How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground

Spread the love

Did you know that approximately 70% of horses experience some form of nervousness on the ground? It might take the form of a skittish sidestep, an unexpected bolt, or a subtle trembling that only an experienced equestrian would recognize.

How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Groun

This horse anxiety, as benign as it may first appear, poses genuine problems for both horse and rider. It may lead to fear, impede training progress, and even compromise safety in severe cases. Thankfully, there are solutions to this problem. Equine anxiety is not a life sentence; it’s a challenge that can be mitigated with time, patience, and the right techniques.

This article will guide you through the process of how to calm a nervous horse on the ground, helping foster a relationship of mutual trust and understanding between you and your equine friend.

Understanding Horse Nervousness


Like humans, every horse is unique in their way. Some horses have a bolder personality and are less prone to nervousness, while others may be a bit more anxious due to temperament or past experiences. Identifying the underlying causes of your horse’s anxiety can help you address it effectively.

Here are some potential reasons why your horse might be feeling nervous:

  • Inadequate Socialization: Horses are social animals and often require interaction with other horses, especially when they are young. Lack of proper socialization may lead to anxiety and stress in unfamiliar environments.
  • Past Bad Experiences: Horses have incredible memories, and past negative experiences can linger in their minds. A traumatic experience like an accident or mistreatment by a previous owner can cause a horse to become anxious.
  • New Environments: Horses are creatures of habit, and significant changes in their environment may trigger nervousness. This could include moving to a new stable, being transported in a trailer, or traveling to a new competition venue.
  • Lack of Confidence: Just like humans, horses can need more confidence in certain situations. A lack of confidence can result from insufficient training, discomfort in their surroundings, or a mismatch between horse and rider.
  • Physical Discomfort: Horses may become anxious if they are experiencing any physical discomfort. This could be due to an injury, illness, or even poor-fitting tack.


It’s essential to recognize the signs of nervousness in your horse, as it often manifests in subtle ways. Some common signs of horse anxiety on the ground include:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Tail-swishing
  • Head tossing
  • Ears pinned back

Importance of Patience & Empathy

How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground

Before we get into specific techniques for calming a nervous horse, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of patience and empathy. As equestrians, we must remember that horses are susceptible animals with their own thoughts and feelings. It’s our responsibility to approach them with understanding and kindness rather than force or frustration.

Creating a Calm Environment


First and foremost, setting a calm environment lays the foundation for easing horse nervousness. This process begins by choosing a safe and familiar space for your horse. Familiarity can provide a sense of security and reduce anxiety. Remove potential distractions that might exacerbate your horse’s nervousness, such as loud noises or unfamiliar objects. Your own state of calmness is equally crucial. Horses are adept at intuiting human emotions and can sense stress. By maintaining a calm demeanor, you can positively influence your horse’s emotional state.

Body Language & Energy

Your body language, movements, and voice significantly impact your horse’s emotional state. A horse can quickly pick up on tense posture or hurried movements, which may cause them to mirror your anxiety. Maintain a relaxed posture, move smoothly and predictably, and use a calm voice to reassure your horse. Remember, quick or jerky movements can startle a nervous horse, so always strive for fluidity and serenity in your actions.

Groundwork Essentials

Groundwork is the central pillar of establishing communication and control. Basic groundwork exercises such as leading, yielding to pressure, and lowering the head can help foster a sense of trust and calmness. Leading exercises help establish your role as a guide while yielding to pressure teaches the horse to respond to your cues. Lowering the head is a natural calming gesture for horses and can be encouraged gently. Remember, the key is to be patient and consistent with these exercises, allowing your horse to understand and feel comfortable with them over time.

How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground: Calming Techniques


How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground

Desensitization is a technique that involves exposing your horse to potentially anxiety-inducing stimuli in a controlled environment. By gradually introducing these stimuli, you can teach your horse to be less reactive and more relaxed when confronted with them. For example, start by rubbing a new object on their shoulder or back while they are eating. Gradually move the object closer and around different parts of the body. This technique can help desensitize your horse to everyday objects such as blankets, grooming tools, or even plastic bags.

TTouch Method

The TTouch method is a touch and massage-based technique that aims to increase relaxation and reduce tension in horses. Developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, this method involves circular touches, lifts, and slides on specific points of the horse’s body. These touches can stimulate the nervous system and promote relaxation, making it an effective technique for calming a skittish horse.

Natural Remedies

Some horses may benefit from natural remedies to help alleviate their anxiety. Herbs such as chamomile, valerian, and passionflower have been used to reduce stress and promote calmness in horses. Essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and clary sage can also have a calming effect when diffused in the horse’s environment.

Breathing Exercises

Just like humans, horses can benefit from deep breathing exercises to help calm their nervous systems. By practicing rhythmic and controlled breathing, you can encourage your horse to relax and focus on their breath rather than their anxiety. This technique is particularly useful in high-stress situations such as competitions or trail rides.

