Be a sour horse? 4 steps to turn that nightmare into your dream horse (and boost your confidence)

Be a sour horse? 4 steps to turn that nightmare into your dream horse (and boost your confidence)

You dreamed of keeping your horses at home and riding off into the sunset. There’s just one problem. Your faithful horse becomes a screaming bundle of nerves when you try to chase her away from the other horses. You feel like you don’t really have control over her and you lose your confidence.

This is not a dream. It’s a nightmare!

First, it’s important to understand what’s causing this behavior. Horses are herd animals. For them, they are vulnerable when separated from the herd. Vulnerable to possibly becoming dinner for some predator they just know is there waiting to pounce on them!

If you’ve all been lost – or lost sight of your child – in an unfamiliar place with no one around, you’ve probably been left alone, scared and vulnerable. Maybe even a little panicked.

This is how your horse feels when he is separated from his herd. It’s called separation anxiety.

You can help your horse become comfortable when he is socially isolated from other horses by using a systematic approach that gradually expands your horse’s comfort zone while reinforcing the positive association with solitude without sending him into a panic.

Behaviors that are reinforced become stronger.

If your horse feels anxious every time he leaves his herd, then this is a behavior that is being reinforced. Leaving the herd is always a negative and stressful experience.

Here are my 4 steps to help your girlfriend be at ease when she’s with you.

Stage 1 – Find out how far away from his friends your horse can be while remaining calm and comfortable. You have identified her comfort zone. This could be just on the other side of the paddock fence. So be it. That’s where you start.

Step 2 – Walk her a few steps out of her comfort zone, paying close attention to see when her anxiety starts. At the earliest sign of tension, bring her back to her comfort zone until she calms down.

Step 3 – Do things she likes while working with her. Things that feel good like getting a haircut, scratching her favorite spots, a special treat like carrots or apples. Try feeding her morning and evening grain away from the other horses – just outside that comfort zone. If she won’t eat, you’ve gone too far out of her comfort zone – take her back. If she’s a little stressed but will eat, you’re in the right place.

Step 4 – When your horse remains calm on the other side of the paddock fence, walk him around the perimeter of the paddock. But only if it’s a safe area with no potential dangers to you or her. Walk her down your driveway – if it’s not too far from the paddock.

Remember, your goal is to give her good experiences while she’s with you and away from her friends. So take it slow and gradually expand the area in which you occupy it.

Consistency and regular repetition affect the length of time it takes to achieve positive change. So, work with your horse as often as you can. Keep the sessions short – a few good minutes repeated several times a day or 3 times a week is much more beneficial than an hour once a week.

Remember that your horse is suffering from real stress and anxiety. She doesn’t enjoy it and doesn’t want to feel this way any more than you do.

When you understand your horse’s perspective and can help him have good experiences when he is with you using this systematic training method, he will feel more comfortable and safe in your presence. And in the end, you and she will have a much stronger bond.

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