or reciting nursery rhymes can be a good way to get through an anxious situation.

The session was planned to encourage people to do more with their horses. There was some discussion about having 'buddies' who will support and push us to do more, but not the sort of person who will sabotage our efforts. There is a need to be consistent, positive and if things are not working, try a different strategy. 

If you would be interested in BHS Cornwall holding more of these types of events, please contact Tamsin by texting 07899 991368 or email

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