Massages & Grooming

Massages and grooming can also be effective techniques for calming a nervous horse. Massaging specific points on the horse’s body, such as the neck, withers, or hindquarters, can help release tension and promote relaxation. Grooming with soft strokes and gentle pressure can also have a soothing effect on horses.

Advanced Techniques for Calming

Under Saddle

How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground

Calming techniques can also be applied when riding your horse. These include using a calm and steady seat, consistent cues, and maintaining a relaxed body position. It’s also essential to remain calm and confident as the rider, as your horse will look to you for reassurance.

Meditation & Visualization

For riders who struggle with their own anxiety, techniques like meditation and visualization can be beneficial in calming themselves and their horses. By focusing on breathing and visualizing a peaceful environment, riders can promote a sense of calm in themselves and their horses.

Equine-Assisted Therapy

In some cases, equine-assisted therapy can be an effective option for calming nervous horses. This type of therapy involves working with a mental health professional and trained horses to address emotional and behavioral issues. The therapeutic environment that horses provide can help individuals develop coping mechanisms for managing anxiety and stress.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement method that can be used to calm nervous horses. By using a clicker and treats, you can reward desired behaviors in your horse and help them associate these behaviors with positive experiences. This technique can be particularly useful for building confidence and reducing anxiety in horses.

Introducing a Companion

Horses are social animals and often feel more relaxed and secure when they have a companion. Introducing a calm and confident horse as a companion can help alleviate anxiety in nervous horses. However, it’s essential to carefully introduce the two horses and monitor their interactions to ensure they get along.

Recognizing Progress & Avoiding Setbacks

Celebrate Small Wins

It is crucial to acknowledge and celebrate even minor improvements in your horse’s demeanor. Whether it’s a moment of calmness, successful interaction with a new stimulus, or a notable decrease in overall anxiety, these small victories should be rewarded to maintain motivation and reinforce positive behavior. Rewards can range from verbal praise and gentle pats to favorite treats or extra grooming.

Address Setbacks Patiently

Progress may not always be linear when it comes to calming a nervous horse. There may be setbacks along the way, and there will likely be days when your horse is more anxious than usual. These setbacks should be understood as opportunities for further learning and adjustment. Remain patient and analyze what might have triggered the setback. Adjust your approach as necessary, and remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.

Seek Professional Help

How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground

For complex cases or persistent anxieties that go beyond occasional nervousness, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a qualified equine trainer or behaviorist. These professionals have extensive experience and specialized training in equine behavior. They can provide personalized strategies and techniques based on your horse’s specific needs and circumstances. Seeking professional help can often make a significant difference in improving your horse’s well-being and quality of life.

Building a Lasting Bond

Positive Reinforcement

Consistent positive reinforcement is fundamental to calming a nervous horse. Rewarding good behavior and responses helps the horse to associate these with positive experiences, encouraging them to repeat these behaviors. It could be as simple as a pat on the back or a treat. Consistency in reinforcement helps foster understanding and communicates your expectations clearly to your horse, aiding the process of calming nervousness.

Mutual Respect & Trust

How to Calm a Nervous Horse on The Ground

The relationship between a horse and its rider is built on mutual respect and trust. Establishing this bond is crucial in managing a nervous horse as it assures the horse of its safety in your presence. Respect their boundaries and patiently provide them with the necessary space and time to relax. Trust cannot be rushed; it grows steadily over time, emanating from consistent positive interactions. As trust deepens, your horse will begin to look to you for reassurance and guidance, paving the way to a calmer and more contented horse.

Enjoying the Journey

Overcoming nervousness in a horse is a journey, not a destination. It’s essential to appreciate this journey and the growth that comes with it. Celebrate the small victories and the progress made. Cherishing these moments fosters a deeper bond and enriches the partnership between you and your horse. Patience and empathy are key during this journey; remember, the aim is to build a lasting bond of trust and understanding that will help your horse overcome nervousness in the long run.


Understanding how to calm a nervous horse on the ground is crucial for any horse owner or handler. It involves a combination of techniques that rely on understanding the horse’s body language, creating a calm environment, and using desensitization techniques.

Remember always to approach a nervous horse calmly and confidently, using soft and reassuring voices. Groundwork exercises can be very effective in promoting calmness, helping the horse to build trust, and reinforcing positive behaviors.

Desensitization to various stimuli, whether it’s a new object or environment, can gradually help reduce fear and anxiety. Above all, patience and consistency are core to this process. To effectively calm a nervous horse on the ground, it is crucial to prioritize its sense of security and comprehend its needs. These initial steps lay the foundation for success in soothing an anxious equine companion.

Spread the love

Leave a Comment